When I was blessed in marrying Steve nearly 8 years ago, I often sought out Proverbs 31 in the Bible as a guidebook, a different kind of blueprint for how to love him in a manner that would honor the Lord and Steve the best. Flash forward nearly eight years and enter the challenges of serious illness. How do you “strengthen your arms,” “not let your lamp go out at night,” “watch over the ways of our household,” and support your man in the ways a Christian wife is called to when you simply cannot do much of anything? By the Lord’s grace, that’s how!
Steve has become my whole world due to the isolation that came with a serious illness these past 4 years. He is also the only one to whom I am called to serve during this season of my life second to the Lord himself. I am no longer able to work in healthcare or serve others at my church. At first this did not seem like enough. Later on I stressed beyond belief to serve either one of them. Now looking back I can say that each day I was given enough energy and clarity of thought to serve both as best as I could even in my times of greatest weakness. These tasks are critical to fulfill the outcome cast in Proverbs 31:
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
I just hope I did my part as best that I could . . .
The Lord through His Word in Proverbs 31 and other places (in addition to the leading of the Holy Spirit) showed me how to function in these roles through the most serious illness that I could ever imagine. In turn for Steve the Lord through His Word, leading of the Holy Spirit, and fellowship of select believers, gave my beloved the strength to care for me during a season of our marriage that was incredibly challenging for him as well. For example lost or broken sleep virtually every night! Steve has fulfilled his calling: there is much fruitfulness in our marriage as a result. I will write more about this in the future for sure. I am so proud of Steve!
The part of Proverbs 31 that has helped me to feel less alone, to feel that there is a “Jesus with skin on” who remembers me and loves me too is in the verse that captures the Christian husband’s response to her faithfulness:
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
Yes. Throughout these 4 years of significant challenges in every area of our lives together, Steve has trusted me. He trusted me when he married me and he trusts me now. His confidence is such a precious gift when my spirits were so low and my self-doubt so high. My husband has heeded his own call to love me as Christ loves the church in the most loving way imaginable. My beloved husband believed me that I was truly sick and believed in me no matter what that looked like. (For example, when I said that I would be o.k. though still seizing for the five-hundredth day this occurred when he is late leaving for work after caring for me that morning. O.k.? Really?) Steve has championed my attempts to keep going, to search for clues as to how to get well, to get up after yet another defeat. Steve is my hero on this earth. Period!
One of the greatest challenges of life in general is the quest for significance. Now let us return to the theme of this 3-part blog. For a Christian husband to be “known in the city gates” as it says in Proverbs 31 is one reason why a Christian wife should serve her husband well. We must respect our husbands in private and in public so that they in turn may be respected in the workplace. We want this! To make this effort to respect our husbands is important no matter the circumstances in which each of the partners find themselves. Yes, the wife may be sick at home; be home raising the children; have her own career, tasks and accomplishments yet all of these are to be in concert with supporting the spiritual leader of their household. This is a tall order handled to be with prayer for sure!
For me it has been very hard to be second: to support Steve while remaining in the shadows of life when I am also number 112 or so by so many people that used to be a vibrant part of my life. I had to bring this identity crisis to my Heavenly Husband over and over again. It was the precious relationships with my Heavenly Husband first and my earthly husband second, where I have found the ability to keep them in the right order! Jesus was my perfect companion at all times. Steve needed to be away for work, spiritual feedings at church, and some recreation too. I had to let go of the temptation to pull on Steve too much.
I simply could not have as much time with Steve as in our first years of marriage since I could no longer participate in activities that we liked to pursue together. My Heavenly Husband filled my needs. He gave me this blog, new friends, and an online jewelry business. My Lord revealed Himself to me in ways I had never experienced before. And when Steve came home, our reunions were always sweet. I had endured a thousand wretched times alone. It’s just the way it had to be for us. In due time that would not create trauma for me. I realized just how tangible having Christ with you can really be . . .
In Christ and in love with my beloved Stevers, I have found who I truly am, who my Lord has created me to be. I have found love beyond measure. I am never alone regardless of the circumstances. In completing the tasks to which I am now called, our household works well and is peaceful overall. I get to live Shaunti Feldhaun’s wise words as noted above. And no matter what the circumstances, whether I return to work in my profession as an occupational therapist or whether I am home recovering from a setback of sorts, my call will be to stand alongside and possibly behind my husband. My heart is full. Both are lovely places to be!
And that my Gentle Reader is a great discovery indeed. This is God’s design for marriage. In the end the only “gates” where it is truly important to be known will be the open door where I will someday meet my Lord, Jesus Christ and He calls my name. So sweet.
Will I meet you there too? JJ