Thursday, March 25, 2010

Washing Wives

Somewhere along the line marriage became solely about happiness. Most would be shocked to learn that marriage is not primarily about making us happy, but instead, holy. I suspect that the happiness will come as byproduct of the holiness. This article sums it up quite nicely and it ties in well with this post.
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Eph 5:22-27
"First concerning the husband's role as reflected in Christ, notice that his main objective is not so much to make her happy as to make her holy. Holiness - Sanctification - is the objective. He doesn't simply tolerate her sin, he eliminates it. He doesn't simply forgive, he cleanses such that she no longer practices sin, but practices godliness."
God instilled in men an innate/subconscious mission for marriage, being, "not so much to make her happy as to make her holy"; in other words, sanctification.  Likewise God instilled an innate/subconscious mission for women in marriage--submitting, but for some reason (cough, cough, Eve) she naturally rebels more and wants to skip right to dessert--happiness. Deep down the husband knows his mission in marriage, but this will only work if the wife also knows and accepts her mission. Submitting completes his mission of making her holy. If he does not try to make her holy or she does not submit to his efforts, then unhappiness ensues. The sexes are thus pinned in battle with each other and cannot achieve holiness together in marriage. On the other hand, if the husbands washes and the wife accepts the washing in the spirit of humility, then happiness follows. I have witnessed this in my own marriage.

Perhaps marriages have their rough spots because God is using that roughness to sanctify us.  I liken it to a washing machine; lots of roughness, scrubbing, and spinning goes on inside, but in the end the clothes come out clean, "without stain or blemish". The problem though, is that a lot of people aren't willing to stick around to see the finished product, or to even be tumbled dry. A woman seeking happiness without her husband's sanctification is like expecting spots on a shirt to disappear without a washing. Becoming holy is not going to be fun; it will in fact hurt, depending on how deep the stains are. It may be that "Tide to Go" won't be strong enough; whats needed is some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Who says husbands never do the washing?! If wives want their husband to help with cleaning, he could first start with her.

For some humor, here is an example of how a washing might go down:

Yup, she'll kick and scream, but then realize its not that bad. I don't know why that image came to me when writing. 
"One thing characteristic of his rhetoric which may be a challenge for husbands today is that he was honest and open about his evaluation of his bride."
Meaning that Christ was honest about his evaluation of the churches as detailed in Revelations. Likewise, if the husband is to the wife as Christ is to the church, then he should be forthright and honest in his opinion of her as a wife. Warning: this won't go over well. If there is one thing women can't stand, its the unvarnished truth. Girls learn young that you tell other girls what they want they want to hear, not the truth, at least if you want to stay in their favor.  Men picked this up as well as it is a safe MO.

Christ did not sugarcoat matters nor tell the church what they wanted to hear. Ideally, a husband should do the same. I recognize though, that pointing out flaws in their wife (mainly if she is modern woman) may be a dangerous venture.  No doubt she'll find a way to get her husband back; passively or aggressively. Husbands today are told to tolerate a wife's sin, not eliminate it. Eliminating it would be stifling her individuality. The feminization of our culture forces husbands to soak or rinse their wives, hardly the heavy washing they sometimes need. After all, we have been told that women are "delicates" to be put on light cycle or to be hand washed only.

I know some will point out, "shouldn't a wife also wash her husband to make him holy?" I see how this would make sense in egalitarian marriages, where it is assumed fair game that the husband can point out the wife's fault as long as the wife can also point out the husbands faults, however, from a biblical standpoint it seems the husband bears the brunt of washing, where the wife bears the brunt of submitting (Eph. 5:22-27). Christians in general, and therefore as a Christian wife, still have a duty to "correct and rebuke" (2 Tim. 4:2), but her doing so does not greatly affect the sanctification of herself or the marriage.

Egalitarian marriages have a chance of working, but it is a gamble. There the purpose is for happiness first and holiness by accident. Even the happiness isn't a guarantee. I say it is a much safer bet to follow God's plan for marriage where holiness and submission are first, with happiness as a byproduct. Albeit the Bible doesn't explicitly say we will be happy if we do these things, but following God's plan has yet to disappoint.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Good one, Laura.

>>Deep down the husband knows his mission in marriage, but this will only work if the wife also knows and accepts her mission.

My belief based on observation over many years is most mentally healthy women can't help being good moms, once they realize that creature in their arms is their own baby, and if they don't care for it, it will die. The instinct is there and can't be avoided, except by mental illness. She will make mistakes, but she will do her best and can't help it.

I also believe that a man who realizes he has a truly submissive wife also can't help himself, once he realizes she has dumped responsibility on taking care of her, on his lap. The instinct is there, and he can't help it if there is no mental illness.

I worked before retirement with a Christian man. I loaned him the book, ME? OBEY HIM? by Elizabeth Handford. He read it and said he hoped his wife never read it.

He said he knew himself well enough to know if his wife submitted to him, he would not be able to leave his home and go hunting; fishing; and drinking beer with his buddies.

He said he enjoyed the camaraderie with his buddies, and with his wife being rebellious, it was easy to go running out of the house on weekends. but, if she were to change and become submissive, he would be bound to the house and her side.

I found this knowledge on his part to be rather fascinating.

Anonymous age 67

Silas said...

Wonderful post, Laura!

Just Tuesday night, I was thinking precisely about this concept. For a man to take leadership and wield godly authority over his wife, he must be willing to lead her in every way.

Her spiritual walk is something that he especially needs to lead in. A man should lead his wife by setting a good example of pursuing God, by including her in times of prayer, worship, devotions and Bible study, and by continually challenging her in her spiritual walk.

By leading well, spirituality, a man makes it easier for his wife to respect him, to know his heart and to see the strength of his faith. Her life is also blessed directly by his spiritual leadership in teaching her to see things God's way and cultivate right attitudes.

Though I am not married, I am very intentional about seeking to lead my girlfriend spiritually, and wash her with God's truth.

Laura Grace Robins said...

Anon 67,
That book sounds like an interesting read. I got a kick out of the 50/50 split of reviews on Amazon. A whole bunch of one stars and a whole bunch of five stars, with little in between. I think that is very telling as to the divisiveness of this issues.

Yes, that is an interesting story. I imagine why it is important then to start applying holiness and submission from the start of the marriage, or even in dating for practice. Once a couple is set in their ways, they aren't going to want to change. Although, once she becomes more submissive, he might actually prefer being around her more often.

You will make a fine husband, if I may say so. :-) May God bless you with a wife who recognizes and respects your leadership.
This whole ideal that marriage is about holiness, not happiness really clicked for me. And explains a great deal why so many marriages fall apart. They don't get the mission.

David said...

Thank you for that post, Laura. It has given me food for thought. I have noticed those words in Ephesians and wondered about them. I think my wife is a better Christian than she might have been because she married me, but I have made little attempt to direct her spiritual life. We used to struggle over who would lead family prayers, but she now lets me do that.

I noticed she was praying this morning at the breakfast table, when I was leaving for work. I tend to just let her move along at her own pace, and pray for her every day.

Alte said...

You will make a fine husband

I second that. *sigh* Now you just need to go convince the other men.

jfr said...

Dear Laura,

That was a beautiful post. I believe like you do about marriage. I only came to the same conclusion on a different path. I do not call myself a Christian but I was raised Catholic...big time, way back in the 60's and 70's. Anyway...your post reminded me of the "Prayer of St.Francis" particularly the last verse. My thoughts in parenthesises:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, and it is in pardoning, that we are pardoned and it is in dying(SUBMITTING), that we are born to eternal life(A NEW LIFE).

The prayer is not about marriage, but it could be for a woman.

David said...

OK, Laura, what has your husband done to "wash" you hard? Give us an example. How do you react? I always feel loathe to push my wife in this area.

Laura Grace Robins said...

I like that. Submitting is dying to yourself (and that's a good thing!). Kind of works with Luke 17:33.

Good point. Off hand I can think of times when he has mentioned that I can be too self-absorbed, think a little too highly of myself. When I'm excited about something I tend to talk really loud and when in public this is embarrassing for him (Remember: quiet and meek spirit). If you're familiar with the American show "King of the Hill", he seems to liken me to Peggy Hill. He is also reminding me that I need to pay more attention; for example, I baked a frozen pizza the other night with the cardboard on still underneath. Ugh. Came out fine though.

A more humorous example (not related to character per se) he showed me the proper way to clean a toilet the other day! Ooooops. I'm learning. I wasn't raised with homemaking/wifely skills, so everyday is a challenge.

One of the jokes around here was one day I was washing my face and he said, "you're not doing it right". LOL. So from there on out every time I mess up, I get that remark.

How do I react? I'm always embarrassed. I don't want to be that way. I don't fight back, I just feel ashamed. I should know better! When we first were dating I was probably more unruly. If I do get sassy I try to remember that is the feminism that is still in me, not God's presence. I imagine it will be a long process to rid all traces of feminism.

Double Minded Man said...

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Eph 5:22-27"

I find it interesting that the common quote stops after the word church. In fact that is how I view(ed) it as well. I guess I never (before this post) saw how that could be connected to the wife. You always give so much to think on on your blog.

I always feel loathe to push my wife in this area.
It is a mistake to be too easy on a woman. Its counter-intuitive but I think it is true. But of course how you go about it is also important. If you can manage it calmly and not in a condescending way, but keep from sounding uncertain about yourself while making the correction she will take it better.

David said...

Yes, Double Minded Man, I have noticed that my wife, if she is in any kind of rational mood, will accept my correction. In fact, on the rare occasions that I do lecture her on something, she tends to listen.

Many men get lazy; maybe their wife reacts badly to criticism on one occasion; it all gets too hard.

But I have definitely noticed that my wife is actually happier with a firm hand. Since I toughened up my act recently, she has been much keener to go to the gym to get herself looking nice, for example.

I think women really like the firm attention, deep down.

Double Minded Man said...


I am glad to hear that things are looking up for you.

Despite women's many claims to the contrary, they actually want to have a man stronger than they are. This is all the more amazing to those of us who have seen married women (and we've all seen it) try to take the reigns from the husband. The end result of that is always an unhappy woman. Basically, women despise week men. They will tell you to your face that they want a week man, one who is sensitive and in touch with his feminine side, one who enjoys art and ballet but hate him to his core when they find him.

You might want to peruse the archives over at and look at some of his posts on Game. Yes, for the record, Game can be used in a very non-Christian manner. But Dave at HL has used some of the principles of Game to strengthen (maybe even save) his marriage.

Alte said...

Funny that you should post on this, as I will be addressing the same passage tonight. I write about 2 weeks in advance, so it's strange how much my posts coincide with those of other bloggers.

Interesting take on it.

David said...

Well, there is nothing inherently effeminate about liking art and ballet. I like some art myself; not so much ballet.

We have a cleaning lady once a week so my wife doesn't usually have to clean the toilet, but she does plenty of other housewife things. Her mother trained her well. She is a hard worker at even the humblest tasks.

I have always seen myself as the spiritual and temporal head of the household. My wife rarely needs correction on the temporal matters. She tends to just get on with her duties. I could strengthen my command on the spiritual side though.

Alte said...

My wife rarely needs correction on the temporal matters.

It's not just about correction. Guidance is also a type of attention.

Elusive Wapiti said...

Nicely done, Laura. Now we just need to figure out how to pass this wisdom along to your sisters.

David said...

Alte, what is the difference between guidance and correction?

My wife follows my broad expectations of her. I rarely need to be very specific. I have a few things I particularly want done in certain ways, but I am generally fairly laissez-faire.

Correction sounds more formal to me. She said something a bit blasphemous once, and I got really furious with her. But this is rare.

Alte said...

Hmm... Good question. I suppose discussing plans and activities in detail and taking note of what she has accomplished and not accomplished would be guidance. Correction would be a pointed criticism of something specific she had done.

I think if all of his leadership were correction, than I would start to think he didn't approve of me. But a bit of correction mixed in with guidance doesn't bother me or make me insecure.

David said...

Well, my wife does not need much guidance on daily domestic matters. She was surprisingly well-trained by her mother. I have been lucky in that regard.

She tends to run broader plans, for holidays and so on, past me; looking for final approval I suppose. But I am a bit lazy, preoccupied and absent-minded. So I don't always listen or care all that much.

I am normally a very calm and phlegmatic man, so when I do correct her, she tends to sit up and take notice. I told her forcefully recently that she looks much better in dresses than skirts and tops. Today she is in a plain red dress, and I commended her on that. But I only complain about things that really bother me.

I am very verbally skilful and I have delivered her some monumental lectures. But they were mostly a long time ago. I suppose we rub along OK now.

On the spiritual side, I am still thinking about that one, partly because of this post by Laura. I think I have made her less silly and more honest, and she has made me less self-righteous and pompous.

I think I have made her into a Christian wife. With another man, she might have been quite different. In recent years, she has also advanced her own spiritual development herself. But I like to think I got her on the right track.

David said...

What do you think about forbidding a wife from reading a book? I would have expected my wife to ignore me if I tried that, but I did once tell her not to read an anti-Christian book, and she apparently complied.

Any thoughts?

MarkyMark said...

Nicely done, Laura. Now we just need to figure out how to pass this wisdom along to your sisters.

Good luck with that, EW! I think Hell will freeze over first; either that, or the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series...

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

This is a wonderful post! My husband has never been inclined to withhold the truth from me as it relates to my faults.

This was true even before we became believers early in our marriage (we've been married 16 years). He simply isn't wired that way. I remember thinking he was an ogre before I came to know the Lord (I was saved first). He wasn't cruel or unkind, just honest, something I had a hard time accepting because I wasn't honest with myself.

One of the first things the Lord showed me was to really cling to the truth of 1 Peter 3, and He was faithful as He drew my husband to Himself two years later.

After he came to faith I thought he was going to stop telling me the truth about me- that it would be more humble and Christian to simply pray for me rather than confront me in my sin. That is so unbiblical!!! Unfortunately, this type of teaching has permeated the modern church and people are running around living insane lives thinking it's okay because they have accepted the premise of a cheap grace.

I appreciate my husband now in ways I never thought possible. I welcome the challenge to grow in grace rather than stay comfortably entrenched in my sinful and immature state.

I guess I said all of that to say that I can appreciate the truth of this post. However poltically incorrect it may be.

Laura Grace Robins said...

Glad you like, Terry. I didn't know you both weren't lifelong believers. I always find those who come to faith later in life fascinating. I think it speaks even more strongly to the power of God's grace.

It is exciting....never knowing what he's going to say next! Wives should get report cards.

David said...

I am told that Japanese wives used to get "report cards". Their husbands would give them weekly commentary on their household performance.

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

Are you people insane? This is careless, sloppy, stupid theology. And it's quite typical of the superior-male attitude. It's his job to wash her, like a child? Like a car? And she'll just scream but secretly love it, like a baby or a dog? You are one of the most clueless people on real Christianity that I've ever seen in my darn life. How dare you compare the husband to God; he CAN'T make his wife holy, he can only help keep her from sin. But she can't help keep him clean, because marriage is all about fixing women and making them submit to such, is that right?

"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, and it is in pardoning, that we are pardoned and it is in dying(SUBMITTING), that we are born to eternal life(A NEW LIFE)."

Of course, because the husband takes the place of God, doesn't he?

"It is exciting....never knowing what he's going to say next! Wives should get report cards"

Yes, so exciting to know where your husband might criticize you next time! Maybe you'll get a pinkslip, or a pink bottom, if you displease him enough.

"I think I have made her into a Christian wife"

If she is one, it will be inspite of you, you pompass jackass.

As for that DEAR little book "Me Obey Him", that's the same one where the wife agreed to get an abortion because her husband told her to. She wrote a letter to the author and the author blamed her for her husband's decision, saying she probably just wanted one anyway.

Just when I thought that domineering Christian men were being exaggerated about..

Jennifer said...

"I don't know why that image came to me when writing"

Because you see women as dogs, you strange woman. This is at least the third time I've seen you compare women to animals.