Yesterday in the church lobby, Sharon greeted me with the affectionate hug, warm smile, and cheery hello that is so characteristic of my sister-in-law. However, her typical greeting revealed nothing of her not-so-typical day. It was her wedding anniversary. Dave and Sharon Pyle would have celebrated 34 years of marriage. Yes, I meant to say, “would have celebrated,” because the truth is that Sharon commemorated the day without Dave. She lost him to cancer a little over 2 years ago.
When I asked her how she was doing, her response was: “I am doing okay,” with the emphasis on “okay.” But that wasn’t the whole of her answer. She immediately launched into a mini discourse of her experience of God’s grace despite her intense pain (again, so typical of Sharon). “Today was my first Sunday as a greeter,” she exclaimed. (She had recently signed up to serve on the greeting team at our church). She continued, “I see it as God’s kindness to assign me to greet others on a day that would potentially be extra difficult for me. I couldn’t have done it in my own strength, but God gave me strength!”
As I listened to Sharon, I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 58:10: “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” Sharon experienced the joy that unseats darkness and gloom when we pour out our lives for others.
I was freshly challenged yesterday by my sister-in-law’s example. Because I know me—all too often when I feel depressed and gloomy, I give in to selfishness. But I want to be more like Sharon. I desire to look for ways to serve others even when it’s the very last thing I feel like doing. Now I agree with Sharon: this is only possible with God’s help. And God’s help has been richly, fully, and wonderfully provided through our Savior’s death on the cross. Because of His grace, I am forgiven of my selfishness and have power to sacrificially care for others.
P.S. Sharon, if you happen to read this today I want you to know: You are one of my heroes. Thank you for modeling true servanthood to me!
My son Andrew asks a lot of questions, usually followed by a series of “why’s?” So this meditation by John Piper on Proverbs 18:13 is particularly relevant to me, and to most moms, I imagine. This verse says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” and I want to encourage you to read Dr. Piper’s article entitled “Ten Reasons to Listen to Questions Before You Answer.”
Yesterday’s Q & A ended with the question: “What does it look like for [a wife] to follow when her husband is not following the Lord?” We thought the best way to answer this part of the question was to illustrate with a story from a woman in our church named Carol.
Carol personified the modern career woman. Divorced and single, she was the only woman among eight men in a high-level sales position for a major American corporation. Her responsibilities included oversight of a ten million dollar annual sales budget. She was competent, aggressive, and in charge. In her words: “The world was right in front of me.”
In her late thirties she met and fell in love with Howard, and after living together for a year, they decided to get married. By Carol’s estimation, she and Howard had a great relationship. Their marriage was “based on mutuality.” They both worked and made good salaries. They shared equally in household chores. Howard, who helped run his family’s business, was supportive of Carol’s career. He always encouraged her to go after the sale, the bonus, or the raise. “We’re working together,” he would cheer her on. “Go get ‘em Carol!”
But when Carol started attending our church with her neighbor Diane, she observed marriages that squarely collided with her worldly understanding. What’s more, she found herself curiously attracted to whatever it was that made these couples so different.
At our church, Carol saw husbands and wives who appeared happy to be there and happy to be there together. She perceived genuine love and affection in their marriages.
From the pulpit she heard biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood. She learned that men and women have equal value in the eyes of God, and she began to admire the divine wisdom of complementary roles in marriage.
As Carol visited one of the small groups and formed friendships with the women, she watched them willingly submit to their husbands’ leadership. She was struck by the peace and joy that this submission produced, and she was amazed by the way these women talked about their husbands—always with honor and respect. This attitude was in stark contrast to that of her other friends, who relished their men-bashing sessions.
Soon Carol found herself longing for a marriage like the ones she was observing. “I am a saleswoman,” she explained, “and I appreciated a product that works. When I went to church, I saw hundreds of women whose lives were a testament to the product of submission. I saw that the product worked, and I wanted that for my marriage.”
Carol eventually put her trust in Jesus Christ. But Carol’s husband, Howard, although happy for Carol, was more interested in his weekend recreation than in going to church. However, Carol grasped the truth of 1 Peter 3:1. She believed her godly conduct would affect Howard more than any words she might say.
Here’s the rest of Carol’s story in her words:
“When I gave my life to the Lord, it was a huge change. This was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. But I knew I could not force my experience on Howard. I couldn’t coerce him or make him change. This was so different from my sales background of taking control, manipulating, doing things in my own time and in my own way. I had to retrain myself and let the Lord work in Howard’s heart. I had to be very patient. And I knew change needed to start with me.
I saw God’s plan for us as wives. We are to be our husbands’ helpers. So I began to let Howard lead. I had to acquiesce and do things differently. I learned to have faith in God, and as I submitted to the Lord, submitting to my husband became much easier.
I began to say things like, ‘Howard, whatever you decide,’ or ‘You can make that decision.’ I stopped overreacting when we had challenges or putiing pressure on him to come up with the answers. I would just tell him that I would be praying about it, and I was fine with whatever happened.
While we used to share domestic responsibilities, I now took charge of the home. I tried to make it a warm haven for Howard. When he came home, instead of a list of chores waiting for him, he didn’t have anything to do. I found a lot of joy in taking care of the house and not burdening him with additional responsibilities.
There used to be bitterness and tension when Howard would go out fishing, golfing, or skiing. But now I began to freely release him. I knew I couldn’t just grit my teeth and say, ‘Have a good time’ and seethe as he went out the door. I really had to have joy in my heart that he was having a good time. And the more I released him to do the things he wanted to do, the more joy I had.
I also began loving on my husband. I would write him notes and leave them on the bathroom mirror or on the car windshield. I went overboard on loving on him! My non-Christian friends were like, ‘What is up with you, Carol, warming up his car in the morning and letting him go out all day on weekends?’
But I knew that I could turn to God whenever bitterness crept in. I also knew that I could call my friend Diane. ‘Carol,’ she would remind me, ‘trust in the Lord. Remember, be joyful.’ Diane would always refer me to Scripture. The women in my small group were also praying for me and setting an example for me to follow.
And every night I would pray. I wanted my husband to know the Lord. yes, there was anxiety. I was anxious fo the Lord to intervene. But I was learning to trust Him. I prayed and I prayed, and God heard.”
Carol’s submissive conduct began to prompt change in Howard’s life:
“Howard didn’t say anything, but he started changing. He saw a peace in me, and he became more relaxed. And because I was releasing him, he became more apt to stay home or come home early from playing golf.”
As Carol patiently waited, God softened Howard’s heart. he started visiting church with Carol, and almost four years later, he repented and believed. Carol now marvels at the transformation in Howard’s life:
“Today Howard loves and trusts in God, and he is very involved in the church. He is on the take-down crew, the sound crew, and leads worship for our small group. He is in a Bible study with one of the pastors. At home the change has also been dramatic. Howard has stepped up to the plate. He is the leader of our household. He makes decisions based on what is best for our family, and he is not afraid to do it. We truly serve a faithful God, and I am convinced that he hears our prayers. He will answer in His time.”
Adapted from Feminine Appeal, (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004), 135-146.
Carol’s story is not only a testimony of God’s grace in changing her heart and life, but of the power and influence of her submission on her husband’s life. Through prayer and patience, Carol was a daily demonstration to Howard of the beauty of God’s plan in marriage. And God was faithful to change Howard’s heart so that he is now leading in the home for the glory of God.
I trust Carol’s story is an encouragement to every woman with an unbelieving husband to persevere in obedience to God. May you ultimately trust the faithfulness and goodness of God for your husband and your marriage.
Q. What counsel would you have for a woman who wants to honor the Lord in the area of submission, but is unsure what it means to submit to a husband who isn’t a believer? How does she seek to cultivate respect and appreciation for him when he is not following the Lord? What does it look like for her to follow, when her husband is not following the Lord?
A. To attempt to answer this question, I want to draw from the chapter entitled “The Beauty of Submission” found in my book Feminine Appeal.
First let me preface my remarks with this important point: The edict for wives to submit (Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1-6) originated in the gracious heart of God. This command is not punishment for our sin. Neither is it optional or devised by man. Rather, it is God who determined that we are to voluntarily place ourselves under our husbands’ authority. He designed submission for His glory. (If you are interested in further study, I recommend Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem and published by Crossway Books. In my opinion this collection of essays is the most biblical and comprehensive resource available on the topic today.)
Not surprisingly, Scripture anticipates the very question our reader asked. The answer is found in 1 Peter 3:1-6:
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives— (2) when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (3) Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— (4) but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (5) For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, (6) as Sarah obey Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
While this passage certainly offers hope to women in difficult marriages, verse one clearly stipulates that wives are to submit to their husbands “even if some do not obey the word.” Unless a moral issue is at stake, we are obliged by Scripture to submit to our husbands. As Elisabeth Elliot bluntly states, God’s Word does not “give any footnotes.”
Of course, we must never follow our husbands’ leadership into sin. For while their authority is genuine, it is by no means absolute. Our preeminent authority is God Himself, and at no time should our submission violate any of His expressed commands (Acts 5:29).
In addition, a wife—whether or not she is married to a believer—is called to respect her husband. In verse six of 1 Peter 3, we see that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, called him “lord.” The implication in this verse is clear: Wives are to show respect to their husbands. Ephesians 5:33 is even more straightforward: “Let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
A wife should vigilantly study her husband and perceive character traits worthy of respect. When she does, amazing results will often follow. Husbands will strive to be worthy of that respect.
So even if we do not feel particularly respectful; or though we may not think our husbands have done anything worthy of respect lately; or even if we reckon ourselves to be more capable, intelligent, or godly than our husbands—none of these are reasons to exempt us. Respect is a decision we make to obey God’s Word. He has set the husband as the head (1 Cor. 11:3), and we must honor that position regardless.
However, submission and respect are not static character qualities. Together, they are a powerful, dynamic force that brilliantly display the gospel. Look again at, 1 Peter 3:1: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (emphasis mine). How remarkable to think that the virtue of submission can actually prompt change in an unbelieving husband and even be the means God uses to draw him to Himself!
As Elizabeth George eloquently expresses it: “Our submission to our husband—whether or not he is a Christian, whether or not he is obeying God—preaches a lovelier and more powerful sermon than our mouth ever could!”
Tomorrow, in order to answer the question: “What does it look like for [a wife] to follow, when her husband is not following the Lord?” we will illustrate with a story of a woman whose submission to her unbelieving husband was instrumental in his salvation.
Hey everyone. Yesterday, the Sovereign Grace Ministries E-Newsletter (news for friends of Sovereign Grace Ministries) announced that you could link to a series of messages recently given by my parents. The messages were from a recent conference hosted by The Bible Church of Little Rock, pastored by Lance Quinn. You can listen to the messages online if you are interested. Topics include: “True Beauty,” “The Soul of Modesty,” and “Humility.”
Well, it’s the day after the Shopping Trip, and we’re a tad depressed because it will be a whole year before we can do this again. But it was great to get home to all of our men—who patiently listened to an account of our time and let us show them all the neat gifts we bought. It was a wonderful trip—best one yet, I think.
A mother of two teenage daughters mentioned to me this week that she was trying to think of a way to make a memory with her two daughters—one of them enjoys shopping and the other one doesn’t. We want to encourage all mothers and daughters to find ways to make memories together. However, we realize that like this woman’s daughter, not all of you love to shop. (We don’t quite understand this, but we realize it’s true!)
In our book, Girl Talk, we compiled a list of twenty-five ideas for making mother-daughter memories. I’m sure many more creative ideas could be added to this list, however we hope it will get you started.
1.Make reservations at a hotel or nice restaurant that serves afternoon tea.
2.Enroll in an art, cooking, or sewing class through your county or at a local retail store.
3.Take up a new sport (tennis, running, aerobics, biking, etc.).
4.Pamper yourselves. Get a facial or manicure and pedicure, or set up your own spa at home.
5.Do a service project (soup kitchen, nursing home, needy family, mom with young children, etc.).
6.Build a fire and roast marshmallows for S’mores. Play board or card games, or put a puzzle together.
7.Start a book club with some mother-daughter friends.
8.Go out for pizza and play miniature golf.
9.Do a cooking project. Bake bread or dessert, or prepare a full-course meal.
10.Get a makeover before a special event.
11.Pick fruit at a local farm and make something yummy.
12.Learn a new hobby, or spend an evening at a paint-your-own-pottery or scrapbook store.
13.Take a walk down memory lane. Watch home videos, look at family pictures, or dig up old family keepsakes. You can even use the Internet to learn what notable events occurred on the day you were born.
14.Schedule an annual mother-daughter overnight and pack it full of fun activities.
15.Do a progressive dinner and hit all your favorite restaurants in one night.
16.Take in some culture at a local art gallery or museum.
17.Go antiquing or shop at yard sales or consignment stores. See who can find the best deal.
18.Interview a relative about your family history.
19.Kidnap your daughter or your mom for a surprise outing.
20.Host a party for some mother-daughter friends. Do all the cooking and preparation together.
21.Collect decorating books or magazines and redecorate your room.
22.Pop some popcorn and watch an old movie together.
23.Have a picnic and read a book out loud, or take a drive in the country and listen to a book on tape.
24.Go to a local bookstore or coffee shop and share what you most appreciate about your daughter or mother.
25.And our personal favorite—have lunch and go shopping!
Memories like these, and many others, won’t simply last a few hours or a few days. They are an investment on which you will reap the life-long returns of a strong mother-daughter relationship.
This morning I am writing to you from Panera Bread where we are taking a break from our annual shopping trip marathon. Don’t worry, you’re not reading yesterday’s post. In a turn of events, unprecedented in the fifteen-plus year history of the Shopping Trip, we stayed over an extra night.
Here’s what happened: Due to a series of strategic errors, we got a real late start on Monday (try 11:45 am!); so by dinner-time, it was obvious we wouldn’t finish our lists. Plus, we had wanted to do a little personal shopping, which, by then, seemed out of the question.
But Janelle, who inherited Dad’s sense of humor as well as his delight in surprises, secretly made some phone calls to arrange babysitters for Kristin and me for yet another day. Then, while we were off shopping, she and Mom booked a room for another night. When we met back at an appointed time, Mom and Janelle announced we were staying another night!
Although this is a Shopping Trip first, this type of surprise is actually a Mahaney family tradition. Ever since we were little, and as recently as this past year, Dad has been surprising us by staying an extra day on vacations. When you’re mentally prepared to clean house, pack, and drive home, it is such a sweet feeling to spend an extra twenty-four hours relaxing—or in this case, shopping.
Here are some noteworthy moments from yesterday.
- Of course, shopping for another day!
- Browsing Crate and Barrel yet again.
- Eating more Cajun fries at Five Guys
- Having an impromptu thirty-minute counseling session in the midst of ToysRUs, tears and all!
- Mom still has a cold (but it’s getting better).
- My navigation was so poor I got demoted to the back seat. Did I mention I live here?
- Kristin losing her credit card. At least she was able to cancel it before someone rung up a tab.
OK. We gotta go. Lot’s of shopping to do today!
Today I am writing to you from a Panera Bread in Virginia where we women of the Girl Talk blog are taking a break in the middle of our annual shopping marathon.
Yes, as all of you who have read our book Girl Talk will know, we are on “The Shopping Trip.”Some highlights:
After church yesterday, we kicked off the shopping trip at “Five Guys Famous Hamburgers and Fries.” I got some Cajun fries that were delicious.
Kristin and I got a little spat out of the way early so we’re having fun together now. Mom and Janelle helped us to resolve it. They have had a lot of practice in biblical conflict resolution. And no, I won’t tell you whose fault it was this time.
Janelle is happy, because she was able to use her pack of 100 markers to make a red and green Christmas list. That’s the truth.
Crate and Barrel was serving free lattes to demonstrate their new $1500 coffee maker. Yep. Run now and add that baby to your Christmas list. Quick! Supplies are limited!
We get to look for cute little pink outfits for baby Bradshaw.
Mom has a cold. She can hardly talk. But she’s a trooper, no medicine for her. All she needed was a cup of hot tea.
Last night we watched the movie “Because of Winn-Dixie,” which although cute, was quite boring. No unkind emails from Winn-Dixie fans, please.
We accidentally left my bags in my car at the mall fifteen minutes from the hotel and we were too tired to go back. So I am borrowing everything. At least the hotel had a toothbrush. I can’t blog until I’ve brushed my teeth.
So, it’s off to the races again today. But we thought we’d leave you with something a little more substantive. Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax) is hosting a series of women’s meetings this year with the theme “Femininity: God’s Way in a Wrong Way World.” Our first speaker was Carolyn McCulley who spoke to us on the topic of “The Subtle Influence of Feminism.” You can listen to the audio by clicking here. This message has continued to influence me since I heard it several weeks ago and I trust it will inform, encourage, and inspire you as well.
Have a great day, everyone!
This week on Friday Funnies, we want to feature an excerpt from CJ’s book, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, 2005). My husband has always kept us laughing with his great sense of humor, and in this book he actually cites laughter as just one of many ways to grow in humility:
“Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself…Are you making the most of this divine gift? I’m very grateful that God gave me a father with an unusual gift of humor who taught me to laugh at myself (there’s certainly no lack of material). Time and again laughter has provided much needed help in my ongoing battle against pride.”
Here’s just one story from the book—a great example of CJ laughing at himself:
“The following is a true story. Really.
A while back, someone informed me that my car’s rear left tire—or was it the rear right?—was low on air. Now, in fact, I had no idea how to put air in a car tire. So I turned to a friend—a close friend, I’ll have you know—and asked for his help.
In such a moment, the godly and servant-hearted response from a friend would be to cheerfully answer, ‘Yes, let me help you.’ Instead, my good friend exclaimed, ‘I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it! You don’t know how to put air in your tire?’
On and on like this he went, until he faced me squarely and added, ‘You, my friend, are a moron.’
My friend was merely having fun at my expense, but the truth of the matter is that on a previous occasion I had actually tried, on my own, to put air in my car’s tire. As I knelt to place the air hose on the stem—or whatever that little dealy’s called where you attach the hose to the tire—the extremely loud noise that erupted was an intimidating PHHHHT! PHHHHHHT!
Then a loud ringing started: DING DING DING DING! I was suddenly consumed by an intense fear that my tire was only seconds from blowing up. It’s going to explode, I told myself, and you’re going to die. And at your funeral, all your friends—while wiping away tears in the midst of their mourning—will be shaking their heads and saying to themselves, ‘What an idiot!’
I’m convinced that the sum effect of my attempt that day was only to let out more air than I put in. And as I drove away from the station with a badly underinflated tire, I could almost hear the faint sound of the station attendant’s laughter following me home.”
I want to close with one more exhortation from CJ. It sums up, probably most succinctly, the purpose of Friday Funnies:
“Laugh, really laugh. Because funny stuff is happening all around you. (Sometimes because of you.)”
Have a great and laughter-filled weekend everyone!
Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
Our series of articles on the mother-daughter relationship continue at Crosswalk.com. Today Nicole looks at the importance of a mother’s influence. You may want to check it out.