Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Week 6 day 4 -- Caring for people --

Marriage and Preparing for Marriage, Part I:

Good morning!

How are your daily cleaning routines working for you? You (and I say this to myself) should have some bare minimum routines in place that allow you to function during times when you are not in your normal schedule. If you are spending lots of time with family and friends during this holiday season, this might be a good time to assess whether your basics are working for you. Other times when you might be able to accomplish only the basics are right after having a baby, after a time of illness, when someone in the immediate or extended family is ill, preparing to move, when you are involved in a big project like canning, or when you take a temporary job of some kind. So, give some thought to what your family's most basic needs are. If you are creative, you can find some ways to keep your household running fairly smoothly even if things get a little side-tracked now and again.

I keep referencing the holidays as a time that might be extra busy for families. You may be invited to more parties. You or your children might be in holiday plays or concerts. You might be traveling to visit extended family. Or, you might be preparing to host extended family. Perhaps, you are cooking extra food or decorating your house. The holidays can be a wonderful time to strengthen many relationships.

However, the holidays do not have to be a busy time if that is overwhelming to you. As Lydia Sherman pointed out in her blog post today, there are ways to avoid a holiday rush and holiday spending.

Since we are talking about caring for people, it's time to discuss our closest earthly relationship: marriage. A good home keeping education should include preparing for this most basic role. Obviously, we can't cover that extensively in the scope of this one year blog course. However, we can mention a few things. These principles apply if you are already married and are something to think about if you hope to be married in the future.

What was God's original plan for marriage?

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man. Genesis 5:1-2
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,
for she was taken out of man." Genesis 2:23
For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;
neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. I Corinthians 11:8
In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 1 Corinthians 11:11
Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you;through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:15-17

These are just a few of the verses in the Bible that reference how and why God created marriage. In your homemaking book, you might want to jot down any observations or questions you have about these verses.

Here are a few things I see:

A. Both man and woman are created in the image of the Lord. Both man and woman belong to the Lord. Neither man is more important than woman nor woman more important than man.
It takes both to reflect the image of God. God loves both men and women.
B. God knew that it was not good for man to be alone. Man needs a companion and a helper. God graciously provided this in creating marriage. From the very beginning of creation, God designed a one-flesh, intimate, close relationship. God is within Himself God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit -- three, yet One. This is a great mystery. Something about God's Oneness and His nature is reflected in the union between a man and a wife.
C.When a young lady considers marrying, she is wise to ask, "Is this the right man for me?" But, there's another important question to ask, too. "Am I the right woman for him? Would I consider it a lifelong honor to be this man's helper and companion? Am I prepared to
be a support to him in spiritual things, in life, in our home, in his chosen career? For those of us who are already married, the question for us to ask is this: Do we still consider it an honor to be our husband's helper and companion? Are we still excited about growing in loving and understanding our husband and being his helper, even if we have been married for decades?
D. To whom does our marriage belong? To the Lord. God graciously designed marriage to meet many of our needs. Yet, we are not to be selfish in our marriage. We are to focus on bringing glory to the Lord. Many times, we try to use weaknesses in our husband as reasons for not being the wives that the Lord wants us to be. But, our obedience to the Lord and our desire to be godly wives should not depend on what our husbands do or don't do. Our hearts should be set on pleasing the Lord, trusting him to take care of us.
E. While men and women are equally loved in God's sight, there is also an order to creation. The Lord is the head of a husband and the husband is the earthly head of his wife. The world continually tempts every one of us to step out of God's order in many different areas, including marriage. Yet, true joy comes from doing things God's way. He knows what is best.
F. Next to the Lord, our marriage should be our closest relationship. It says that when we marry, we leave our parents and cleave to each other. Now, that doesn't mean that we no longer love our parents. God makes it clear in other places that we are to honor our parents throughout life. Yet, our relationship with our parents should not take priority over our marriage. One of the things a couple must do in the first few years of marriage is to build their own home and family. When it is time for our children to marry, we should allow them to do this without interfering unduly. We can still guide and support and love, but we must allow our children some room to mature as a married couple.
G. The fall of man into sin has had consequences that affect marriage.

What about you? What do you see in the verses listed above?

What is the fulfillment of God's plan for marriage?

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33.

Now that Christ has come, our marriages reflect God's glory in an even deeper way. This is a fulfillment of God''s design for marriage. We are to be a picture illustration to the world of Christ's love for the church and the church's love for Christ! What a holy calling this is. If that doesn't drive you to your knees in prayer, I don't know what will. Again, we may need to discuss our needs with our husbands, but our focus should not be on their shortcomings. Our focus should be on bringing glory to God through our love and respect for our husbands. Many women bristle at the idea of submitting to the husband's leading. Yet, who has the harder job here? The husband! He is to love us the way Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He died for her! He washed her with water through the word, cleansing her of every stain and blemish, making her radiant. Of course, as followers of Jesus, we, too, want to reflect Jesus in everything we do -- including how we live as wives.

Major point to remember: Our marriages flourish when they reflect God's glory, His love, and His goodness and when we depend upon Him in every way.

What are some needs our husbands might have? Here are five that are generally very important for men. Of course, your husband (or future husband) is not a general man. He is a very specific man. So, you must study his particular needs. These general ideas can help point you in the right direction.

1. Domestic support: Household running smoothly; nutritious meals; clean and healthful surroundings; peaceful atmosphere. This promotes our husband's, our own, and our children's physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It enables us all to have the resources we need to do our various work.

2. Romantic companion; wife who keeps herself neat, fresh, and attractive -- yet without placing an over-emphasis on the outer; a wife who is also beautiful on the inside -- calm and gentle spirit; a wife who is affectionate. (Read Song of Songs for inspiration.)

3. Recreational companion; a friend; someone he can relax with; someone who will do some fun things with him and spend time with him; someone who is on his side.

4. Spiritual companion; pray for husband; pray with husband if he so desires; help husband bring up children in nurture and admonition of the Lord; inspiring example for husband in the purity and reverence of his wife's life; perhaps working together to serve church; make disciples; baptize and teach people -- just as Priscilla helped Aquila.

5. Support for his work; sometimes, a wife will actually assist her husband in his work as Priscilla worked with Aquila in a family business; if don't work with him, still pray for his work, listen to him talk about his work, understand his work time schedule and stresses, appreciate his work, show an interest in his work. My husband's work is in a field that I do not fully understand, and I don't always get all of the details when he talks about his work. He has a Ph.D. in that field, and I would have to have one, myself, to follow a lot of what he says. Yet, he needs me to be a listening ear. I read a long time ago in such cases to listen to the man, himself. What is the big picture he's trying to tell me? Was his day frustrating? Was it satisfying? What are his dreams? His concerns? I've found that this advice is sound. If I'm tuned in to him, then it doesn't matter whether I understand every nuance of his job or not. He appreciates my interest in him. And, I learn things in the process that stretch my own thinking -- things I might not have ever learned otherwise. He returns the favor in listening to me, as I have interests in areas he does not understand. Sometimes, I am tempted to be bored by the details of his work, but I resolve to stay interested, as it is a vital part of the man I love. I'm sure that many things I talk about are not his idea of excitement, either.

#1 thing most men need: respect. Respect builds a man up and inspires him to be his best.

For your homemaking notebook: If you are not yet married, write out a prayer for your future husband. (Note: A few people have the gift of being single for the Lord.) Write down your goals for preparing yourself for marriage and pray about that.

If you are married, write out a prayer for your marriage.

For your Book of Days: write a page about the things you love and admire about your husband. Place his picture in your book of days. If things are happy right now, jot down wonderful things to remember. If things are hard, write down some of your favorite memories of a better time. Remember, in your homemaking book, feel free to pour your heart out about your joys and your struggles. In the book of Days, focus on the positive. It's the kind of book to read on a rainy day or when you're in need of some refreshment and inspiration.

Happy Homemaking!