So yesterday was a discussion about nobility as the Daughter of the King, and today is a discussion about being the King's bride... only within the Trinity is that possible and not at all creepy! And that's really the gist of today's blog about verse 11.
The wife of noble character has already been identified as a woman of great value. She's been assigned that value because of her position in the Lord. Now, the proverb begins the detailed job description given to the King's daughters.
When I started teaching, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I'd been hired, and had the "qualifications" (I could coach and had a degree in Biology) but I didn't have any experience! I'm sure that when you started your occupation- whether in corporate setting, or as a new mom or a medical professional, you were in similar shoes. You might have read the books and gotten the training in school, or asked the experts, but reading and seeing is different than doing. But think how lost you would have been had you not had people to come alongside you and say, "I've been doing this forever. This is what works for me. Learn from me and then add your own personal touches." I was blessed enough to have three amazing Biology teachers do that very thing for me. They are most certainly women of excellence, and I'm naming names because theirs are worth remembering- Janice Daniels, Anita Castle, and Danielle Steinhauser. When it came to Biology, they had it going on! Highest test scores in the state of North Carolina, a near-perfect pass rate on those tests, not to mention their incredible heart for their students. There is no question in my mind that when I learned how to teach, I learned from the best of the best.
That's kind of what the rest of Proverbs 31 is- not a to-do list, like we said (And Mrs. Haley agreed with me, so I must be on the right track) but an opportunity to look at the "expert" on womanly and wifely matters- the best of the best- and see how she does things. Learn from her, her way is tried and true, and then put your personal spin in there to fit the life the Lord has given you.
So, one of the things that I think is important when learning from the expert is to see where their priorities lie. What's first on this lady's heart and mind? Like so many things in the Bible, I believe that the order in which things are presented gives insight into their significance. For example, when names are listed in the Bible, they are generally an indication of age and/or honor. The eldest/most honored names are often at the top of the list and so on and so forth. So, I think it means much that the first person who comes to mind for this excellent wife is her husband.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. vs.11
If you're single, don't quit reading yet. There's something muy importante here for every woman because, like I said yesterday, really, when it comes down to it, we're all wives. I began to think about why it would be that husband comes first. Is it that he is that special? That needy? Why not children first? Why not career first? Why not poor people living in filth first? I look at my hubby and he's a pretty sturdy guy- he can definitely take care of himself in a pinch, so why is it that God has commanded me to consider my husband before I consider any other human being or any other task He's given to me?
I think a clue can be found in one of my all-time favorite verses- Isaiah 54:5, "For your Maker is your husband- the Lord Almighty is His name- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." There are lots of identities that God assigns to Himself so that we can understand our relationship with Him. He says He's our family member (Father and Brother), He's our Teacher, our Master, our King, our Shepherd, our Friend... and here in Isaiah He's saying He is our Husband. The same idea is repeated throughout the New Testament through the imagery of the church as the Bride of Christ. We daughters of the king aren't just waiting for a family member and/or a Mighty Warrior, we're waiting for a husband- a lover of our hearts and souls! One who we will know in the most intimate, exclusive way. That's why hubby comes first- because marriage is the only human relationship in which we are able to experience the fullness (albeit only a shadow) of God's love in purity and holiness.
A little background: C.S. Lewis wrote a famous book called The Four Loves. I've never read it, but I heard an excellent sermon series on it. In that series, the pastor described the loves written about in the New Testament- storge, (family love: the love between parents and children and brothers and sisters) philia (friendship love) eros (romantic, intimate, sexual love) and agape (God's perfect love that expects nothing in return). I think that the reason that husband comes first on this wonder-woman's priority list is because an earthly husband is the most complete reflection of who our real Husband is. Marriage is such a unique relationship because it's the only relationship we have on Earth that incorporates all of the four loves, and, in fact, requires all four to grow healthy and strong. Andy is my family, my friend, my love and my spiritual partner. I believe that God intends for the marriage relationship to be a shadow of the intimate relationship we will share with Him in eternity. I've thought of this a lot recently as I've studied Jesus' remarks to the Sadducees who asked Jesus about "marriage at the resurrection" recorded in Luke 20:27-40. Jesus tells the Sadducees that people won't be married at the resurrection because they will be God's children, and will be like the angels. I've heard that explained a couple of different ways, and I guess we won't really know until we get there, but it just makes sense to me that when we are untied at last with our the Bridegroom, Jesus, our earthly marriages will no longer be necessary.
This gets me to my main point for today. From this lesson, I've really thought about what it means to put hubby first. There's a lot of application there. First of all, I think that whether you have a husband or you're waiting for one, it's good to pause for as long as it takes and remember that why God has exalted marriage above other human relationships. Marriage is a gift, but is only a reflection- a tool God uses to help you understand Him better. That makes me stand in awe of my Maker- to think that He wants to be my family, my friend and to know me intimately and purely. Why does God want us to put husband first? Because He is Husband- He is all four loves in perfect unity and harmony, and we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Every other relationship flows out of that.
The next thing that really gives me pause is realizing that how I treat my husband is a symbol of how I treat my Husband. I really do think that the relationship is meant to reflect His perfect union with His bride, which means when I treat my husband in a dishonorable way, I am really showing the world that it's okay to treat God that way. And, world, it's not okay to treat God with dishonor- not at all. This is a huge challenge to me- to see my husband, not as a god, that would be idolatry- but as a symbol of my true Husband, for whom I am still waiting, and to treat him with honor, respect, attention and care, as I would treat my Husband in heaven.
Another thing that has had my brain ringing for two days is that teaching young ladies, and I'm talking from like three years and up- that hubby comes first is a very important lesson. Andy and I have talked about how if we have children, a daughter in particular, that we want to honor God by asking Him to help us prepare a place in our hearts and our family for their spouse-to-be before they are ever born. I know that is sort of counter-cultural because we don't want little girls growing up thinking they need a man, but we do want them growing up knowing and believing that God is their Husband, and if He decides to bless them with a husband in their lifetime, then that relationship comes before any other. We want to preserve the woman's heart that will grow out of the little girl's longings. We want to teach her that God is her Husband first and that He is able to provide one special man for her in her lifetime, and we want to guard that young man's heart and protect their marriage before they ever meet. How to do that, I am not sure, but I will say that kids learn from what they see, I know that much from experience. Though I remember my dad saying things to me from time to time about how my mom was the most important person in his life, I don't think that marriage was something talked about a whole lot in my household while I was growing up. However, exalting God through marriage most certainly was and still is. To this day, I know my parents choose one another above all others. They love, honor, respect and serve one another and that their marriage comes before any other earthly relationship, and they do this because this is what God has commanded in His Word. Andy and I want to be faithful to speak and act in truth, if God gives us the opportunity in the future, which means demonstrating our own exclusive love for one another and protecting it, as well as speaking words of truth into the next generation's life- "Your Maker is your Husband. Preserve your heart, your mind, your body for that relationship above all, and for the marriage that He may provide, if it's His will."
The thing that I've seen happen in my own life and other's is that when young women do not understand or choose not to believe that "hubby matters most" they can give themselves over to relationships that don't reflect God's glory, and, in fact, dishonor Him, others and their own hearts, minds & bodies. Of course, physical impurity through dating relationships is quick to come to mind, but I've also seen this happen in sibling relationships, friendships, and even when parents elevate children above their spouse. The result is always the same- broken hearts, broken relationships. It's not that any of those other relationships are bad. They are a blessing! And they reflect God's love, to be sure. But none of those other relationships- dating, which is glorified friendship and should therefore be rooted in philia, sibling relationships, which ought to be filled with storge and philia, and parenting, also storge and maybe a little later on in life some philia too (hopefully all reflect agape!)-encompass all four loves. Marriage only should cultivate and bear the fruit of all four loves. Trying our hand at cultivating the four loves in any other relationship bears bad fruit that leads to destruction- every. single. time.
The challenge with that is that we have to trust God completely. While we wait for marriage, it's so tempting to strive for the intimacy and romance that eros offers- how our heart and body longs for it! But to taste and see before God has given us a husband defiles us and dishonors Him. Even with friends, brothers, sisters, and children- our heart can crave the significance, attention or intimate love that eros offers. Rather than having a, "the more the merrier" attitude that storge and philia should always produce, even these God-given relationships can become selfish and entitled, producing the "we need to be alone" or "I am entitled to privacy with this person" attitude which is an indication of eros. What I am saying is that we will always crave all four loves. We were made in God's image, and He is love, complete love- we will want all four. But all four is exclusive- only the husband can meet the desire for each and every love, and only through the love of our true Husband can he ever do that.
So wait in faith, sisters who are waiting to experience all four loves in an earthly relationship, but know that He is already your Husband, and He loves you every moment of every day with the fullness of all four loves. And that if it is His will, then He will be faithful to bring you a husband who will be your family, friend and lover- with whom you can delight in all of God's love in purity, with great joy! Please, let's all be faithful to protect our hearts and one another's- to refrain from cultivating intimacy and exclusivity bordering on eros with anyone other than the husband God provides. And, if we are happily (or otherwise) married, let's remember that husband comes first because he is the reflection of the King- and all of the love that He pours out to our hungry hearts. So be thankful! Elevate and honor him, because of Christ Jesus, our Bridegroom, for who we are making our hearts pretty, even today.