Oh wait, that’s not how the verse goes? Are you sure? Because sometimes I think that well-intentioned wives operate from this mantra. I’m not sure if it all started with the changes the Industrial Revolution made on the relationships in the home, or if women have always been in the business of “improving their man.” We joke around when a guy does something thoughtful by saying, “You’ve got him well-trained,” or we point out when our own could use better training. Are we really joking? Sometimes I think we take our “helper” role a little too far.
I’ve been married for 15 years now. That isn’t super-long, but long enough for me to make some reflections. My husband has grown in ways that I could never have imagined. I am so blessed by the man who I get to say goodnight to every evening. And in his graciousness, he would probably accredit some of his more noble traits to me—but it just isn’t so. My ideas for my husband’s improvements can’t even compare to what God’s plans are for his holiness.
As we are finishing up chapter 11 of Hebrews in my women’s Bible study, we discussed the passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, as well as the walls of Jericho falling down. We talked about how completely different God’s ways are than our own. Faith looks to God’s faithfulness, and holds tight to his promises (Heb. 10:23). This kind of faith can boldly move forward and expect God to act according to his Word.
Somehow, now that I am soaking in the aftermath of our lesson, I began thinking about how little faith I have had as a wife. My own expectations for my husband’s improvement have been mediocre at best. Here was my picture of the all-improved Matt:
While I am busy with my day I find little love notes hidden in the house for me to discover while he is at work. When he returns home, he is energized by my mere presence. Greeting me with a smile and a kiss, he PUTS HIS DRESS SHIRT AWAY, and helps me finish dinner (you know, because he just wants to be with me, no matter what we’re doing). He then makes sure to enlighten our minds with theological conversation over the meal (while complimenting my culinary skills), or perhaps a Bible reading while we all eat with perfect manners…
Instead, I get a real human being who may sometimes do some of those things (usually not the shirt putting away part), but has thankfully refused any of my training attempts. Matt looks to someone much more equipped for the job of husband-training—our heavenly husband. And unlike me, Jesus Christ is not satisfied with an ostentatious veneer—he transforms the heart. That isn’t always pretty.
There’s an obvious wrong assumption in husband-training—the wife is placing herself in God’s righteous position. It glorifies her. In our role as a helper, we should first seek God’s glory for our husband. God promised that he is going to make both me and my husband holy—nothing less. How would we behave differently if we had God’s picture of our holiness before us? How much different does holiness look than my candied fantasy of the perfect Matt? And am I willing to go through God’s training for both of us to get there? I’m mom to three little people already. I’m happy not to be my husband’s mother. I’d rather be his wife and let God be God.