I have a lot of friends who are single, dating, or engaged. I too am not too far removed from these life stages. One thing in common with all unmarried women is the however-prevalent-idea of “preparing” to be a wife. Some think about it daily, pray about it often, and seek mentorship from a married woman. Others dread the thought of wifedom, but begrudgingly listen to a few biblical womanhood sermons a year and agree with the doctrine of complimentarianism. Most fall in the middle.
Regardless, I am learning one year later, how to prepare for this calling. Let me tell you–what I am learning, is not a new recipe or hospitality tip, but it’s so much harder, yet so much more familiar than I would have imagined. I wish someone would have told me this a year ago.
Most single (and when I say single, I mean unmarried) women I know “just want to be married.” I was in the same boat about a year ago. Once I got that great godly guy I had been looking for, all I wanted was to be engaged. I would say, “Once I get engaged then it will be so much easier, right!? We have a commitment, we can share deeper parts of our hearts, etc.” Then I got engaged. “If only we were married, it would be so great! Making out won’t bring rebuke from my triad, we won’t have to say good-night and drive our separate ways, we won’t fight as much…” Then I got married. And it was the hardest stage of them all.
No one really understands me, but when they tell me they “can’t wait to be married,” I laugh and say, “so you are really excited to die to yourself, your preferences, and your pride, huh?!” (Sorry, I guess that not response you wanted?) Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Kevin. I ONLY want to be married to him. I DO NOT wish to go back to dating and waiting and boundaries, but what I thought I was preparing for as a single women, DID NOT prepare me for what I would face as a married women. What I faced was an ugly, immature, crazy ME! Like, just yesterday, I threw a whole bowl of salad because I was mad! (No, this does not happen everyday…but still…its pretty crazy) All of my baby spinach greens, fresh strawberries, apple slices, and almonds lay on the floor as I cried on my bed. I could blame it on Kevin making me mad or my pregnancy hormones making me loopy, but I know it was just my sin. Now, that doesn’t quite resemble the portrait of a Titus 2 women, does it?
The truth is, the same girl who couldn’t stop making out during engagement, is the same women who threw the salad bowl. My circumstances have changed, but my sinful heart has not. At its core, I still struggle with self-control, patience, and steadfastness. It just looks different.
The truth about marriage, is that you are living with another sinner. So now the temptation for you to sin is twice as strong. Not only do you have to fight against your own idols and sinful urges, but now the sins of your spouse fall on you too! On our best day, we can be totally selfless, helpful, and encouraging, yet at the first sight of our husband’s sin we throw up our arms, feel like a fool for being such a “servant” and walk away sulking. God forbid I would persevere in my calling as wife if he won’t follow through with his!? Right? (sounds crazy, but this is how I feel and who I am)
The truth about Jesus is that he claims, “the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (Romans 15:3, Psalm 69) Jesus took every sin Kevin or I would commit or every command we would fail to live up to, and let them fall on Him. He bore with us, the weak, to bring us to God. His judgement and pain was totally unfair, but He continued to serve and love us with humility on the cross, and will continue to do so right on into the kingdom. CRAZY! Now read this…
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Now, may the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:1-7)
This passage teaches us to not only remember Christ’s work, but that NOW, we have been given the freedom, endurance, and hope to press forward in modeling after Christ. So whether you are the one weak and struggling with sin, or the one bearing the weight of your spouses sin, nothing is too great for us to press on in love though because Christ has taken our ultimate shame. Only after we are humbled by Jesus’ own love for us, can we model that love for our husbands.
So how do we prepare for this? Paul tells us in passages like Romans 12: 9-21, Colossians 3, or 2 Peter 1. Just live out the basic marks of a Christian! Virtues like: self-control, patience, outdoing one another in love, humility, not repaying evil for evil, purity, contentment instead of coveting…ALL OF THESE ARE THE ROOTS OF MY MARITAL CONFLICT AND ISSUES, yet I struggled with these core commends as a single women! How I wish I had been more focused on growing in these virtues and dying to my sin, than I was with planning my wedding or trying to bake bread from scratch.
So I can’t go back to my engagement obviously, but through Christ’s forgiveness and grace, I can start over today. I can begin to prepare again to be a wife, but more than that, just be a Christian. Whether married or unmarried, whether they victim or the crazy one, sin is sin and turning from it to love someone else looks the same. We can look to Jesus, or substitute and our example. So the next time a single woman asks me how prepare for marriage, I will say, “how are you doing following the basic commands laid out to believers in the scriptures?” Start there. I will too.