One of the temptations after twenty or thirty years of marriage is to start letting things coast. But rather than slacking off on our duties, we ought to be hitting our stride and getting really good at this. “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10). A godly wife isn’t just a real find when she’s twenty years old….she’s still worth a fortune when she’s in her sixties or seventies or eighties.
“The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (vs. 11-12). All the days, not just the first couple of years. How ever many days the good Lord gives, a wife is preoccupied with doing her husband good.
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (vs. 30). It’s tempting for older women to chase after beauty via hours at the spa or the gym, expensive cosmetics and treatments, diets and exercise, bleaches and tans. There is a whole industry or two devoted to this. And older women may have more money to spend than they did when the kids were little, and they may have more time on their hands. But this is a race we can’t win (or buy). Beauty fades. And at some point, you’ve just got to let it go gray. When you hit eighty and you still have jet black hair, you’re not fooling anyone, and it starts to look just plain weird. A woman who fears the Lord is (obviously) God-centered. She’s able to see the beauty pass without mourning its loss because she has bigger things to do and she always has had bigger things to do.
What are some of these bigger things? Sticking with our basic marital duties. The first duty is submission. I found a lovely, simple definition of this the other day: the grateful acceptance of your husband’s care and leadership.* It is common for wives to complain that their husbands are not leading and for husbands to complain that their wives are not respecting. This is because wives want to show their husbands how to lead. “Just give me the wheel and I’ll show you how to do it and where to go.” And when this happens, husbands often quit trying to lead. It’s just not worth having a showdown. And so the cycle goes.
Wives are the ones given the command to submit; it is not the husband’s responsibility to see to it that his wife submits. This is our job. We are to see that we do this ourselves. Wives are to submit to their own husbands, not to men in general, not to other husbands. Just the one that you said yes to. That one. The one who put a ring on your finger.
Here’s an example of steering. Your husband decides to buy an apple tree, and he heads out to dig a hole. Are you there at his elbow coaching him? Are you suggesting a different way or a different spot or a different shovel or a different time or a different idea all together? But, you may argue, I know more about apple trees and shovels. Ah. I think we have gotten to the center of the trouble. But if we are God-centered and not me-centered, we will know this is foolishness. No wonder a husband might think twice before buying an apple tree. It’s just not worth it to him to undergo the badgering.
So wives can chase their husbands away from leading all the while wishing he would lead. And if you’ve been repeating this procedure for twenty years or more, no wonder you are feeling like things aren’t that great. “We just don’t communicate,” you may say. Well it’s not too late to freshen things up.
This temptation may be greater for older women because their children are gone, they have less to keep them occupied, and so they can busy themselves with trying to steer or manage their husbands. You know the old saying, “As busy as a hen with one chick.” But what a disaster if the one chick is actually the rooster!
When we allow our husbands to lead us, we are actually obeying God. Consider this quote from a Bible commentator: “Wives do not submit to show how godly they are, nor to avoid conflict, nor to impress neighbors, nor to manipulate their husbands, and not even because she thinks he is wise. She submits because of her relationship with and trust in God.”*
Submission is not really about your husband at all. It’s about you. It’s what you promised to do at the altar all those years back. And God has laid out His design for marriage. If we want our marriages to prosper, we have to follow His directions.
Now some wives may not want to go first. You may be thinking that you would back off if he would step it up. And he may be thinking that he would step it up if you would back off. But you can’t take responsibility for your husband’s disobedience; you are only responsible for your own.
Does your husband safely trust you? Are you bringing him good? Start with your own duties and let God sort out your husband’s duties. Be done with old patterns of misbehavior. Be done with fussing over him and grabbing the steering wheel. Rather, enjoy the ride. He will be surprised with the new freedom, and you will be surprised at your own peace.
*Quoted by T.R.Schreiner in his commentary 1,2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.