(I will begin this and every blog post about what I am finding in the Bible about being a Godly wife, mother, and woman by saying that I by no means think that the woman is always the culprit in an unhealthy relationship. Marriages involve two broken, sinning humans who carry equal responsibility in making their relationship work. What I have had to learn the hard way, however, is that the only person I can control is myself. If there is an issue in my marriage, the only things I can do are seek God's insight on how I can be or do better, and pray that God will do the work in my husband's heart. So please read on with that in mind.)
Proverbs 12:4 "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones."
Decay in the bones slowly and painfully eats away at you until you are left completely and utterly disabled, defeated, and in constant discomfort. It is not a surprise, then, that the Bible uses this analogy to describe the effect on a husband who has a disgraceful wife. In real life terms, this is the wife who is constantly harping at or belittling her husband. The wife makes a disrespectful or snooty comment, and there is an unmistakable look on her husband's face of disbelief (did you really just say that?), discouragement (do you really think I'm as stupid or incapable as you came across?), and pain (wow, that hurt!). When this happens, he may initially stand up for himself by arguing back or by telling her that he doesn't appreciate the way she was talking to him. Usually, though, this just makes her more angry and venomous, unless she has learned to control her tongue.
Over time, the husband realizes that nothing he could say will help, and he stops trying to protect himself against her words. This is the husband who "stonewalls" when his wife wants to have a "discussion" about something that is bothering her. He has lost the energy and the desire to even try because he knows how it will end - with him feeling belittled, disrespected, and defeated. This has played out in my own marriage. I used to have horrible control of my tongue and would make snarky, cynical comments without even considering or caring how they made my husband feel. I was too caught up in how I was feeling in the moment to consider him. Fortunately, I was forced to face how I was treating him. I took a good look at how I was using my words and my feelings and realized that they were not in line with how the Bible calls me to act (towards my husband and people in general). Once my husband felt free to express how he had been feeling without the threat of retaliatory words (I have at times literally had to force my mouth to stay shut), he was able to tell me how I had been making him feel. It's ironic, but I had always wanted him to be the strong, dependable leader of our home, but I was creating the opposite with my words.
Recently, I was struggling a bit emotionally and briefly lost control of my tongue a few times. I can still see it in my mind: the look of disbelief in his eyes, the slight lowering of his shoulders, the almost imperceptible sigh and shake of his head. I knew I had crossed the line, and I should have apologized. Unfortunately, I didn't. Later on in the car, he was a little quiet. Finally, he said, "Can I be honest with you about something?" Immediately and impulsively, my ire went up. But, I pushed it back down and said, "Yes." He went on, "I have felt a little disrespected by some of your comments lately." Again came up the ire along with, "well, I've been tired, stressed, grumpy..." but I swallowed it back down and said, "I know, and I'm sorry for treating you like that." It wasn't a fun conversation for either of us, but it was necessary. He was able to be real with me without getting ripped apart, and I was reminded that I need to keep my temper in check and really pay attention to how I am making him feel with my words.
So, then, what does it look like to have a noble character? Ruth was described in the Bible as being a woman of noble character. Ruth 3:11 "All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character." Ruth's story is a beautiful one to study. She experienced the pain of losing her husband and her father-in-law, of having nothing and no one but her mother-in-law (who wanted to leave Ruth's town to go back to the town she and her deceased husband and sons came from), facing the unknown of going with her mother-in-law to a town and religion she didn't know, and finally redemption. Through it all, she exuded a character that became known by everyone around as being noble and honorable. Ruth was fiercely devoted. Even when it was tough and the easy thing to do would have been to go back to her father's house, Ruth remained faithful by staying with her mother-in-law. Naomi even tried to convince Ruth to leave her, but Ruth said, "Don't urge me to leave you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God..." (1:16). Ruth was also humble. When she and Naomi arrived, Ruth immediately began doing what she could so that she and Naomi would have food to eat. At Naomi's instruction, Ruth went into the field of a man named Boaz and began to glean what she could from the ground behind the workers who were harvesting Boaz's barley. This is the position of a beggar, although it didn't stop Ruth. Ruth was a hard worker. In response to Boaz inquiring about Ruth, one of his men said, "she went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter" (2:7). Finally, Ruth's reputation preceded her. She was a foreigner, so people were naturally going to be curious of her. She was watched and was found to be an extraordinary woman. Boaz was both kind and gracious to her. When Boaz and Ruth were finally able to sit together, she asked him why she had found such favor in his eyes. He responded, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law...May the Lord repay you for what you have done: (2: 10, 11). And God did repay Ruth, for she was in the maternal line of Kind David!
A man who has a wife like that is rich in blessing. I want to be that kind of wife! Neither women or men are perfect, but if we each try to mold and shape our character to be more noble, we will become blessings to our spouses, and we will make them want to stand tall, proud and strong!