The Idolatry of Equality

It’s Not Fair! That’s my battlecry as a wife when I buy into the idolatry of equality.

Last week I got my nails done and accidentally messed up two toenails by snagging them on a grocery cart. They were such a pretty bluegreen color with glitter on top. When I destroyed them on the wheel of the cart, I absolutely had to return to the salon to repair the damage.

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No guy will understand how important this is. My husband certainly didn’t. I was thirty minutes late from my discussed ETA with him. He expected me to be home when he got back from his retreat and I wasn’t.

Edric doesn’t like coming home to a wife-less house. He always looks forward to seeing me. When I am not around it is a real downer for him.

When I got home, one of the first things he told me was, “You know how important it is to me that you are here when I get home. I really wanted to spend time with you and talk to you about the retreat and you said you would be back, but I came home and you weren’t.” Not the most romantic conversation after being apart for a day and a half. Plus, he was emotionally distant because he was frustrated with me.

At first I tried to explain the nail incident, but his reply was, “So what.” His perspective was if you said you would be back, then there should be no excuse.

But in my mind, I was like, So what?! I was just 30 minutes late! Really?! Hey, didn’t you just come from a retreat?! Is this the application…be irritated with your wife?

I will cut through the dramatic hours of silent treatment and fast-forward to the part where we settled the matter with apologies. I asked for forgiveness for being late and he asked for forgiveness for being over reactive.

The incident really wasn’t a big deal. But, a woman’s heart has all sorts of turns, corners and pockets where residual hurt and anger get stored if we don’t flush these emotions out.

Just two mornings later when Edric’s chirpy alarm woke me up at 5 am and Catalina started crying, I thought, It is MY turn to be grumpy. He forgot to turn off his phone alarm setting the night before. Since it was charging on the other side of the room, it went off for a while. Great, I thought, there is no way Catalina will let herself be put back down after that…especially since it went off a second time! With hardly a night’s sleep, I thought I had every right to put on an air of, This is your fault that my sleep was interrupted. You owe me now. Cha-Ching! Time to cash in on some emotional pay back time. How can I make him feel badly? (Self-centered married people are funny like that.)

First, I tried to make more noise than usual as I got out of bed. A deep sigh, creaking the bed a little, chucking the pillows back on to the bed, picking up Catalina from her crib and talking to her as I changed her diaper.

Edric didn’t notice any of this because he went straight back to sleep.

Sigh. Oh well…

I decided to take Catalina outdoors for an early morning prayer walk. That’s right, a prayer walk. So holy. Not.

The wonderful thing about prayer is I cannot come before God in spirit and in truth unless I acknowledge my sins before him. So I sought to understand the grumblings in my heart and I traced it back to this: idolatry of equality.

If Edric can get irritated at me for being 30 minutes late then why can’t I be irritated for being awoken an hour too early by his phone alarm?

And then a thought came to me. It wasn’t mine. It was delivered by the Holy Spirit. Why are you so upset? Why must everything be about equality.

Hmm…I don’t know. Because it’s my right?

If Edric holds me to a certain standard or expectation then I want to require the same of him…you know, to be fair…

I am absolutely sure that all women can identify with me, married or single.

In fact, some weeks ago I received a comment from a reader (who will probably never visit my blog again). She said she doesn’t agree with the idea that a woman must follow a man’s leading. I don’t blame her for her vehemence against the biblical concept of husband and wife relationships. It can seem “unequal” and “unfair.” It looks like a husband gets all the power and a wife gets the raw end of the deal.

However, this really depends on a person’s worldview. I have a biblical worldview so I absolutely believe that God’s prescriptions for living are for our good. I have experienced this good and observed this in others, too.

Nonetheless, I definitely understand why women want equal treatment, respect, and opportunity. Each one of us, in one way or another has experienced “unfair” treatment as a woman — being labeled, taken for granted, cast aside, or abused. And our instinct is to protect, defend and fight for what we think is due us.

However, I had an epiphany that morning as I was walking and praying. God ministered to me. My cry for fairness and equality was corrupting my heart. Unless I had it, unless I was treated the way I deemed in accordance with my worth then I was not happy.

But am I really worth anything? I am a recipient of grace I don’t deserve. Jesus died for me. He paid a debt he did not owe for a sinner like me. (Romans 5:8) So my worth is really dependent on the Lord, not me.

Furthermore, the condition for healthy, loving, and God-glorifying relationships is not equality. It’s not, “you give your 50% and I will give my 50%.” The key is to keep growing in Christ-likeness, regardless of your spouse.

Edric is a wonderful, wonderful, God-fearing and loving husband. I’ve talked a lot about this in other posts. But there are instances when I’m like, Who is this person?! How can he think and behave that way?! You can ask him and he would say the same of me. I call it carnal seepage – when selfishness leaks out of us.

If equality is the standard, the expectation in marriage, then it is doomed for sorrow. Marriage is so much about dying to self, letting God be the winner, letting him get the glory. John 12:24 says that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it can bear no fruit.

When my marriage becomes about what I want at the expense of God’s principles and his word, I trade true and lasting joy for present gratification. For example, the act of vengeance can make anyone feel good at first. But a vengeful person is not really a happy person.

Or, what about someone who insists that they ought to be accepted and respected for their lifestyle choice – a choice that goes against God’s design and will for them? How can they be at peace deep inside? Initially, they may feel like they are living the life they always wanted. But give it time and they will meet an emptiness, a longing, and a desperate desire that can only be filled by God.

A few Sundays ago a very successful businessman shared that he once had everything a man could want — fame, fortune, women (besides his wife). He only thought of himself. But at a certain point, he realised it all meant nothing and he wanted to end his life. But God found him. He came into a relationship with Jesus Christ and his life was redeemed. His marriage was restored. The people around him whom he cared about began to want Jesus, too, because of his testimony.

I’ve heard countless stories like these that affirm a truth we must all confront sooner or later. Our greatest joy, our best life is found in Christ, in living according to his plan and purpose for us. The unchanging condition for experiencing this is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to love and obey him with everything that we are.

When people disagree with this, I don’t lose sleep over their opposing view. If they really don’t want Jesus they can try life their own way. God gives us freedom to choose our version of happiness. Temporal or eternal? It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure Books I used to read when I was a child. The ending was entirely my fault, in accord with my choices.

So going back to marriage. When I choose to submit to Edric, when I honor him and respect him, when I treat him with greater regard for my own preferences and it seems unfair that I have to give in, it’s not because I have a martyr complex. It’s not because I am the inferior sex in the relationship. It’s because I trust in God’s design for marriage. I believe that he is holy, loving, and good. He loves Edric and me the same. He died for both of us. He has given us the same inheritance in the faith. I know that choosing to glorify him results in my gain and not my loss. With God you never trade down, you always trade up. His ways are always better.

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As a bonus…Edric told me that his new year’s resolution is to be Christ-like in his behavior and attitudes. God has been convicting him to be more patient, loving, understanding, and considerate. He has also been asking me periodically, Have I been more Christ-like? I already had an amazing husband. Sure, he has his moments of “carnal seepage” just like I do, but with God, every year of marriage gets better.

So does it pay to insist on equality? Let’s have a higher standard. Let’s insist on being Christ-like towards our spouse, children, and others, and let God be the one to repay us as we live to please him.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. This post took me back down memory lane. I met a Singaporean couple in our honeymoon 5 years ago. And in one of our conversations, the wife(I can’t remember her job, but it is related to counseling), told me that divorce rate in Singapore are growing. She told me that, usually divorce happens when wife expects “fariness” in a marriage. I can’t help but agree with her, and of course with your post as well 🙂

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      It’s great to know that God is a rewarder of those who really seek him. That’s what I think of when life isn’t always fair — driving down the street in Manila, bad service at a restaurant, other people who can enjoy wealth while others around us suffer in poverty. Everywhere in the world, there will be inequality because of sin. But praise God that he preserves and upholds those who follow him. Thank you for your comment and insight on marriage:)

  2. Hi, Joy! What a blessing to read this entry 🙂 I realize that the times when I feel like there is something lacking in my marriage are the times when I feel that I should be getting more than what I’m getting. (My self entitlement issues) Thank you for this beautiful reminder 🙂

  3. God used your blog entry to remind me that marriage is not serving myself. I’m just recently married (10 months). I recently had some self-deserving thoughts when I kept asking my husband to treat me better. Then I read this post and felt convicted by God. Thank you so much for all the pointers here.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Congratulations! You are still in your honeymoon stage:) enjoy it and make it last a lifetime! By God’s grace:)

  4. Regina B. says:

    Hi Joy. I am not from the same Christian denomination as you but I find myself agreeing with many of your posts, especially this one. Feel free to not publish this comment, but I just have a suggestion for improving your blogposts. I notice that you use “Edric and I” instead of “Edric and me” even when you use it as an object and not a subject. In this post, for example, you said: ” He loves Edric and I the same.” The more grammatically correct way to say it is: “He loves Edric and me the same.” You can read this for reference: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/i-or-me Thanks and hope you don’t mind this suggestion. 🙂

  5. this is exactly what i needed to hear. a few years back during my single years i would always say that men and women are equal. but when i got married, i learned that a husband and a wife will never be equal because God gave us different roles. i haven’t really fully embraced that yet, and i find it difficult to accept, but i am working on it one step at a time. thank you for this, Joy. this is enlightening. God bless.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      We are equally loved by God, but uniquely designed to fulfill specific roles that are both special and important in his eyes. 🙂

  6. wow, hits me right smack where it must! thank you for this. i’m really learning so much from your blogs and from your life. the way you translate the bible into your life makes such a huge mark on me. i can only hope to be able to apply in my life all the time. this blog and the one when you talked about entitlement…they are sure to stay with me.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      That’s great to hear! I’m always so thrilled when God can use an article to minister to people. Praise God!

  7. tine laigo says:

    first verse that God gave me ever since i became a Christian.. Ephesians 5:24.. God really knows im struggling in my marriage.. and whenever I feel like not submitting to my husband I just remember verse 1peter 3:1..:)) I love my husband more and more each day by God’s grace..:)

  8. Anonymous says:

    what? life is already too unfair and now i can’t even expect fairness in my marriage?!?!?–>my initial reaction. Then again, you’re absolutely right. Our worth comes from God and we are worthless without Him. I will start trying my best not to make everything a game of equality. May God help me. Thank you for sharing!!

  9. Candid Ventura says:

    Lately, i have been thinking of the word fair and i never failed to ask myself why life isnt fair and why others life is better than mine(but im perfectly happy with how my life turned out to be).yesterday i had a heated conversation with my husband regarding how i discipline our child. We have opposing view on discipline and kind of shouted at each other. I remember yelling at him and told him that na sumusobra na sya and why do i have to agree with his every decision where in fact i am also a stakeholder in the house and helps our child academically yada, yada…fast forward i read your blog today and i was enlightened:) Seems that God had made you an instrument to answer my questions and clear my mind.
    Keep writing. I enjoy all your articles and some how when i get to read your blog, all of my questions about faith ,god,family,marriage and relationship are being answered subconsciously with your blog post/articles. Thank you for allowing me to see Gods grace and how to deal with rough situations.

  10. So true…..equality has always been an unspoken but forever a struggle in my heart….thanks for showing me God’s way….truly the standard should be being more Christ-like towards our spouse, children, and others, and let God be the one to repay us as we live to please him. =D

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ms. Joy,
    Thanks for this post. I saw you and your kids last Saturday in the All His Conference.
    We attend the Family Values workshop.
    Thank you for all the insights. I am just sad I wasnt able to have photo op with you . . . sigh 🙁
    haha. Thanks and God bless 🙂

  12. hi joy, i came across your blog via facebook and reading through your articles i couldn’t help but wish that my wife would be enlightened or at least learn from your insights as well 🙂 (though i don’t think she knows about or reads your blog hehe)

    i would like to believe that i consider myself a very logical guy (/husband) in terms of not demanding anything from anyone specially if it comes across like i’m already “dictating” to them what they should/should not do – more so if it’s against what they want (in life) in the first place.

    when our firstborn came out though, i found myself trying to push my wife to prioritize our son to the point of asking her to quit her job and consider being a full time mom. to cut the long story short, i ended up following what she wanted which was (you guessed it) stay working still since we do have a nanny who looks after our son when we are away / at work. i didn’t like the decision but i had to give in because a part of me did not want to force something they wouldn’t be comfortable with.

    to a certain extent i totally understand her apprehensions which are very valid but at the end of the day i think it’s all about the sacrifices that we need to (or are willing to) make for our family. while she may not be ready to take that leap of faith, i don’t think it helps that there may be other people around her who would have the same view as hers and probably would say stuff like “don’t be such a martyr for your son/family at your expense”

    at this day and age i think the idea of a man leading the family or having a subservient wife is not really the norm. that setup (specially for the modern women) is so passe or so it seems. but i think you hit the nail right in the head with this article about equality. while the topic could probably be the subject of an endless debate, i think it will eventually boil down to God’s design which transcends time. if we just learn to stick to His will (for us), we will understand that it’s not a matter of submitting to your better half or being the inferior one. at the end of the day, it’s as simple as submitting the the greatest one which is God.

    i still wish that someday i could be that guy that could lead my family the best way i know how. but for now, i think i just have to be the “subservient husband” for my wife hehe

    more power to your blog and God bless you and your family 🙂 keep inspiring people

  13. Nova Calderon says:

    Hi Joy, I’m glad that I came across your blog through facebook as well. I was getting overwhelmed and stress with life, marriage and parenting. I’m a mother of five, ages from 13 mos. to 8 years old, a wife, a woman holding two jobs part-time jobs in a law office and huge retail store. Where we live, having a nanny or household helper is next to impossible. With divine’s intervention, I think God led me to your postings which provide me valuable insights. He did not stop there but continue to lead me back to His teachings. I came across pastor Peter Tan Chi’s preachings which remind me of how God has been so loving and faithful. Truly, you and your family have been so blessed and have become a blessing to me and others. May you continue to inspire us. Looking forward to learn more from you.

  14. Johann Antaran says:

    Am blessed with the testimony of both you (Joy) and Edric and how you handle your family. For this blog post, it just reminds us we all are human, we have our individual idiosyncrasies and that includes little things that make us react in a manner that is not appropriate (specially to our spouse). With that serving as a reminder, we can pray for God to lead us how to act with respect to our spouse’s idiosyncrasies in a way that will glorify his name, and in some ways acting in an appropriate manner with respect to that, would be at par with knowing and acting on the right love language of our spouse.

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The Idolatry of Equality