The good wife: After 26 years, here’s what I learnt about love and submission in marriage
Salt&Light // September 20, 2022, 2:23 pm
26 years into her marriage, the author says she has refined her idea of what it means to be the good wife. "More truthfully," she adds, "God has." Photo by Raychan on Unsplash.
When I was a dewy-eyed 20-something, I read a book about marriage that I never quite forgot. Okay, maybe I exaggerate. There was just one tip in there that stuck with me for nearly 30 years. It goes something like this: “Always greet your husband warmly when he comes home. Treat him like a king.”
The rationale is that when he is at work, he is surrounded by women who are at their professional best – coiffed, cultured and comely. When he comes home, it would be best he does so to someone presentable.
It was a democratic society in my household. After all, shouldn’t equal stakes have equal say?
I know, I know, eye-rolls all around. But, like I said, I was young and, for some reason, that nugget of advice struck me.
So, I started my married life like that. However, being a working wife, there were few opportunities for me to greet my husband at the door on his return. But whenever I could, I would. Big smile, warm greeting, a drink – usually tea – ready on request.
I thought that that was what it meant to be a good wife. This was me serving my man. This was the very picture of a submissive wife (Ephesians 5:22-33).
In most other things, though, it was a democratic society in my household. After all, shouldn’t equal stakes have equal say?
Over a quarter of a century (26 years if you’re counting) of matrimony later, I’ve refined my idea of what it means to be the good wife.
More truthfully, God has.
Here, then, is what I’ve learnt about the good wife as laid out by our good God.
1. A gentle and quiet spirit
I always thought I loved my husband. Not just with the dutiful kind of love but passionate, deep, committed love. I had great admiration for him and, I thought, respect as well. I always spoke well of him, especially to others. In his work, ministry and life, I was always supportive.
I thought I was a good wife.
This is what God asks of every wife – of any temperament, accomplishment or intellectual ability.
In reality, I was a bit of a hot-head. We quarrelled bitterly in the first three years of courtship and then again in the first year of marriage. The arguments were largely my fault, clumsy attempts at coming to an agreement or a compromise.
A good many of them were natural outcomes of an unfiltered romantic and a practical thinker coming together.
Like the time I asked if he would re-marry if I died. He paused to think about his response. I got mad. Shouldn’t he have immediately said: “Never! You are my one true love. It is you or no one else.”
I defended my responses, of course. I am no pushover. I am a little feisty, even. Why can’t I have a differing opinion? Can’t a wife have a mind of her own?
Then, I read 1 Peter 3 where Paul talked about the qualities of a good wife. She is one with a “gentle and quiet spirit” which is “of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4).
This is what God asks of every wife – of any temperament, accomplishment or intellectual ability.
The gentle and quiet wife is one who has her strength under control and is at peace in unwieldy circumstances.
He doesn’t just ask. God values it. In other Bible translations, He finds it precious. I would like God to find me precious.
It isn’t surprising that these are of worth to God because this is the very character of Jesus. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus beckons the weary soul to “learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart”.
Besides, Christ-like gentleness does not equate to being a softie. The word “gentle” is often also translated as “meek”, which means “strength under control”.
It is not the weak who are meek. It is the strong who choose not to exert their strength who are meek and truly gentle.
And the “quiet spirit” or hēsychiou that Peter talks about is not about never speaking up. It is about being at peace and being tranquil, having a steely inner core that is unshaken by circumstances.
All in all, the gentle and quiet wife is one who has her strength under control and is at peace in unwieldy circumstances. There’s nothing doormat-y about that at all.
2. Love like a true Corinthian
By the time I hit my 40s, the quarrels had abated in part because I thought we had worked through most things, but largely because life and living had taken the mickey out of me. I didn’t have quite the same level of energy I had in my youth to pick fights or to participate in them.
But the lull had nothing to do with a gentle and quiet spirit. Whatever discontentment I had was simply never expressed. Inside, I was often simmering with frustration that, when it took root, bore bitter fruits of anger.
I was definitely easily angered. I surely kept record of wrongs. I was not loving and not lovely. I repented.
I thought I had it all under wraps. But it was really seeping out in prickly attitudes, a bossy demeanour and hyper-sensitivity.
One day, when suppressing it all no longer worked, I burst out: “I love you more than you love me!”
In return, he asked pointedly: “Yes, but what kind of love?”
It was then that I was stumped. What kind of love indeed? Certainly passionate, certainly romantic, certainly stormy. But nothing like the love God demands.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
I was definitely easily angered. I surely kept a record of wrongs. I was not loving and not lovely. I repented.
3. Submit as obedience to God
Of course, no lesson on wifely duties would be complete if I didn’t learn the most important one – submission.
Submission of wives is so important that every time household rules are mentioned in the New Testament, wifely submission is mentioned too. The educated modern woman (and I’d like to think of myself as an active member of this tribe) might chafe under the weight of this command.
Jesus, who submitted Himself to God, is God, too. He is not less than God.
Submit? Like a servant? Like a lesser citizen? Am I even allowed to make decisions or voice dissent then? How would it work?
I had images of not being allowed to speak my mind or disagree with him. Where would my sense of self be?
The Greek word for “submit” is hupotasso, which means to come under the authority or covering of someone. It is something God expects of all believers in the Church (Ephesians 5:21) and something that Jesus exemplifies (John 6:38, Matthew 26:39, 1 Corinthians 15:28).
It isn’t about a lesser being under the thumb of a more powerful one. Jesus, who submitted Himself to God, is God, too. He is not less than God. But in His role as the Second Person in the Trinity, He subjects Himself to God.
I wanted to end this with an inspiring anecdote about how I, having learnt these truths, submitted to my husband. But as I mentally leafed through the annals of my marriage, I couldn’t for the life of me think of an instance worth mentioning.
I suppose I’m still a work in progress.
Salt&Light Family Night: How can a man be a loving leader at home?
The Bible has firm words for husbands and fathers, and high standards, too.
Husbands are to love their wives like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). So, the spiritual well-being of their spouses is their responsibility and Jesus their example. That is a tall order.
They are to be understanding of and honour their wives (1 Peter 3:7) and not be harsh with them (Colossians 3:19).
And, specifically, fathers are commanded not to exasperate their children.
How can a man lead without being bossy, love without being permissive, and nurture without being condescending? Are these household rules even applicable in today’s society where women are independent, educated and highly capable? Shouldn’t marriage be an equal partnership?
Join Salt&Light Family Night as husbands and wives talk about what it means for a man to lead at home and what it takes for him to lead well.
Date: September 27, 2022
Time: 8.30pm – 10pm
Register at: https://bit.ly/familynightsep2022. Pre-registration is required.
About the hosts:
Carol Loi is a digital literacy educator, and leadership and family coach. A John Maxwell Certified Trainer for leadership and communication skills, she is also the founder of Village Consultancy, an organisation dedicated to equipping families, educators and children to be leaders and influencers both online and offline.
Alex Tee is a former banker turned home-schooling father and impact investor. He and his wife Channy have been married for over 12 years and they have three children aged 10, nine and seven. The deepest desire of their hearts is to prayerfully raise children to be part of a family who seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Besides the passion to raise strong children, he also loves connecting the rich and the poor through impact investing.
About the organiser:
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