Just A Little MORE Respect

I am on a role with this respect series so I am going to go ahead and post what I just shared at a couples’ retreat in Baguio…

At the beginning of my marriage I struggled in the area of respect. (For those of you who have followed my blog, you have heard me say this a number of times.)

I thought I had married the man of my dreams. He was (still is) but in our marriage, certain realties presented themselves.

Edric had temper issues. I didn’t see this when we were dating. But my father-in-law jokingly told me once, “Edric can be a monster.” I laughed because I thought it was an exaggeration. This couldn’t possibly be true, I thought.

However, a few weeks after we got married I began to see what my father-in-law meant. Edric had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to him. When he was in good spirits he was the most fun person to be with. He was energetic, intense, and passionate. But, when he was uncomfortable due to heat, hunger, fatigue, or stress, he was the binary opposite. If his expectations were not met he tended to be critical. Furthermore, as the only son in his family, he wasn’t used to being flexible with inefficiencies and changes in plans. He admitted that he was used to being treated like a PRINCE. Naturally, in marriage, he graduated to KING and wanted to be treated that way.

I began to entertain thoughts like, “Is this the man I married? Is this how marriage is going to be?”

One of the mistakes I made was I compared Edric to my dad. Even though I didn’t vocalize this, it was like I had a mental chart in my head with two names on it..Edric versus my father. And then I went down the list of “categories” and said things like, “Why can’t Edric be more even-keeled like dad? Why doesn’t he make choices like dad in this area? Why isn’t he a better provider?”

So I made it my mission to help Edric be a better husband and leader. I thought I was doing him a favor by correcting and pinpointing areas for improvement. But this didn’t work. It only lead to more conflict.

Edric would be driving down Edsa and if someone cut him off, he would try to chase the person down and antagonize him. This would deeply annoy me, so I would say things like, “Why do you have to get angry? You shouldn’t do that. That’s not a godly response.”

He would react with greater irritation at my attempts to teach him, and tell me to back off and leave him alone, that it wasn’t the time or place to correct him. According to him, he already knew he was wrong and he didn’t need me to say it.

This sort of scenario and many others repeated themselves over and over so that I developed a resentment toward Edric. I became an expert at rolling my eyeballs, deep sighing, snide remarking, contradicting and arguing, the silent treatment, even withholding sex at times, and a host of other tactics to communicate my disappointment in his leadership and choices.

I even kept journals where I enumerated my frustrations and hoped that he would read them. He didn’t. He had no idea what kinds of ugly feelings inspired me to fill pages and pages of my notebooks. After a while, I worried that if my children or others ever read my journals in the future they would think I had such an awful marriage which wasn’t true. But since I tended to write more when I was upset at Edric, my journals reflected this!

I praise God for couples’ retreats and seminars, the advice of wise women who have gone before me, and for God’s word where I learned and relearned about my role as a wife. I had failed to respect Edric because I thought of it as conditional. My perspective was, If he was deserving I would respect him. And what about me? What about being cherished and treated with respect?

God showed me that I was neck-deep in ugly pride and bitterness, and these hidden sins of my heart were making me a contentious and unpleasant wife. I mistakenly thought I was the better half in our relationship, the one who was more spiritually mature. But I wasn’t! My attitude was turning Edric’s heart away from me and it wasn’t inspiring him to grow spiritually either.

I realized that respect was one of Edric’s needs and desires, and I wasn’t meeting it. More importantly, I was disobeying God’s command to respect Edric as the head of our marriage and family. God convicted me to look at the many ways that I needed to change. How could I be a better helpmate? Edric’s strong supporter? A life-giver along side him? What did I have to stop doing and start doing?

I determined to do four things:

The first was I PRAYED for Edric and SURRENDERED him to the Lord. Instead of nagging Edric, I began to beseech God, presenting to him very specific requests about Edric, myself and our marriage. As I came before the Lord in dependence and brokenness, I experienced God’s peace, assurance, and security. The burden to change Edric was turned over to Jesus and I relaxed as a wife.

For the first time I began to understand what it meant to be a gentle and quiet spirit. It was resting in who God is amidst circumstances, amidst the urge to manipulate or control Edric, or fight for my rights as a wife. It was knowing that I was heard — my hurts, longings and desires — by the ONE who knew me best and loved me most.

Second, I FORGAVE Edric and chose to apply the principle of a CLEAN SLATE. If Jesus had died for me and forgiven me completely, who was I not to do the same for my husband?

The Bible tells us the God’s mercies are new every morning. Similarly, I needed to let go of the compounded hurt that kept stealing my joy. Instead of thinking, “he’s never going to change”, or “see he’s going to do the same thing again,” I said to myself each day is a new opportunity to love and forgive Edric.

Third, I asked Edric “HOW CAN I BE A BETTER WIFE? This is, of course, a dangerous question to ask! I discovered I had to improve a lot! I needed to speak in a more gentle way, I needed to do what he told me right away (as often as possible), I needed to prioritize his want for companionship, attention, service, and intimacy. So I humbled myself and asked for forgiveness for my disrespect and the things I had done to hurt him. I still have to do this when I repeat the same mistakes.

Fourth, I learned to BE A MORE AFFIRMING AND ENCOURAGING WIFE. Instead of telling him how he should lead spiritually, I affirmed his love for God and desire to follow him. Instead of second-guessing and challenging his decision-making, I expressed confidence in his leadership. Instead of wishing we had more money, I thanked him for working hard and trying his best to provide for our needs. Instead of focusing on what he was doing wrong, I tried to pay closer attention to instances when he made godly choices.

When I chose to be more positive, I realized what an amazing man I was and am married to. There were so many things that I didn’t see when I was focused on the negative aspects of his person (which were really minimal in light of all his great facets). When I was zoning in on his faults and criticizing them, I had tunnel vision for the bad that blackened out his wonderful traits.

Slowly but most certainly, Edric began to transform. It wasn’t overnight but God worked in his heart and made him a more selfless, patient, and Spirit-filled man. Today I see the old Edric less and less. If I had the beta version when we got married, God has upgraded him to version 10.0 x 10.0. God keeps on upgrading him!

For example, in the mornings I get my baby from her room and breastfeed her in ours. This is early in the morning. Sometimes, I get her at 5 or 5:30 am. Afterwards, she doesn’t go back to bed again. She is fully awake. In the past, Edric would have ordered me to bring her out so he can get more sleep. But he is the one who lovingly takes her and brings her downstairs to our househelp so I can rest. It’s a sweet gesture that demonstrates how different he has become. From expecting to be treated like a KING, he is willing to serve me and inconvenience himself for me.

A few weeks ago we were enjoying our date night when he asked me, “How can I improve and change as a husband?” I had to think long and hard and I replied, “Honestly, you have been great! I can’t really think of anything.”

Photos from that date night…

20140920-203339-74019551.jpg

20140920-203339-74019202.jpg
Years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity to bullet point all the ways I wanted him to change. But by God’s grace he is a transformed person because of Christ’s continued work in his life. He is truly a godly leader, a loving and understanding husband, and a good provider. He is a man that I admire and respect with all my heart.

While I still struggle with respect and Edric still struggles with impatience from time to time, the secret to victory, romance and joy in our marriage is keeping Christ at the center of our relationship. When the motivation to keep improving wanes or when we are tempted to return to the selfish version of our Christ-less selves, Jesus becomes our superseding why, compelling us to press on in obedience and hopeful expectation.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
. (‭Galatians‬ ‭2‬:‭20‬ NASB)

Serving together at the CCF Couples Retreat in Baguio. I love this man!

20140920-203128-73888908.jpg

Not In Front of the Kids

For the most part Edric and I avoid “SHAMING” one another in front of our children. We don’t make each other look bad so that our kids are forced to pick a side when an argument or conflict ensues between the two of us. In fact, we avoid contradicting each other when our kids are around. I said, “for the most part.” There are occasions when we don’t follow this rule because we forget to be more prudent. Unfortunately, our kids end up being spectators to our back and forth dialoguing about who’s perspective is right.

Some weeks ago, the kids joined the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool. Edric encouraged the kids to participate, so the boys and I conceptualized a business idea for their origami hobby. Prior to the Saturday event, the boys and I slaved away. We put together the book they authored and illustrated, had it printed, and worked on the origami products they were planning to sell.

When Saturday came around, we were exhausted. I was frazzled as I finished topping their cupcakes with their origami designs. About two hours before we had to pack up the van, Edric started interrogating me with questions like, “Did you calculate your profit?” “What was the kids’ business proposal?” “Are you guys going to make ANY money?” He went on to criticise my planning skills.

While he thought he was being helpful, his timing couldn’t have been worse. We were about to load the van. I was dead tired from lack of sleep the night before. The kids were excited about the effort they had put into their projects and products. But at that moment, they looked on with discouragement as Edric made his inquisitions and negative comments.

I felt hurt. I couldn’t believe he was cutting me down in front of the kids! Plus, if it mattered to him so much that the kids do a good job on this, then why was he coming in at this point, when we couldn’t do anything about his suggestions? I was discouraged and irritated. His very valuable business perspective could have helped us a lot…two weeks before! These were some of the thoughts raging through my head as I distracted myself with packing our products.

Edric got the inkling that I wasn’t too thrilled about the things he said. I praise God that he has a sensitive gene built in to him that knows when I’m hurt. So he came up to me. I quietly expressed to him how I was feeling…that he had shamed me in front of the kids and that he was discouraging all of us. I praise God that he was humble enough to respond with a public apology. Immediately, he turned 180 degrees around to say sorry to our children.

He repaired his mistake by saying something like this, “Kids will you forgive daddy for saying those things to mommy? I am so proud of you guys and mommy for working so hard!”

That changed the tone of the morning and we went off to Biz Kidz together. He also promised to assist us with the set-up of our booth during the event.

Although, the kids didn’t make a ton of money, they bagged the MOST PROMISING BUSINESS IDEA award. Edric and I were very proud of them.

IMG_4925 1

IMG_4921

I wanted to write this article because I’ve counseled people in the past who feel like they are caught IN-BETWEEN the conflict of their parents. It is very difficult for children to feel pitted against one parent by the other, or forced to take a side. I’ve also witnessed spouses cut-down, embarrass, and criticize their husband or wife with their children present. This sort of family culture breeds contempt, hurt, and stress. It also increases the likelihood that sons and daughters will grow up to do the same to one another, and to their future spouses (and children).

I’m reminded that we need to create a climate of respect for one another in our homes, where we treat our spouses with dignity and honour, and do the same to our children. We may not always favour our spouses’ methods, perspectives, and personality quirks, but we can address these sort of differences privately. And if it isn’t an emergency to get our point across, we can sort out the issues during a more appropriate time.

Yesterday, I came across a poster on Pinterest which read: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. It proposed very thoughtful questions about the things we say and how we say it.

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it inspiring?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

1 Peter 5:5 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

 

 

 

You Have to Let Him Be the Man

Edan, our second, is 7. So he has a number of baby teeth on their way out. I pulled one a few weeks ago. Edric was jealous that I did it. He wanted the honor of pulling it out himself. But I couldn’t help it. The thing was practically dangling at a 45 degree angle. It was much too tempting not to pop that sucker out and that’s exactly what I did. I pushed down on it really fast with my thumb and it came right off. Edan was too stunned to realize there was any pain. I was so looking forward to pulling out his other teeth but they weren’t quite ready.

Two weeks later another baby tooth was just barely hanging on. We were in a lighting store at a home depot when Edan showed me how loose it was.

“Do you want me to pull it out? I can do it right now.”

Edan stopped me, “Daddy said he is going to do it.”

I tried to bargain with Edric for the opportunity to since I had done it so successfully the last time but he wouldn’t budge. “Nope, I am doing it.” He was adamant and confident.

20131128-083040.jpg
Okay, okay. We got home and Edric brought Edan to our bathroom. With Edan facing him he proceeded to pull on the tooth with a tissue. A tissue?! My thoughts were, You’ve got to be kidding me. That isn’t going to work.

He spent about five minutes toiling over how to do it and using the tissue without success. Edan was feeling very stressed and on the verge of tears. I really really wanted to say, “Can I please take over, that’s not the way to do it. I know what to do. Just let me do it.”

But I couldn’t defame Edric in front of the kids. Some of them were watching in suspense and Edan believed that Edric could do it. He was terrified but he trusted his dad. So I stood aside but discreetly suggested that he could flick the tooth downwards with his thumb and it would probably come out really fast.

He gave my suggestion a try and the tooth didn’t resist at all. The root was so worn down it just popped out. Edan was so happy and relieved. Whew. So was I!

Edric pulled me aside and asked, “How did you know that would work?”

“Really? You have never done it that way before? I pulled out my own teeth that way when I was a kid.”

“I have never pulled out a tooth!”

“Seriously?! You have never pulled out even your own teeth?!”

“Nope. In fact I was getting pretty stressed and nervous trying to pull out Edan’s!”

No wonder why he was trying to grip the tooth with a tissue initially and attempting to pull it upwards! He could have at least thought of using pliers!

Well, looking back I am glad that he still came out the hero in all this. The kids were impressed at how he eventually got it out.

It may seem like such a small thing but our kids are watching us all the time. They observe the way Edric and I relate to one another as husband and wife. We try to respect one another in front of the kids because we also ask them to respect us. So when he has greater insight or perspective on a matter and vice versa, we will correct in private or give suggestions in a way that doesn’t make each another look inferior or incapable (as much as possible). We support each other’s roles and affirm them. In this instance, I stepped aside to let Edric be the man, especially given the fact that getting their teeth pulled is pretty terrifying for our kids. So
I wanted them to be confident that he could definitely do it. I wanted them, especially Edan who is going to be losing a lot more, to trust his dad.

And…well the added bonus is he REALLY DOES know how to pull out a tooth efficiently now!

20131128-083137.jpg
In a marriage, we must help one another improve but not in a hostile take-over manner. Nobody is perfect. A husband and wife both need each other to become better, but it should be done in a positive manner, and not in a way that makes each other bitter because they are humiliated or belittled.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; (Romans 12:10 NASB)

When He Feels Like A King

(Written with permission from Edric and recently edited to remove the cynical parts that I felt were unnecessary and detracted from the main point. Ahhh, the blessings of blogging!)

Some weeks ago, I wrote an article about husbands and their cave man time. I understand that Edric needs occasions during the week to unwind and do something that refuels his “tank.” Recently, hanging out with his cousin playing NBA on a PS3 has been it. He will get together with him once a week or once every two weeks and they will go for hours and hours challenging each other. Meanwhile, I stay at home with the kids and chill with them. After they go to bed, I have my own version of cave man time — meditative silence. No one needs me, no one is clamouring for my attention. Being alone like this gives me opportunity to write, research, and read. Heaven.

As much as I have wanted to give Edric his man-space, when I found out that he and his cousin had organised a PS3, NBA tournament with a bunch of other guys, I wasn’t thrilled. I was worried that it would become something more frequent.

NBA_2K12_cover

The thing is, about five or so years ago, Edric had an issue with computer gaming. He had a nightly habit of using the PS3 he had to play NBA. I was worried about the example he was giving to the children and his own spiritual health. It seemed to make him edgier and more abrasive as a person, probably because he was pumped up with adrenalin and testosterone. So I actually prayed really hard that the machine would break.

A few weeks later, the PS3 had a supernatural encounter with ants. They infested the console and destroyed it. Edric tried to get it fixed two or three times by a questionable and strange genius who worked in Shoppesville, Greenhills. The guy named “Val” happened to have long nails on one hand or finger (one of those) which he probably used to unscrew bolts on all sorts of gadgets. Yet, for all his celebrated ability, the best he could do was get the console to work for 5 minutes. The fan would overheat and shut down after 5 minutes and Edric would have to re-start it. Of course, this was ridiculous…so ridiculous, Edric decided to sell it. Yeah! He knew I had prayed about his gaming and we laughed about the entire incident because it turned into a comedy. The great news was, he didn’t replace it and for years and years and computer gaming was not in his radar.

When he started playing again, not as a daily habit or in the addictive sense, but as an occasional fun activity that he can enjoy with friends, I made it into an issue. He said, “Remember you wrote about cave man time? Your reaction to playing computer games seems like a contradiction to what you said in that article.” At that moment, I wanted to delete my cave man article, and all articles he could possibly cite! He was using it against me, but I knew that he was right, too. Guys really do need their creative outlets and it’s a blessing that Edric’s happens to be something “safe.” What is playing a sports game once a week (and outside of the house) for a couple of hours if it will de-stress and energize my husband? I was being a bit irrational…maybe even hormonal.

On the day of the “big” tournament, I watched Edric as he ate his breakfast that morning, as he chatted with his friends over the phone while discussing last minute details for the tournament venue. His countenance was marked by an obvious delight and excitement. My heart started to soften.

Look at his smile, I thought. This really fills him. It’s clean fun. He’s not the kind of guy that has a vice that you need to worry about. Be happy for him. You spend time on facebook and amazon from time to time. That’s pretty useless. Okay, okay…whew, let me process this.

I decided to do the one thing that always works to calm my spirit. I prayed! “Lord, if my heart is wrong, please change it. If Edric is wrong then please convict him. I don’t want this to be a continuing source of tension between us.”

My attitude did change! It was strange. Edric said he would be done before midnight and I wished him a great time. “Bring home the trophy, babe!” I called out and meant it!

That night I enjoyed being with the kids. They all bunked in our bedroom. I actually fell asleep before some of them did…like 9:30pm. But at 2:30 am, I woke up and realized that Edric wasn’t home yet. Since I expected him to be back before midnight, I tried to call him just to check and see if he was alright. He did not answer so I figured he was still preoccupied with a game. It’s amazing that I didn’t feel like panicking. I just texted him. “Are you safe? Are you okay?” He replied, “Sorry I missed your call. Yes, don’t worry. On my last game.”

I found out that he got home at 3:45 am. And miracle of miracles, I didn’t feel like rubbing it in. He had a class to attend at 8:30 am and it was a wonder that he was able to make it. Anticipating that his fatigue would surely kick in by noon, I prepared him lunch to eat in the bedroom; turned on the AC so it would be comfortable when he arrived; and when he got home, I asked if he was alright, if there was anything I could do for him, and informed him that the room was prepared so he could rest. He looked at me like he had just had an alien encounter. “Who are you?” he asked jokingly. “Are you my wife? What did you do to her?” He couldn’t believe I was so supportive and understanding. He went on to say, “Why are you doing all this? You are treating me like a king. I like it!”

I really couldn’t understand it either. I was cheerful, sing-songy, asking him about how the tournament went like I was really interested…Why was I so supportive and understanding? It was flabbergasting. Of course, the answer was it simply wasn’t me. It was the Holy Spirit giving me a desire to take care of him and serve him. For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that service is my least favorite language of love, but it is the one thing that my husband appreciates most from me. So this was definitely not me, it was God’s grace!

I WANTED him to feel like a king. And you know what? He was the one who said, “I played too long last night. This is not sustainable. I can’t do that again. We really have to impose a time limit with the guys.” That was from the Lord, too! There must really be something to this gentle and quiet spirit that the Lord asks wives to put on! ;)

A woman in our church shared about “killing your husband with kindness.” She was married to an infidel and adulterer, but instead of harboring bitterness and anger towards him, she was an outstanding example of what it means to be a Christ-follower. As a result, her husband repented, turned his life over to the Lord, and became a pastor with a ministry that is incredibly effective.

In reference to this, Edric used the same line with me as he was sitting on the bed, drinking his warm soup. “You killed me with kindness, hon.” And we both laughed. (He really isn’t a bad husband at all so the statement didn’t exactly apply, but I knew what he meant.)

For the rest of the day, I made sure the kids didn’t disturb Edric because he needed to catch up on sleep. After he woke up, he was beaming. He couldn’t wait to spend time with me and he kept talking about how blessed he was that I took care of him.

Do I like computer games now? Nope. But I know my husband and I trust that he has his priorities in order. More importantly, I know that God holds him accountable. It is in the Lord’s department to bring about conviction.

I love the Lord and I love Edric. I want to support and respect Edric because God asks that of me, even when I don’t always like his choices. I’ve tried the vindictive route too many times, where I use angry silence, nag about what is right, withhold intimacy, or speak and act in disrespectful ways to communicate my disappointment. (Women have many weapons of mass destruction but they tend to backfire.) Truthfully, I am blessed with a wonderful, godly husband. But when I see areas that concern me, I’m learning over and over again that prayer is the best way to minister to him. Prayer is power not only to change the heart of the one I am interceding for, but the power to change me, too!

God knows I need to improve on being a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s a moment by moment challenge. One day I can write an article like this and seem like such an angel and the next day, I am the complete opposite! But such is the Christian life. I can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s enabling. Prayer keeps me connected to him.

Prayer helps me to treat Edric like a king — honored and held in high regard as he should be. And let me just add that when my husband feels like a king, I get treated like a queen. It is certainly a nice bonus!

Edric and Joy Couple 2

 

You’ve Got to “Role” with It

The talk I gave on a Wife’s Role in Singapore during the Before I Do Seminar for soon-to-be-wed couples…

Edric and I met in college. What I liked most about him was that we shared the same values, that he was God-fearing, that we could talk easily about anything and everything and that he was simple and easy-going. He wasn’t pretentious, insincere or complicated.

Two years after college, we got married. We both wanted to get married young and start a family while we were young. But, honestly, our romantic bubble burst pretty quickly. The first year of marriage was difficult. We had a whole lot of conflict, arguments, and tension in our relationship.

I discovered that Edric was short tempered and easily irritable, which I really did not like. And he discovered that I was disrespectful and strong-willed, and insubordinate to his leadership when I didn’t trust him. I would challenge his ideas, his decision-making capacity, and I would correct him when I felt that he wasn’t being a godly husband. My intention was to help him become the man that I thought God wanted him to be. But I was turning into the wife that he didn’t like to be with. We both reacted to each other and reached our capacity to tolerate one another’s personalities.

Both of us believed that we would never ever divorce, but I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why did I ever get married in the first place? If I had known it was going to be this difficult, then I would have thought twice!”

At a certain point, both of us had to stop and consider what we were doing wrong. I remember God telling me something like this, “If you want my blessing in your marriage, you do things my way.” Up until this time I had blamed Edric for the way our marriage was. I thought that if he would just be less temperamental and less irritable, and more positive and affirming, it wouldn’t be this way. I would readily submit and trust his leadership. But God said, “Look at your own heart. Look at your own life. Stop focusing on what you want your husband to change. You change the things that you need to. You have A LOT to change. Change yourself. Edric is my problem. Let me work in his life.”

So I surrendered my marriage to the Lord and began praying for Edric. I started focusing on my role as a wife. It wasn’t easy because I wrestled with my pride and selfishness. But as I began to apply God’s principles for marriage, I began to see changes in my relationship to Edric. Edric also began to change, first in small ways, then in big ways. He began to step up as the spiritual leader of our family. Romance started to blossom again. Our marriage became sweeter and sweeter. It wasn’t without its imperfections or problems, but we understood the main issues. We learned to address and solve the fundamental problems. (Our marriage is still a work in progress, but by God’s grace, we are experiencing the blessings of keeping God at the center of it).

Almost always, the problems we experience in our marriage boil down to roles – my role as a wife and Edric’s role as a husband.

A few years after we were married, I learned a very beautiful description of the woman’s role. It is found in Genesis 2:18.

Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

In this passage, we see two words that describe a woman – HELPER and SUITABLE. Read in plain English and defined by an English dictionary, these words are not very inspiring. So we have to refer to the original Hebrew text, where we learn that the Hebrew word for HELPER is EZER, and the word for SUITABLE is KENEGDO.

EZER KENEGDO.

The word Ezer in the Bible is not only used to describe Eve but to describe God.

For example, Psalm 54:4 “Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” Or “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you.” (Deut. 33:26).

Therefore, more accurate definitions of “Ezer” are words like “to rescue, to save, to strengthen.” Author, John Eldredge, in his book, Wild at Heart, proposes that the word means “lifesaver.”

The word Kenegdo, on the other hand, means “corresponding companion, partner to.” God created a perfect partnership. Without Eve, God’s creation was not complete. Something was missing. God knew that Adam needed Eve. She was the only one suitable. (Genesis 2:18) This is why the Bible also tells us that woman was created for the man’s sake and not the other way around.

1 Corinthians 11:8-9 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

God designed us to empower and strengthen, to be life-givers to our husbands. The question is, are we doing this? How can we be the empowering, strengthening and life-giving companions that our husbands need? How can we help, assist, encourage, and support her husbands so that they can accomplish God’s purpose for their life and for our marriage?

1. Home management. Husbands and wives can share division of labor if they are both working and have no house help. But the Bible does encourage women to be “workers at home.” It doesn’t say that women are the only ones who can run a home. I know some guys who are great cooks (better than their wives) and who can clean a toilet bowl very well. Yet, men are called to a different battle – the responsibility of provision and leading the family rests on their shoulders. Women can pursue careers and develop their professional skills, and God does gift all of us with unique abilities, but not at the expense of the home.

It isn’t the man’s burden to manage the home. His burden is to lead his family and give his wife the resources she needs to effectively manage their home. So if a woman pursues a career and yet her home suffers for it, she needs to ask herself if her priorities are in order.

I know women who are very successful in their careers or professions of choice and yet, they are able to run their households with excellence. They create schedules for their children, for their staff (if they have househelp), and they have systems in place for getting laundry done, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc. So it is possible to do both with excellence. The Proverbs 31 woman described in the Bible was this kind of woman – a major multi-tasker. But her priorities were clear – she didn’t earn money at the expense of her husband’s or children’s needs.

Early on in my marriage, my dad asked me to work for him. It would have helped Edric and I financially but after consulting with Edric, he told me not to do it. At first, I felt bad because I wanted to be able to help my dad out who needed my assistance for a certain set of skills. But I also knew that my dad would be demanding of my time and energy (he’s a great dad but as a boss, he can really pile the work on). So I turned down the financial opportunity because I didn’t want to be in a position where I would not be available to Edric if he needed me. Looking back, it was a wise choice. My priorities were clear and God has continually provided over and above our needs.

2. Submit. The word “submission” doesn’t sit well with a lot of women. My mom was counseling a lady some years ago who told her, “I’ve been reading my Bible and highlighting it. Do you want to see?” She showed my mom the verses she had read on submission and my mom laughed. The lady had highlighted all the verses she didn’t like with a black marker!

Ephesians 5:22-24 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

People like to avoid talking about submission because women are uncomfortable with the idea that they are to be “subject” to men. Historically speaking, subjugation of women has been an issue – we have seen women abused, violated, taken advantage of, misled, and hurt by the wrong kinds of men. Today, many women are still oppressed in different parts of the world. But this was never God’s design. He wanted marriage to be the context in which men and women experience the most beautiful, intimate kind of love. Women were to be cherished and appreciated the way they desire to be, and men trusted to lead and protect as they should.

But sin marred this picture. Sin brought confusion, disruption, division, destruction. And people used human means and wisdom to solve a spiritual problem. We didn’t go back to the Maker. We invented our own solutions – feminism, being one of them. But feminism had to have a second and third wave just to correct its first wrongs. Today the spirit of the independent woman is nothing new. Eve had the same issue. God said don’t eat the fruit. Eve said, I will eat the fruit. Well, there were consequences back then and there are consequences now to going against God’s design.

Submission is a choice. The Greek word for it is “Hupotasso” which means to voluntarily complete, arrange, adapt to within a legion, so as to make a complete whole. It is a choice to come “under” the covering of our husband’s authority for our own protection and good. God doesn’t force us to submit. We are free to choose what we want to do but not free to escape the consequences.

God speaks through our husbands. When there are instances when I don’t agree with him or his decisions, I try to pray instead of contradict or disobey. Since my husband in under God’s authority, I appeal to the Lord to speak to him or change my perspective and heart if I am wrong. This always works! Either God changes Edric’s decision or he changes my heart. It’s a win – win for all.

At the end of the day, when we submit to our husbands, we are submitting to God. It is an act of obedience – an act of faith. The Bible verse says, “submit as unto the Lord.” If we make our submission optional and dependent on whether we like what our husbands tell us to do or whether we trust them, we are missing out on the blessing of submission. Submission is something we do as unto the Lord, because we trust that he is the one looking out for us, that he has our best interest and our good at heart.

During a difficult counseling case, I had to encourage a wife to practice being a submissive and godly wife to her husband even if he was an adulterer. He was never physically abusive to her but he was mean and unkind. Honestly, I hated the guy and I wanted to tell the woman to leave him and “good riddance!” But, I also knew that I was accountable to the Lord for the welfare of her soul. And I had to tell her something like this, “I really want to tell you to leave your husband, but it would be wrong of me to do this. Beyond human reason but in faith, I am asking you to continue to be submissive…as unto the Lord. Look to the Lord and claim his promises of blessing even if it seems so impossible to imagine that your situation can change.” She followed this advice and months later, I received news from this woman that her marriage had been restored. Only God could have done this!

1 Peter 3:1-3 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

Submission can seem like a ridiculous and unfair expectation of women who are in problematic marriages but I am a believer in the validity of God’s word and his promise of blessing to those who obey him.

3. Respect. The number one need of a man, whether we like it or not is respect, with sex as a close second. This is a scientific truth. Men are wired to desire respect. A man will look for it in the workplace, among peers, from strangers, while driving on the road, but most especially from his children and his wife.

Our husbands marry us hoping that we will support them, believe in them, follow them…that we will be their number 1 fan. They don’t want to lose our respect. Some men will go to the extent of hiding the realities of their finances, their jobs, or other issues from their wives because they don’t want to lose the trust or confidence of their wives.

Respect is so important, God makes a specific command just for us.

Ephesians 5:33 And let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband – that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates him and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him and loves and admires him exceedingly.

It is in the little things – complimenting our husbands in private and public, responding with a tone that is kind and not harsh or irritated, not being a nag, not comparing them to others or making them feel like they have to earn our respect, etc…

There is a book called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs which talks about the Crazy Cycle of marriage. Men desire respect and women desire love. In marriage, when a woman doesn’t feel love, she disrespects her husband. When a husband feels disrespected he doesn’t feel like loving his wife. And the cycle continues.

In contrast, a husband who feels respected desires to love his wife. I’ve experimented with this phenomenon many times in my own marriage. It is a proven theory. When I respect Edric by appreciating him, giving him attention, communicating my admiration for him, following through with the things he asks me to do, and responding to him with a pleasant tone when he corrects me or tells me what to do, it’s like a magic formula for lovey-dovey feelings in him towards me. In contrast, when I am antagonistic, easily irritated, confrontational, too busy to take care of him, and de-prioritizing his needs, he shuts down emotionally. There is no tenderness. He doesn’t feel like being romantic or sweet towards me.

When I talked about this topic at a retreat some time ago, I requested that the wives ask their husbands to rate their “respect-o-meter”. Ask your husband, “On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the highest), do you find me respectful? How can I change or improve?” Be prepared to humbly listen and be willing to change when you do this!

In summary, the role of a wife is to be a helper to her husband. The word is EZER-KENEGDO – which means to empower, to strengthen, to be life-givers to our husbands by managing the home, and submitting to their authority with an attitude of respect.

My eldest son asked me yesterday morning, “Mom, is marriage easy?” I paused for a little bit and I said, “Marriage is not easy. It is actually difficult. But it is worth it.” He had a far-off look in his eyes like he was trying to take in what I had just said. So I followed up with the question, “Do you know what makes it difficult?” I waited for him to answer but he was waiting for me to explain so I said, “What makes it difficult is that people are not perfect. We are sinful and selfish.” I shared with him that God designed marriage to be something good and wonderful but when we don’t follow God’s design, we don’t experience marriage the way God wants us to. He understood this and he replied, “I used to think that in marriage people just love each other. Like it’s just natural. Like daddy loves you and you love daddy.”

His fairy tale idea of marriage had just been thrown out the window, but I wanted him to understand at this very young age that without God, marriage is not a fairy tale. Marriage is not happily ever after. That’s the pin to his bubble, to everyone’s bubble. But the other reality is that marriage can be the most amazing relationship if a husband and wife choose to fulfill their God-given roles and keep God at the center of their marriage. Later on in the day, he shared with me. “I want to get married someday. I want to love someone and take care of someone and I want to have children.” Whew! He’s still excited about marriage! That’s a positive indication.

Of course, I was also thinking to myself, You are just 9 years old, so spend the next fifteen years preparing to be the man who will do that! In the meantime, Edric and I have to role-model a healthy, God-centered marriage for all our kids. We can give these marriage talks over and over again but it all means nothing unless we live the truth ourselves.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t

As a wife, one of my greater struggles in marriage has been “putting on a gentle and quiet spirit.” Edric and I both have strong personalities. So when we are head to head about something, it is hard for me to back down. I have to make a conscious effort to remember that my role is to respect and support my husband, and to trust his leadership.

Yesterday, I disrespected him in front of a group of leaders from TMA Homeschool. We were gathered around a table discussing the Family Convention (a convention that happened today). Edric had asked me to give a short explanation of the plans for homeschool curriculum and materials that we will be offering to parents. I was resistant because my perspective was, “I don’t want to over promise anything.” I would rather under promise and over deliver when it comes to managing people’s expectations. I didn’t want to tell parents that we are bringing in new resources. Instead I wanted parents to pleasantly discover the materials when they became available.

Edric is great at casting a vision and rallying people behind a cause. But I like to be conservative about what I say when I manage people’s expectations. I prefer to do things quietly and behind the scenes, without announcing what I am doing. Therefore, the conflict that transpired between us was, essentially, a personality difference.

While we almost always handle our conflict in private, yesterday, Edric got frustrated with me for resisting his request. And I got irritated that he kept on insisting that I do something that I was not comfortable with. But my big, horrible and disrespectful mistake was standing up and walking out of the room when he said, “If you don’t want to contribute anything to this discussion then you can leave the room.” He actually said it in a very calm manner but since I was upset, I stood up quietly and left anyway. I trotted out the room in front of other key leaders.

Boy, I knew I was wrong. The Lord pointed out to me that I had just disrespected my husband. I had never done this before (I mean the walk out part in front of others).

A few moments after, Edric looked for me and took me aside. He asked me why I did what I did. I explained myself (very poorly), and he corrected my behavior and wrong attitude. He explained how important it was that I am positive and encouraging towards the initiatives that he requires of the team. And he also apologized to me for not making his expectations of me more clear.

At a certain point we both started laughing because the drama of what happened was so ridiculous. The Lord reminded me that Edric is my authority and that I am called to respect him. I said sorry to Edric. The Lord also told me to go back into the meeting room and apologize to the entire team. Humble yourself! Fix your attitude and be a good example!

So I went back in and apologized to everyone for being disrespectful and having the wrong attitude. They actually laughed at us and thought the whole incident was comedic. But I am glad I made that public apology because I really was wrong. And during the Family Convention this morning, of course I spoke the part that Edric asked me to.

By God’s grace, I am growing in this area. I always have to tell myself, respect for Edric is not conditional. It is commanded of me and obedience leads to blessing. When I am respectful towards Edric, his heart is open to me and he is inspired to be sweet and tender towards me. (I much prefer that he remain this way!)

God has given my husband authority over me. He is the leader of our marriage and home. And I need to trust that God speaks through my husband when he makes decisions. (If I am worried that he is making a wrong decision the solution is prayer.)

However, seeing our relationship from this perspective takes spiritual lenses. My number one enemy is my pride — I want to do things my way instead of God’s way. So the secret to r-e-s-p-e-c-t is to walk intimately with God. Yesterday, I attended morning prayer watch and I had quality time with the Lord. I think this was the reason why I felt the conviction of the Lord when I was being disrespectful. I could not escape the prodding of the Holy Spirit!

Well, all is well and good between Edric and I. And I thank the Lord that he continues to work on my character and help me become more gentle and quiet in spirit, even if it is antithetical to my personality. I am still a work in progress. ;)

“Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”(Romans 13:2 NASB)

20120628-224656.jpg

The Most Well-Mannered are the Most Well-Socialized

Most parents who ask me about socialization mean well. Their general perception is that homeschooled kids are isolated from the world and lack opportunities to be with their peers. What I find interesting is that parents can be more concerned about the number of friends their children interact with rather than their social development.

I like the way this site described social development in children. “Social development refers to the process by which a child learns to interact with others around them. As they develop and perceive their own individuality within their community, they also gain skills to communicate with other people and process their actions. Social development most often refers to how a child develops friendships and other relationships, as well how a child handles conflict with peers.” Social Development in Children

The reality is, I seldom meet a child who is unable to make friends, whether homeschooled or not. Children are relational, some may be more quiet or reserved than others, but if you put two children who do not know each other in a room together, they will gravitate towards each other and be friends in no time.

As parents, our greater concern ought to be equipping our children with social graces. Are they well-mannered and polite? Do they know how to be sensitive to cultural differences? Are they comfortable at formal occasions or gatherings? Do they know when to avoid drawing attention to themselves?

Three weeks ago, Edric and I realized how important it is to prioritize our children’s “social instruction.” Both of us decided to take our kids to Isabela without bringing along our house help. We said,”Wouldn’t it be great to bring all four children without any yayas? Let’s try doing everything ourselves!”

After being with American homeschooling families (who had an average of seven children), Edric and I thought four didn’t seem like too many. He was going to be preaching at a church in Isabela that weekend but I didn’t have to do anything except watch the kids so I was totally okay with that. I usually like to be really hands on with the kids anyway.

At first, I thought that things were under control. From eating, to bathing, to brushing teeth, to walking in a particular order, to seating arrangements and sleeping places, to responsibilities, the kids were complying. Then, a mortifying thing happened. During a special dinner that was prepared for us, one of our older sons blurted out,”I hate this food!” Not only was the comment totally rude, it came at the worst time. Edric and I had just been talking about home education and all its benefits. (Isn’t it amazing how God teaches humility?!) Since we were at a restaurant with fifteen other people, we waited till we were alone with the children to talk to them.

Edric used the occasion to teach all of our boys a lesson on social graces. He shared that we must always consider what we say, reminding them of Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” He explained that there is a positive and polite way to say that you don’t like something. Furthermore, he encouraged them to focus on being affirming towards people and circumstances.

The boys took it well. The very next day, our son who had made a mistake during dinner tried to apply what Edric told him. He sincerely complimented a friend with whom we spent the next morning. “Thank you for being so nice,” our son said, “You stayed with us at the airport, helped us with our bags, gave us food…” (He enummerrated several things that he appreciated.) Edric and I told him that we were so blessed and proud of him for obeying and applying what he learned about positive words.

Even though our children are pretty responsive and in agreement that social graces are important, so far, we are on an uphill climb. We find ourselves having to remind our boys of little things like…

“Please don’t pick your nose in public.”
“Please let women through a door before you enter.”
“Please don’t run into an elevator when people are exiting.”
“Please modulate your voice so you are not being loud.”
“Please say ‘please’ and ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you’.”
“Please do not interrupt adults when they are talking.”
“Please ask permission from the host of a home or occasion when you want to borrow, play with, or go somewhere as a guest.”
“Please modify your behavior when you are getting too rowdy in a public place.”
“Please answer and look people in the eye when you are being spoken to.”
“Please say ‘nice to meet you’ when you are being introduced.”

The list goes on and on. Sometimes it feels like trying to take the jungle out of three Tarzans!

However, Edric and I are committed to teaching our children manners and etiquette. As much as possible, we do not let them get away with inappropriate, discourteous, disrespectful, or socially ignorant responses to situations. We try to do one or a combination of the following when we need to address their behavior:

- We have a family conference, dialogue, or Bible study on the character trait that applies.
- Edric or myself will take a child aside to have a serious talk with him so he can apologize or correct the person he has wronged, and change his behavior.
- Our children are disciplined if a clear rule or command was broken.

Teaching manners can be so overwhelming so we emphasize the essence of it, the “what.” This is found in Philippians 2:3. “Do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind consider others as more important than yourself.” This is the character trait of “deference.” Deference is about putting others before yourself — making their needs more important than your own. When I was a child, my parents also made Matthew 7:12 a golden rule for relating to others. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

But even beyond the “what” is the “why”, the higher motivation for social graces. When I said to Edric, “Hon, maybe we are passing on the pressure of appearances to our children by being particular about their behavior.” And he was quick to correct me, “Hon, I don’t agree with you. Appearances are important when you are representing the Lord.”

As I thought about this, I realized that he was correct. 1 Peter 2:12 challenges us to live an exemplary life, to live in an excellent way so that people will glorify God by our lives. Matthew 5:16 also says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

If we claim to be followers of Jesus, but our children behave in all kinds of socially inappropriate ways then how can this bring glory to God’s name?

We are not called to be perfect, but we are called to pursue a standard of excellence. At the same time, this does not give us the right to criticize others or look down on families whose children have not been taught right conduct. It does mean that we are accountable for the testimony of our family. And our children need to understand that if they claim to know Jesus and have a relationship with him, then their lives have to reflect this in the most excellent way.

Fortunately, because of homeschooling, Edric and I are around our children alot and they are exposed to what Chris Klicka called, “real world” socialization. According to Klicka, “Homeschool kids are completely prepared for the ‘real world’ of the workplace and the home. They relate regularly with adults and follow their examples rather than the examples of foolish peers. They learn based on ‘hands on’ experiences and early apprenticeship training.” Socialization: Homeschoolers Are in the Real World

Since our children have many ‘real world’ socialization opportunities, we are given the best contexts in which to teach manners. We don’t cover a book on “good morals and right conduct” as a subject, although we have a great etiquette book and character book as references. Instead, we watch our children’s social behaviour closely and train them as a way of life. I believe this is a benefit to homeschooling that is worth mentioning. But every family can have well-mannered children, whether homeschooled or not.

The reality is, we all need help in this area. Parenting our children so they have a heart for God, as well as obey and respect us is enough of a challenge. So to imagine having to go further to raise them to be ladies and gentlemen seems equivalent to the feat of climbing Mt. Everest. Few try and few make it. Haven’t people been saying for years, “chivalry is dead.” And add to that a comment I read on a site by a disgruntled man that went something like this, “I don’t get why women complain so much about men not being gentlemen when women these days are far from lady-like. They want a man with traditional values but they don’t know how to be a traditional woman.” Touché.

So there is a shortage of both species today. But we, as parents, can do something about it by beginning with our families. If you feel helplessly flawed and incapable of reaching this standard, take comfort in this verse which has been a comfort to me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) This verse tells me God knows my flaws as a parent. He knows Edric’s flaws and my children’s flaws but if we do our part to stay connected to him, he will supply the grace and power we need to live the life he has called us to.

Let’s aim for the highest standard, not for ourselves, so that we can look good or so that our children will use it for personal gain, but because God has called us to be radically excellent for his glory.

And remember, homeschooled or not, it is the most well-mannered children who are the most well-socialized!