The Imperfect Wife
I was scared to walk down the aisle, but it wasn’t because I was worried about stumbling over my dress. I was worried about being a wife.
My then-fiancé and now husband, Derek, and I had read the books on marriage and had asked each other the 10, 15 and 50 questions to ask before getting married. But my future role as a wife looked daunting to me, and Proverbs 31 seemed to make it worse.
Women have long looked to Proverbs 31:10-31 for guidance, but it read to me like a list of attributes I could never have — a list of qualities I didn’t have even as a single woman. The Proverbs 31 woman is dignified. She gets up early, works late and takes care of the house. Her husband is respected at the city gate, and he, in turn, adores her. I worried my tries to be dignified would actually be disgraceful, and my husband would be laughed at, at the city gate. Even worse, though, I was scared my selfishness would get in the way of my marriage.
“I’m more sarcastic than charming, Lord,” I prayed. “I’m not great at serving others. I’m not wise at all. How can I do this?”
If you’re on the eve of marriage and battling these same thoughts, know that it’s OK to be a little afraid of your new role. Above all, it’s OK to not be the perfect Proverbs 31 wife. I stopped praying that I’d have all the qualities of the perfect wife, and instead, I trusted God to reveal His design for my role as a wife.
I let go of perfection.
In the months before my wedding, as I was making final color choices and picking the dinner menu, I stepped back from the wedding, the date, the altar and I added one prayer to the top of my prayer list: imperfection.
Don’t mistake me. I wasn’t praying for trouble in my marriage. I was praying for a marriage that required Christ. I prayed for a marriage that pushed us closer because it wasn’t perfect. It would force us to talk, to hug, to love each other and to pursue Christ.
That’s a hard and scary prayer to pray, but my marriage needed it. Paul tells in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s “grace is sufficient for you, for [his] power is made perfect in weakness” (ESV). As a wife, I knew there would be times when my tongue would abuse sarcasm and my spirit would fill with anger. I wouldn’t be the perfect wife, but instead of hating my character, I prayed my weakness would show God’s greatness.
“If we accept our gender roles as a gift from God, we will try to nourish our weaker abilities rather than deny them,” Kathy Keller says in her and her husband Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage.
I couldn’t deny my faults. I couldn’t try to make my own vision for marriage. It is the Proverbs 31 woman’s fear of the Lord that makes her noble — not her perfection. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel finishes the chapter with his mother’s advice saying, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
What’s lasting in a noble wife, what’s lasting in a godly marriage, is fear of the Lord. Don’t forget that in the midst of wedding planning. God didn’t design the role of a perfect wife. He designed the perfect role of womanhood for you.
The Bible tells us that we are “wonderfully made,” and that includes the role of a wife. If you’ve come to marriage with Christ at the center, He made you for this moment long before you even met your fiancé. It won’t be a perfect marriage, but it will be the Lord’s.
“We have to stop asking of marriage what God never designed it to give — perfect happiness, conflict-free living and idolatrous obsession,” Gary Thomas writes in Sacred Marriage.
Our world has made marriage a track toward bliss when in reality, God designed marriage as a way to know Him better. Any joy that springs from that union is a reflection of His glory, and that’s the kind of marriage I want.
Modeling God’s Love
Like my fears about being a wife, I also worried about our future home. I was concerned it wouldn’t look like the Proverbs 31 woman’s home. After all, living as a single woman had meant I didn’t have to explain my mood changes, and I could pretty much do anything I wanted.
I was afraid I’d fail and somehow our household would become a place for unhappiness. Derek and I were talking about this when I reread Ephesians 5:25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
That verse has long spurred gender equality debates, but there’s something more important in those verses, and that’s a command to mirror God’s love. We decided we needed to create our home as a place that modeled Christ’s love for the church. When my husband forgave me, I wanted to be reminded of God’s forgiveness. When I respected him, I wanted to imitate our respect for God. I had heard that marriage is a gift from God, but I realized that our job as a couple was not to just welcome that gift, but to faithfully offer our marriage to God as a demonstration of His love.
Tim Keller says in The Meaning of Marriage that Jesus asks us to put Him first and to have no other pseudo-gods before Him. “It is the same with marriage,” Keller says. “Marriage won’t work unless you put your marriage and your spouse first, and you don’t turn good things, like parents, children, career, and hobbies, into pseudo-spouses.”
My question to myself was how much was I willing to give up of myself for my husband? How could my marriage become a covenant and not just convenient?
I needed to apply the things that Christ himself had modeled for me — qualities like patience, kindness, strength, gentleness — qualities that looked an awful lot like those of the Proverbs 31 wife, qualities that I didn’t have.
Instead of trying to figure out how I could develop those traits, I prayed that I’d be able to follow Jesus’ example. If I wanted our home to become a place of joy, I needed to welcome more than just romantic love and more than what I could personally bring into our house.
I began to understand that God’s role for me was perfect even if it didn’t look exactly like Proverbs 31 because the Proverbs 31 woman is all of us. It’s you. Engaged and nervous. It’s you. The single woman. It’s you. The married woman of 20 years. If you’re pursuing God’s plan, then in whatever way you work, in whatever role you have, that’s Proverbs 31.
Proverbs 31 wasn’t meant to be a list of qualities for women to build within ourselves. It was meant to be a reminder for women to prayerfully pursue God’s design for women, and that’s why we should look to the chapter’s wisdom.
He created each of our roles perfectly, and I realized that my role as a wife wasn’t to be the perfect bride, and it wasn’t to pull off amazing Pinterest recipes or keep the cleanest house. My role was to be marked by Christ, and in my shortcomings you’d see that. I wanted our joy to be unexplainable without God’s grace.
The only way I could truly love my husband was to keep God at the center of our relationship, and that would mean I would have to be imperfect.
It’s been nearly a year since my wedding, and Derek and I have bumped into imperfection along the way, but each time Christ has shown up. Together, we have laughed when I have accidentally shrunk his socks in the dryer and when I’ve overcooked/burned dinner, as well as in harder situations in our first year of marriage — an unexpected surgery, frustration at work. Together we’ve welcomed God’s greatness over our failures.
It’s OK to be scared, but be encouraged by God’s grace. I hyperventilated weekly until the day of my wedding, until I walked down the aisle, until I took Derek’s hand, until I realized I was exactly, no, perfectly, where God wanted me to be.
Copyright 2013 Amanda Casanova. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Amanda Casanova is a writer based in north Texas and a team member with HeartSupport, a nonprofit organization for young adults. Previously, she has worked for The Galveston County Daily News, The Houston Chronicle, The Abilene Reporter-News and The Lufkin Daily News.