The Not So Excellent Wife

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.

Her children rise up and bless her, her husband also, and he praises her.”

Proverbs 31:10-11, 28

We often say life is about the little things. Being an excellent wife is comprised of a million little things, isn’t it? From meal planning to dishes; from laundry to gardening; from exercise to building all sorts of relationships, being the excellent wife is a multi-faceted jewel; constantly turning, changing and demanding our all from one second to the next.

There are a few times I knew I wasn’t being excellent … maybe more than a few. The weight of those moments lays sturdily fixed in my memories:

  • The time my husband came home from work after baby #2 was born and gently asked if I could stop wearing sweatpants every day.

  • The time our pastor pointed out we were getting lax in our parenting after #4.

  • The time I admitted to my husband it wasn’t that I was too busy to keep up with the house, but that I’d been lazy.

  • The times my husband got to the bottom of his drawers and the laundry wasn’t clean.

  • The time I didn’t address the bitterness in my heart and our marriage was suffering.

Most recently that realization moment came when I sat looking at the homeschool convention booklet, trying to decide what seminars I should attend. Should I go to a class on parenting? No, that’s going alright. A class on teaching high schoolers? No, learned that already. Serving your husband without being his mom? No, we’re in a good place. A class on meal planning? Meal planning? …. Well…..oh man…that’s it. That’s the one. Parenting: A. Marriage: A. Tasty, varied, well thought out, and frugal meals: D-

In a family of 8 you can imagine all the “food-pinions.” There was not a single day that everyone was happy. So after 16 years of the fight, I bought the basics and let the kids choose their own breakfast and lunch, reducing the critical eyes to just dinner time. “Now they should be happy,” I thought. Well, guess what? After a year of that they were back to being unhappy. Now they primarily ate sugar and carbs. Some were skipping meals altogether because there was “nothing to eat.” Our food budget was increasing from the cost of frozen pre-made foods kids and dad could make on their own.

The “worth above jewels” was lacking in me. It was another hard moment facing my failure and feeling the regret. What’s an excellent wife in training to do in this moment? (I may have been about this work for 40+ years, but I’m certainly still in training!) For starters, I went to the menu planning class. I sought help. I gained fresh excitement for excellence and practical helps to bless my family. Then I came home and got to work.

Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” This has long been my parenting life verse, and I ran back to it again. I admitted to the Lord that I had grown weary and slack. I had laid down my strength in the Lord to persevere, and had given up to what seemed to be the path of least resistance. I remembered His promises to me, 1 Chronicles 29:12 “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”

At any point along a downward spiral we can stop and reverse the engines. Most of us have these cycles, don’t we? Hard work, little compromises, slow change over time, then the jolting reality we’ve gotten to a point of failure where repentance and change is needed. James describes it this way, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” 1:14-15. When our eyes slide off the Lord who gives the strength to accomplish our work, our efforts will soon prove to be weak.

It is always such a kindness and grace of the Lord to bring truth to our souls before we hit the bottom. We may regret that we have been lax or quit or even sinned by pursuing our will over God’s, but God is never lax and never quits on us. So with His faithfulness in mind, we seek to change and return to living faithfully:

  • God’s promise of His work in us is found in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

  • And His call to us is found in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

When change is needed and you seek it, you must rely on the Lord for the change. For example, if I had come home from the convention and set to work planning menus, buying food, cooking more, etc, without praying and seeking dependence on God in this work, then I will fail. I will slide back to the point of least resistance very quickly if I rely on my own strength. When we put off sinful behavior we must replace it with righteousness. So, if I commit this work to prayer, memorize God’s truths about the “why,” ask a dear friend for accountability, and continue week after week in perseverance, then I will be seeking a righteous change.

So how are you doing? As you consider the virtues of the Excellent Wife in Proverbs 31, Titus 2 and 1 Peter 3, are there weaknesses you see in yourself? Maybe there is one, or two, or a lot! Remember that being an Excellent Wife is what you are called to do and be for the King of Kings! He is your Master, you are His humble servant. He calls you to love your husband, love your children, and be a worker at home. It is His call to you.

I recently read a satire article about how we celebrate being beautiful messes as we lounge in unkempt houses with piles of laundry wearing old yoga pants and serving frozen dinners in an effort to embrace our lack of perfection. The author ends with a great challenge: “Let’s celebrate the beauty of something that is actually beautiful.” Ask God to help you today to be the Excellent Wife for His glory instead of being the un-Excellent wife for your own.

“But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-11