By Stacey Burton
I have been married for 26 years. I can sum up the first 24 years for you with the following words: anxiety, fear, control, an extremely critical spirit, and desperation. Let me unpack those a little for you.
Anxiety: When I got married, I was ready to be a bride but I wasn’t ready to be a wife. The first few years of marriage consisted of me worrying I had made a mistake in getting married. I didn’t have a good, sound biblical understanding of marriage. I knew the do’s and don’ts of marriage but I didn’t know how to love my husband well, to respect him, to submit to him or how to encourage him.
Fear: We had our son about six years into our marriage and our daughter three years later. The worry and anxiety I was feeling in our marriage grew into fear; fear of failing as a mom; fear of messing them up. I’m talking MAJOR fear, but I was determined to not let anyone know that. I got really good at wearing that “happy” mask but feeling like a crumbled mess on the inside.
Control: Out of that fear grew an enormous desire to control, many times, with my temper. Since I had a fear that I was going to mess my kids up, I set out to try to be the mom that did it all. However, instead of relying on God, I parented from a perfectionist, legalism standpoint. I wanted to have Godly, obedient kids (which is not a bad thing) but the way I went about it was far from being grace-filled. In all of my striving to have a “perfect”, spirit-filled family, I became increasingly frustrated that my husband was not stepping up and spiritually leading our household. Now let me put a pause on that and tell you what was really happening.
Extremely Critical Spirit: My husband DID try, many times, to lead in many areas, but my controlling behavior grew into an extremely critical spirit and instead of me accepting his leadership, I criticized. A lot. What he did was rarely right in my mind. I was constantly questioning and second guessing him; seldom thanking him; never respecting or submitting to him as head of our household. As a result, he became more and more reluctant to lead. While there were definite struggles; it wasn’t always gloom and doom. My husband and I were believers and our kids came to know Christ. We experienced many good seasons, but that cloud of fear and extremely critical and controlling spirit were always overshadowing me.
Desperation: Four years ago, a set of circumstances caused me to get to a point of desperation. During that time, the Lord led me to two verses:
Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”
Hosea 10:12 – “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”
God showed me I needed to spend time truly seeking Him, getting to KNOW Him, for who He was to ME, not who He was to my husband, or the kids or who I wanted Him to be to them. I had spent so much time trying to be everything to everybody and attempting to be everyone else’s Holy Spirit, that I had let a part of my heart dry up and had closed it off: closed it off to God, to others, even to myself.
I am a visual learner. I love how our God knows us and knows what we need …so He blessed me with a visual picture of that closed door. As I “opened” that door in my mind, He revealed to me a long hallway with doors on either side, doors with labels on them symbolizing areas that needed to be dealt with. Some labels I could see; other labels I couldn’t see yet.
I knew if I was going to grow in my relationship with Him, He and I were going to need to, as Hosea 10:12 says, plow up some dry ground and walk down that hallway to deal with what was behind those doors. Two of those doors were to rooms labeled “Biblical Womanhood” and “Marriage”. Biblical womanhood really impacts all of the other doors in my hallway; it’s more like a revolving door. The truth I learned here applies to other “rooms”. I first learned about biblical womanhood during a study of Titus 2, when God crossed my path with two older, seasoned ladies who taught me what it meant to be a Godly woman, not just a mom or wife, but a Godly woman. We primarily studied Titus 2:1-5 together in a study called Adorned by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth.
I needed those ladies and that study because my husband and I were in the most difficult time of testing in our marriage. There had been generational baggage that we had never really dealt with and we were making choices that were leaving huge cracks in our armor, cracks the enemy could access. On top of that, the years of my nagging, critical words had begun to pile up. I had pushed my husband aside and rejected him in many ways, time after time after time. He was more beat down than I realized but the enemy knew it and went to work and caused a lot of pain.
So as the study came to the verses in Titus 2 about loving your husband and submitting to him, I had a big wrestling match with the Lord. I would cry out in prayer, “How do I first of all submit to his authority when I may not agree with his decision? What if he makes the wrong decision and leads our family down a path I don’t want to be on?” I was brought up to believe I shouldn’t let any man control my decisions. When I heard the word “submission” while growing up, it was usually followed by an eye-roll. On top of all that, my heart was aching with hurt. I will forever be grateful for the words in Titus 2 and 1 Peter 3:1-5. God used and still uses those verses to set me on a path like none other.
If you are in a place in your marriage where you are desperate for Him to work, I encourage you to come October 26th. Maybe you aren’t desperate regarding your marriage, but you’re hungry to hear from the Lord regarding His purpose for us as Godly women. We will walk through these verses together and talk about God’s Design regarding Biblical womanhood and what it means to submit. We will learn God’s Design in how to love our husbands. I can’t wait to share with you the lessons God has taught me and the words I can now use to characterize my marriage. ONLY GOD!!!!