You would think I'd have marriage figured out by now. My husband and I will soon celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary, just a year shy of silver. And that certainly seems like enough time to smooth most of the rough edges. Yet I'm discovering that the basic challenges of the marriage relationship are never really "figured out." We may grow in our understanding and relationship skills, but marriage is a living thing, an organism, a building under construction.
Threats to Marriage
And if marriage can be likened to a house being built, many relationships today don't have a chance. So many couples slap some sort of life together without bothering with the tradition of marriage and hardly considering the foundation of Jesus Christ. It's no wonder that the home is threatened in our culture.
Yet even those who have chosen to build their home God's way face difficulties—the temptation to indulge self and an innate dislike of serving the other. The Creator addressed these issues through the Apostle Paul's writings in Ephesians 5. Both husbands and wives are told to hold the other in great regard. Husbands are commanded to cherish their wives, and wives are commanded to respect their husbands. For both, this is an attitude that could be described as adoration, an elevated way of viewing the other.
The Hammer of Attitude
I have come to realize that my attitude as a wife is a powerful tool, one that can create beauty or havoc. Proverbs 14:1 says "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down" (NIV).
To put this in building terms, every wife has a hammer in her hands: her attitude toward her husband. And how she chooses to use it will have an impact on the type of home she has.
A hammer can drive nails into boards, adding to the stability of a building, and it can remove nails that have been wrongly pounded in. When it's used to fasten pieces tightly, a hammer can help in the process of raising the walls of a home, making it solid and secure.
But a hammer can also be used to demolish a building. It can destroy what was once standing. It can repeatedly chip away at block walls. It can be used to bludgeon and inflict pain.
I confess that I've been guilty of using the hammer in negative ways. Sometimes, like a foolish woman, my attitude has been as brutal as a sledgehammer, and I've used it to clobber my husband—words, facial expressions, and body language, all a reflection of attitude. Maybe you've been there too. It's not always intentional. A disagreement goes south quickly or a simple irritation becomes an escalating issue. Or maybe over time a reluctance to forbear and forgive becomes resentment and finds expression in hurtful ways. And after the explosion, looking around at the debris, you feel tempted to drop the hammer for good, sign off on marriage.
Using the Power Positively
God calls to us through the writer of Proverbs and urges us to keep the hammer and use it for good. We wives wield such power; those big guys really do need the strength of a wife's adoration and respect. As for us, we need to surrender our husbands and our irritations and fears to God and allow him to help us embrace an attitude which will build up and not tear down.
In Ephesians 5:33, the Authorized King James Version uses the word "reverence" in describing the template for a wife's attitude. This word in the original language means to "venerate, to treat with deference." If I model this attitude, I can strengthen my husband's self-esteem, reinforce his relationship with our children, and positively impact how others view him. I become part of the building process, not a single-handed demolition team.
Does this mean the right perspective will make me enthusiastic about everything my husband does? No, but an attitude that seeks to build will motivate me to voice my opinions and requests in a kind way and not in a harsh, demanding manner.
Making the Choice
So every married woman has a hammer. There are three options: she can choose to drop it for good, wield it as a weapon, or use it as a tool.
It all comes down to choice, and choice reflects the one in control. Does the Holy Spirit guide my behavior, or do I follow my own inclinations? The wise woman builds; the foolish woman destroys. I will make the choice today.
Valorie Quesenberry is a wife, mother of four, and freelance writer. She is the author of three books in the Sisters of Faith series (Wesleyan Publishing House) and two devotional titles (Barbour Publishing). Her most recent book is His Praise Is on My Lips: A Celebration of Worship for Women.
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