The other day, as I was talking to a friend about relationships, I accidentally blurted out that I wouldn’t wish the version of myself from three years ago on anyone. I had never phrased it that crudely before, but after saying it aloud, the words haunted me for days. Because they were so true y’all. I have shared with you before the work that the Lord has been doing in my heart these last few years in the areas of relationships and marriage (check out this post about how women are called to be keepers of the home and my periscope on making the most of your single season). Today, I want to build on to that concept of using your single season as a time of preparation for the kind of wife you will someday be.
Better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman. –Proverbs 21:19
I’m not married, but I see variations of this woman in myself. Like when I complain that my roommate never cleans the bathroom and why do I always have to do it? Or when I continuously point out my sister’s faults. If you keep doing things like that, eventually you become the kind of person who people feel they should walk around extremely carefully as not to set you off for the smallest reason. It’s like a minefield – you’ll never know when an attack will occur. We all have met at least one person that fits that description – maybe a parent, ex-boyfriend, a mean girl from high school, or even the reflection you see in the mirror everyday.
For a long time, I didn’t want that to be me. I made excuses. I pretended it was fine, but then I began praying about it. Eventually, like all things, the Lord asked me to put those prayers in practice with my family. To use my words to build people up, instead of pointing out their weaknesses, mistakes, and faults because I know how much that negative persona can become your identity. It’s like a second skin that wraps its toxic and angry self around you until all you can do is lash out at those around you as a way to protect yourself and just keep it all together. You just can’t stop or imagine being anyone else. You think that is who you are meant to be. But that is not who God created you to be.
Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. –Philippians 4:8
Instead, we are called to embody the words in Philippians 4:8. Yes, I know. When you’ve been the opposite of all these things for a long time, it’s hard to imagine you can ever be someone who is described as lovely, noble, virtuous, or pure. And if you do have hope, you wonder how people will react at the complete 180 in your personality. From anger to peace; from accusations to compliments; from fear to confidence; from depression to joy.
I will give you a new heart and a put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of a stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will keep My judgments and do them. –Ezekiel 36:26-27
That is the beauty of serving a living God and the Creator of the universe – He can transform us. He can take a heart of stone and make it soft again. Taken at its simplest, flesh is soft and vulnerable. Flesh feels pain, and yet it also basks in the warmth of sunshine.
That is the heart God wants to give you – a heart that feels, flourishes, and gives.
A good [wo]man out of the good treasure of [her] heart brings forth good; and an evil [wo]man out of the evil treasure of [her] heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart [her] mouth speaks. –Luke 6:45
It’s a heart thing. The way you interact with others – the words you use to either build someone up or tear them down depend on the status of your heart. Evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness all take root inside a woman before they manifest themselves on the outside (Mark 7:20-23). The bad news then is that with such deep roots, it takes a lot of work to change things. But the good news is that we serve a living God who can replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.
I can testify to this. For years, God has been cultivating the soil of my heart to make it soft and vulnerable again. To take away the worry and fears that often caused me to lash out. To humble me to keep my mouth shut when someone does little things that annoy me. To choose to phrase something as a “do” instead of a “don’t.” To communicate through issues with kindness and vulnerability, instead of accusations and anger. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness quickly. To compliment and encourage, not to try to fix people or shine a light on their mistakes and weaknesses. To not always have the last word and to freely admit when I’m wrong.
Because even when God gives you that new heart of flesh, it still takes work to keep it soft. It is difficult and humbling work that requires a lot of discipline, love, and divine help. I still spend a lot of time on my knees in prayer so that God will continue to mold my heart to reflect His love. I pray for His strength and vulnerability. There are too many times I fail (in fact, days after I wrote this post, I had the worst few days practicing this out in real life!). But there are also more victories than there were even two years ago.
We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit. -Audre Lorde
I get up and make choices every day. The choice to encourage, not tear down; to trust God instead of reacting out of a place of worry and fear; to give someone the benefit of the doubt; to overlook a small annoyance or rude comment; to not engage in useless arguments; to turn the other cheek; and to ask for forgiveness even when I don’t think the other person deserves it.
At first, I thought God was just making a better person overall – a better sister, daughter, roommate, friend. But then one day He put it in context of marriage and my heart was overwhelmed. Because I saw the Lord walking ahead of me, preparing me for the future and shielding my future marriage from the hardness of my heart.
One night, I stumbled across a sketch on Instagram showing a woman laying a crown on her husband’s head. The husband was kneeling on his knees and had multiple knives coming out of his back. A bit graphic, I know, but bear with me. The caption said something about how the husband has enough enemies in the world and his wife shouldn’t be one of them.
How can a wife be an enemy to her husband? Ladies, this is where words become the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. In Proverbs, Solomon describes a spectrum of adjectives to describe the kind of women we should NOT be: nagging, quarrelsome, fretful, contentious, angry (Proverbs 21:9, 27:15-16, 15:24, 19:13). You know what he’s talking about, right? It’s that scene of the husband coming home from work only to face a mirage of thinly veiled insults, finger-pointing, and “you never take the trash out or do anything to help me at home!”
According to Solomon, (who had 700 wives and 300 concubines so he surely saw his share of all those types of women!), living with a woman with any of those traits is like continual dripping on a rainy day. In fact, it’s better to live in a corner of a roof or in a desert than inside his very wealthy and spacious palaces with a contentious wife.
Someday, you will know a man better than anyone else in his life – you will know his weaknesses, pet peeves, hopes, dreams, inner battles, and you will be by his side through some of life’s most ordinary and extreme experiences. As such, you will be positioned in his life where you’ll have direct access to his heart, soul, mind, and emotions. Specifically, being so close to another person means you will know their flaws inside and out. Some of those flaws may drive you nuts.
Give grace and pick your battles. Cover the little annoyances and faults with love, because nobody is perfect. Choose encouragement over criticism, grace over judgment, and faith over fear. Communicate openly and humbly about the big issues. Don’t point fingers.
No man wants to be married to a nagging woman or to exist in a marriage that is more a mine field than a safe haven. And no one wants to hang out with the person who is constantly making negative comments and is quick to point out others’ flaws.
Choose your words wisely, friend, for they have incredible power. Start cultivating these habits today with your friends, family, and co-workers, so that someday your husband may echo Proverbs 12:4:
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.
PS. // For a more in-depth study on the type of women we should NOT be, check out our five day devotional study on the Proverbs 7 woman!
// photo by haystaak
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