Christian women have traditionally been taught to serve their husbands and households to the detriment of their own happiness and the fulfillment of their divine purpose. Yes I just said that – to the detriment of their own happiness and the fulfillment of what I call their ‘whole and complete’ divine purpose. Yes, women are to serve their husbands but their husbands are to also serve them. Yes, women are to serve their household – children and the home in general – and men should also do the same. But the teaching and culture of the church (not the Scriptures) have largely been one-sided and unfair. We should teach women God’s complete expectations of men and women. We should teach them that they too should also be served by a man in a good marriage and how to wisely choose that man. Too many women become ‘slaves’ in a Christian marriage – doing all the serving, cleaning, supporting, cheer-leading and praying.
Yes, there is joy in serving your family. But the model that the Bible describes has always been a kind of reciprocity. The woman respects the man and the man loves the woman. The man loves the woman enough to lay down his life for her and the woman yields to the man’s loving leadership. Few Christian women I know would object to submitting to a man if he loves her with this kind of love; a love that means he is willing to put her needs above his, at the very least. If the man is not game for this kind of ‘putting her needs first’ then don’t marry him!
The fact is that when a woman is served by her husband in this way, she is more empowered to achieve her ‘whole and complete’ divine purpose. The Bible actually calls the man to ‘husband’ the woman. The dictionary has a rather interesting definition of the word husband. As a verb, the word means to manage prudently and economically. I see this kind of ‘management’ as akin to how an entertainer or athlete has a manager and is managed for his ultimate development. Consider Ephesians 5:26 which commands husbands to love their wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. This is a sacrificial kind of love, a type of serving, a sort of seeing your wife as the prize for which you are willing to give up your life. The Bible calls the husband to love her “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” similar to how the Lord Jesus loves, cherishes and leads His Church. We have come to understand that earthly marriage is a sort of mirror of the loving relationship between the Church and Christ. If a man isn’t up to loving his wife in this sacrificial way then he has no business asking a woman to marry him and the woman in all Godly wisdom should say no, if he does.
If he is willing to love her, to serve her, to share the Word of God with her (which means he knows the word of God in the first place), to lead her into the treasures of God’s presence and importantly to help her to fulfill her God-given potential then he is indeed ‘husband material’ and the woman can marry him. In that kind of marriage it is less likely for the Christian woman to feel like a slave. It is more likely that she will be happier to serve her husband, help him too to achieve his greatest potential and to respect him from the depths of her heart.
Outside of marriage though, what is the purpose of a woman? The purpose of woman is to love the Lord her God with all her soul, with all her spirit and with all her mind. She must use all the talents that God has given to her for His glory and to be a witness and a reflection of His majesty, goodness and grace in her generation. The man has the same purpose. This is what is oftentimes not taught to the woman – that besides her role in a marriage she has talents and gifts that ought to be honed and developed for the glory of God – the person who is her first and highest authority and to whom she must give an account.
This call doesn’t change when she gets married but God’s design of the unique role of the man versus the woman becomes apparent. In marriage the woman is called to admire, respect and serve her husband. If he is not admirable or respectable then clearly that call will be difficult to fulfill. Moreover it makes her whole and complete purpose as a person so much harder.
Additionally, the woman is designed to conceive and nurture children. This is a wonderful life-giving privilege that I believe extends beyond the 9 months of pregnancy. The fact that women conceive and birth children and are naturally endowed with their nutrition (breast milk) to nurse them tells me that the nurturing role is largely and organically the woman’s. It doesn’t mean that she can’t be strong, career-driven and logical. It simply means that she has the greater gift for nurturing and that nurturing is part of her purpose as a mother. These roles of wife and mother however do not mean that she can’t pursue other things the Lord may call her to – such as starting a business (as demonstrated by the Proverbs 31 Woman), honing a career or becoming a leader in government (as shown by Deborah in the old testament). She can. The key is to listen to and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, sense God’s timing and lean on the wisdom or advice of (a good / righteous) husband.
Be a woman with a passion for achieving all that God has called you to be – for some this may mean staying at home, for others it may mean becoming the Prime Minister or CEO, and still for others it may mean both. You do God, yourself, your husband and your children a disservice if you don’t fulfill God’s purpose for your life. You are not only called to nurture and to serve, but also to bear fruit on God’s investment of talent in your life. Choose husbands who understand and believe that!
Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director for Family and Faith Magazine www.familyandfaithmagazine.com Comment below or connect with her on twitter @harrisshellyann.