Chapter 6: Lies Women Believe About Marriage
Day 2: Letting Go
Lie #22: “It is my responsibility to change my mate.”
Let’s face it: we like projects. There’s a reason that DIY has been so popular for so long. We love to watch shows where people transform houses (I’ll confess, I can’t get enough of Fixer-Upper), we spend hours on Pinterest finding projects we can tackle in our home, and we can’t wait to go to the thrift store to find something we can refurbish. I see it constantly.
Oddly enough, there’s not only an endless supply of ideas, instructions, and materials to build or fix-up whatever you want, there are also some pretty funny fails. It’s not that surprising, though, when you consider what’s offered:
Let me just be completely, 100% honest with you: as amazing and as simple as it looks to paint that? IT’S NOT. And yet more than 11,000 people have bookmarked this picture… many of them will plan to one day do it… and some of them will actually attempt it. Of those, not many will succeed.
But seriously, who wouldn’t want to have that image in their home? It’s so beautiful, so peaceful. And now that we’ve seen it, we want it, don’t we? Sure, the room is fine the way it is, but it could always be improved, right? And then we start looking around at other people’s homes to get ideas… we like what they have better than what we have, and we can’t unsee it – now we need it.
Why am I talking about DIY projects? Because some women treat their husbands like a DIY project.
Forgetting that every person is a work-in-progress when it comes to their relationship with God, we place expectations on others. We talked about that last time. But in this situation, it’s made worse by what we think other people have in their marriages that we don’t. And rather than take the time to examine ourselves, we become critical of our husbands. It’s usually not that hard to find some faults; and now we want to fix him. If we can just get him to stop doing this, start doing that, to look like this or act like that, then everything would be amazing and we’d have the marriage all of our friends have.
What we’ve forgotten is that in order to be successful at a project, you have to have be qualified. That comes from training, from practice, from education, and talent. You know why so few people succeed at DIYs? They don’t have the skill, or the talent, or the training. They attempt a project that is way out of their wheelhouse, only to become more and more frustrated, often making things worse, so that when they finally give-in and call the professional, it costs more time and money than it would have had they called for help at the start.
We do the same thing in our relationships. We think we can fix the other person; sometimes it’s something physical we want to change, but it’s usually a character trait or habit that we want to “fix.” But the reality is that we are completely unqualified to fix anyone. That’s God’s job, not ours, and playing with people’s lives is playing God.
There are a few different reasons why people struggle with fixing people, and many different (unintended) consequences.
Sometimes it’s a “savior complex.” We want to be someone’s savior; we see this in “missionary dating,” where someone who is a Christian will date someone who’s not, with the mindset that they can win them over to Christ. It never works. We also see it when someone is attracted to people who are down and out and in crisis; they want to swoop in and rescue them from their circumstances. The problem with this is two-fold: One, some people don’t really want to be rescued, and two, if they do, they quickly come to depend on you rather than God. But you cannot control any one else’s relationship with God, you can only control yours.
Often we fixate on the problems of others in order to avoid looking at our own faults that need to be addressed. I see this quite often in the context of ministry at Lifeline. Someone will begin to pick on someone else in the program (usually for the same thing that they do themselves – see Romans 2:1) in an attempt to deflect from the struggles that they have, from the sin they’re still committing, and from the things they do to provoke others. Both people lose when this happens.
Finally, we see this play out when we indulge in a negative attitude, cultivating discontentment by focusing on what other people have that we don’t. We look around and begin to envy the relationships others have; we watch romantic movies and become bitter that we don’t have the same experiences; we read novels and wonder why our husband doesn’t get us the way the characters in the book get each other. And then we begin to take it out on him (manipulation) or begin to try to fix him. But, being unqualified, things get worse, not better.
It’s so much easier to fixate on the negative, on what we don’t have; to zero-in on our husband’s faults instead of our own, or to attempt to rescue him, when he doesn’t even realize he needs rescue. When we do these things, we’re playing with fire, because we’re attempting to replace God in our husband’s life, in our marriage, and ultimately, in our own lives.
Our attempts to interfere always make things worse. There is only one thing we are called to do when we face the temptation to intervene and “fix-up” our husband and that is surrender.
1 Peter 3:1-5
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
Peter doesn’t say that they may be won over by your interference, by your attempts to rescue, or by you pointing out their flaws. It says that they might be won over without words, and by your behavior. What behavior is that? A godly life. Humility, surrender, and faith in God, not yourself or your husband.
It’s God’s job to speak to your husband, to mold him and shape him into the godly man God wants him to be, just as it is God’s job to do the same for you. When you focus on your own relationship with God, you give God room to change you, and in the process you’ll discover that the things that used to bother you about your husband either don’t bother you any more, or are no longer happening; not because of anything you did, but because of what God did in you and in your husband.
We’re too slow to pray about problems. It’s usually a last resort. “Has it really come to that?” But prayer should be your first line of defense. When you struggle, when you’re hurt, when you’re angry, it’s time to pray. When you see a problem in your husband, it’s time to pray. Will you let God be God? Commit your marriage to Him in prayer.
It’s time to take personal responsibility. Focus on cultivating your own relationship with God and pray for your husband; not in bitterness, but in love and hope. Surrender yourself, your husband, and your marriage to God’s control, as He is the one qualified to fix and repair what is broken. But remember – He always starts with you. Could it be that the conflict you’re having with your husband has more to do with you than him?
Let’s return to the DIY perspective again. What’s the first step in refinishing furniture? Sanding it down. Why? Sometimes there are rough edges that need to be re-shaped. Sometimes it needs to be ruffed up so that it’ll take the refinishing better. Once it’s been sanded, then it can be painted or stained and the end result is beautiful.
Consider your life. You want a beautiful marriage? Sometimes God has to take the sandpaper to you first. This happens through circumstances and through people. But conflicts and friction serve a purpose in your life – to drive you closer to God so that He can remake you into a beautiful woman of God who can experience a godly marriage. Don’t resist His work in your life. Welcome in, treasure it, and thank Him for it.
Key points to remember:
- I am not qualified to fix anyone.
- It is God’s job to change people, not mine.
- I must let God be God and let people be people.
- God uses difficult people and circumstances in my life to shape me and remake me.
- Instead of focusing on other people’s problems, I must let God deal with me and my own problems.
- The most powerful thing I can do to help someone is surrender them to Christ, live a humble, godly life, and pray for them.
- Freedom in Surrender
- Welcoming God’s Power
- Surrender… it’s not a dirty word!
- When Your Husband’s Heart is Hard (TrueWoman Blog)
- 10 Ways You Might Be Disrespecting Your Husband (TrueWoman Blog)
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.