By Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and A Single Woman’s Journey Through Marriage Preparation
“Why won’t my husband just listen to me?” It was the question that screamed in my head and the one I screamed out loud.
It was back in 1996 or 1997. Back then, there were still gas stations around that would allow customers to pump first and pay afterward. But I never felt right about it. Something always set wrong in my mind about my husband taking advantage of that convenience. I’d tell him all the time, “We are too broke to be so presumptuous at the pump. Pay upfront, Pookie!”
But he knew what he was doing. That’s what he’d insist about everything. Then, one day, as I was waiting for him inside the car, he approached the passenger window and gestured for me to roll down our manual window. Right there, he broke the news to me. “Do we have any money in your purse?” It was like asking me if I had a hammer in there, as times were financially rough on us during our first seven years of marriage.
“I have to leave you here while I rush home to get some cash,” he told me in an urgent tone. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. But he was serious. We had no money to pay for the gas that he had pre-pumped. I was so mad that I didn’t know what to do. But all I could do was get out of that car and wait right there at the gas station until my husband could return to get me with the payment we owed.
I knew exactly where he was going to get some cash. In our bedroom, we kept a large milk container of coins. He went to empty it and brought back heaps to pay for the gas. Seeing him hand all that change to the cashier, I know today, I felt a little stronger about one concern over the other. This moment, I can’t quite remember which thought I had: “I am so embarrassed in front of all these people.” Or, “Now, we’re really broke.” Deep down, I think I did feel a sense of gratitude to the Lord, though not to the extent I should have, because the gas station was less than five minutes from our townhome.
Riding away from that filling station, as we called it at the time, I couldn’t help complaining, “If you had only listened to me, this never would have happened!” I think that’s the statement many of us as wives use in frustration when our husbands’ decisions to turn a deaf ear to our voices result in some form of chaos that seemingly impacts us (the wives) far greater.
And what can we do about it? Are we trapped to live as some tool of security for bad judgment? After all, the Word of God tells us to submit, be quiet, obey our husbands, and live a life of ministry before a husband (if he doesn’t believe) without a word. When problems occur, a wife can feel very powerless if our roles are conveyed to us out of context for the advantage of a wayward husband.
So, what is a woman to do? I think most of us who have lived well into adulthood as believers in Christ can agree that the first thing to do after seeking the Lord in prayer, which is ongoing, is relate to our husbands during their times of failure. And I realize, now while I’m calm, that they really need us to relate to them during those times. This has been one of my biggest challenges.
When this man has messed up hugely, making me the bull’s eye of his thrown-off decisions, I don’t want to relate to him. There hasn’t been one time that I’ve wanted to do that, I don’t think. But, thinking back over eighteen years of marriage, I can pinpoint a number of incidents that have qualified me to relate to him.
From the many times, I can remember one time when I became frustrated with a problem occurring in our home, which was out of both our control at that point, and left for another city over two hours away with our two youngest children in our minivan. I just up and left for the weekend to retreat. It was an impulsive decision that came from a place of a spoiled outlook. But more than impulsive and spoiled, it was crazy. That van had too many miles on it and had not been serviced.
On the way back to home from our little trip, the van broke down. I thank the Lord we were still in that city when it broke down. I managed to putt-putt the van just barely into the service lot of the dealership that makes its model. We also experienced God’s mercy to get a rental car right there on site and drive it home.
My husband wasn’t mad. Well, he did experience some frustration when he had to drive to the city days later to return the rental car and to tow the van back, as the dealership was going to charge too much to repair it. My decision certainly cost us more than some change for the car rental, towing, and repairs – not to mention the inn and other expenses attached to the trip. And yes, I was well outside our budget.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” It’s so easy for me, still, to look at my husband and anybody else for their shortcomings and forget about the baggage that I bring on board. But if I’m spiritual (discerning, in-tune with what the Word says about a matter, and walking in the love of Christ), I have the goods necessary to give a calm word of wisdom where it’s needed. I have the goods to intervene in a matter if I’m guided by the Lord. (Long ago, I could have asked him, “Before you pump, where’s the money? Just take a look in your pocket because my purse only has a few baby items and an empty corn-purse.”) As a spiritually in-tuned wife, I have the insight to pray right there on the spot – in the face of whatever is happening.
And Paul says that, as I perceive these circumstances Biblically, meaning as I can Biblically perceive my husband or anybody else making an adverse decision or sinning, I should consider my own vulnerability to poor judgment or sin. If not, temptation is even more likely to occur. I Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “When a man (a person) thinks he stands, let him take heed, lest he fall.” In other words, I’ve got to consider the tendency of the flesh with a willingness to allow myself to be cleansed, even if I don’t see anything wrong with myself at that point because I see myself as “standing”. In that moment, I must take heed. To what? To God’s cleansing Word. His Word to cleanse the lives of those whom I can correct, rebuke, or publicly charge out a rebuttal? No – no correcting or rebuking just yet. Correction comes after self-examination. Certainly, if openly rebutting, doing so in self-denial, not lifting ourselves up. Social Media makes that very easy to do. (Of course, opportunities to correct another person come for us to act upon in the spirit of meekness as Galatians 6:1 says.) But first thing’s first. First, I am to take heed to God’s Word as a cleansing for myself – in the face of someone else’s fault, including my husband’s. How haughty of an attitude I have had recognizing his faults when I saw myself as “standing”!
Have I mastered this admonition? Not by a long shot. Have I experienced it? Oh, yes – from both my husband’s and my part in a very few situations. By the grace of the living God, Who gives guidance that I accept, we were able to do so.
Any frustrated spouse could ask, “Surely, you can’t think this method, this adherence to one or two passages in the entire Bible, is the cure-all for every problem within my marriage that relates to unfairness and frustration.” No. But there will never be a time when, seeing the fault of someone else, we are exempt from self-examination and heeding to the Word for ourselves.
As for wives submitting and living to be meek, it’s a reference to I Peter 3 that I often have to re-visit with much prayer. As believing wives, let’s do so for ourselves – search the Word in prayer, that is. And let’s pray for one another as well as for our husbands, who are held by God to a greater accountability than any hard-head could ever fathom. And if he could fathom the degree of accountability, he’d pray more than the wife does. So, we pray.