Not a Doormat
About the Guest
A submissive wife is not a doormat. Hear noted authors Robert Lewis, Cindy Easley, Sara Horn, and dispel this myth and others. They give helpful insight into how a wife can be a vital "helper" as she trusts God and respects her husband as he leads his family.
A submissive wife is not a doormat. Hear noted authors Robert Lewis, Cindy Easley, Sara Horn, and dispel this myth and others.
Bob: God has called on wives to be helpers to their husbands; right? So, let’s say your husband is telling a story and he’s getting the facts wrong. Being a helper means you should correct him; doesn’t it? Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: I think we get confused about our role and we feel like it’s our responsibility to help him get the story right. Well, maybe it doesn’t really matter if the story is right. I struggled with that too—because I tend to be more precise about things than Dennis does—and I had to learn to keep my mouth shut, and if he gets the story wrong, nobody knows but me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from lots of different people today about how a wife can be the very best helper possible for her husband. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
We thought we ought to take some time this week and review some of the wisdom that we’ve heard over the years about God’s unique design for a wife in a marriage relationship. Next month we’re going to do the same thing as we hear about a husband’s responsibility in a marriage relationship.
Dennis: I’m glad you mentioned that, because women might feel like they’re being picked on here, but what we’re doing is we’re celebrating 25 years on FamilyLife Today, and we’re picking some of the silver moments.
Bob: Some of the highlights—
Bob: —over the years. In fact, we have your wife, Barbara, joining us today. Welcome.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: We thought if we’re going to talk about God’s call for a wife to be a helper to her husband we ought to have you here to keep us honest as we talk about these things.
Barbara: I can do that.
Dennis: Yes, you can; that’s exactly right.
Bob: That very word “helper”—there are some people who hear that word and there’s an instant recoil. That sounds like a demeaning word. Did you ever feel that that was a demeaning term as a wife?
Barbara: I never felt like the term was—but I did sometimes feel like the work was because I think sometimes the tasks can feel that way in a home and even in a marriage. I never felt like the word was—but I can understand why people feel like that, because it can sound like a servant. It can sound like someone who is “less than” or “underneath” —and it doesn’t. But once I started understanding that God—the Holy Spirit—is also called a Helper—with a capital “H”—then it lifts up the value and it’s like, “Oh, that kind of helper.” Not a helper that fixes and corrects like I help my children learn to tie their shoes, that kind of help—but the kind of helper that the Holy Spirit is—is vastly different.
Bob: One of the people—who’s helped all of us understand that better over the years—is Dr. Robert Lewis, who for many years was your pastor at Fellowship Bible Church here in Little Rock. Robert and his wife spoke at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways for many years, and he has been a regular guest on FamilyLife Today. He brought some clarity to that whole understanding of God’s call for a wife to be a helper.
Robert: Helper does not mean that you enable your husband to do wrong. The idea of being a helper and someone who’s submitting to her husband—the whole focus of that is allowing him to do what’s right. That’s the whole focus of submission. It’s not to leave you in this kind of prison in which you have to suffer under that abuse and continually take it. What it offers is we move to other Scriptures that say, “Here are some positive ways to address that issue.”
You see? And begin to help other places so that you don’t have to live in that. But these abuses—these kind of things—should not deter us from God’s original and highest design.
Bob: Again, that’s Dr. Robert Lewis. Barbara, I think that’s an important clarification that he makes there. There are a lot of misconceptions around helper and submission, and we do need to make sure that that’s not just something that we throw out woodenly and just say, “Here’s what you have to do, submit to whatever goes on in your marriage.”
Barbara: Right; yes. We have to go back to the original idea in the Bible and try to understand what God meant by that—because God is a good God, and He didn’t create the institution of marriage and give the responsibilities to men and women for anything but our good. So when we look at it and when we pay attention to the way He describes it—it is a lofty calling—it is a high calling. It’s a great privilege, actually.
It changes how we view it when we see it through God’s perspective.
Dennis: There are a lot of young couples getting married today who have not worked through what’s going to be the responsibility of the husband and of the wife. The differences in responsibility.
This one is really important: if a man is going to be the leader of his home and truly set a spiritual direction—that means his wife needs to empower him. That doesn’t mean she’s a doormat, but it does mean she needs to believe in him—use her words to build him up, cheer him on, and encourage him when she sees him doing things right.
Bob: She can be a great support to her husband—and again, that doesn’t mean that she’s in the back seat and he’s in the front seat—it means that they are co-laboring, and she can offer great encouragement.
In fact, Cindy Easley, who, again, has spoken at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways throughout the years, has been a guest on FamilyLife Today, Cindy is an author and a pastor’s wife who lives in Brentwood, Tennessee—
Dennis: Also a real estate agent today.
Bob: Is she?
Bob: Well, Cindy spoke at one of our getaways to the ladies about how a wife can be a great source of support for her husband.
Cindy: Proverbs 31 reads, “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.”
Support is a complementary—not a competitive—way of relating to your husband. It’s complementary. Again, Proverbs goes on, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but he who shames him is rotten to the bones.”
He needs your support in three areas. First, he needs support in his job. Sometimes that means accepting an unusual schedule. Are any of you in here military wives? God bless you. Thank you.
I so admire the families that have been left behind. They are so willing to allow their husbands to do what their husbands were called to—that sometimes when I complain about Michael being late two hours I’m ashamed, because they’re willing to give it up for a year—give it all up.
Sometimes we have to accept an unusual schedule. Sometimes it means to accept our husbands—support them in their job—is to be involved in their job. Now—no, you’re not going to go to work with your husband, that’s not what I mean, but sometimes we do need to ask questions—we need to understand what they do. It might be that you need to offer to invite over the people he works with and have a barbecue this summer.
Number two, he needs your support in public! I have two things I do that I believe is not supporting my husband in public. The first is something called sarcasm. You know what sarcasm is? It’s humor with a message.
You know what I’ve discovered? When I’m sarcastic with Michael in public I have to reel back and figure out, “What is bugging me?” And then I have to go to him in private and say, “This is a problem. We have to deal with this, and I apologize for being sarcastic with you,” because that’s not ever helpful—it makes everyone uncomfortable in the room.
The second thing that I found out that I do—and I am working on this today, and that is that I correct his stories—isn’t it amazing how wrong our husbands can be when they’re telling stories? [Laughter]
You know, they say it was on a Sunday—it was on a Saturday. They say they did—you did it. They say it was your third child—it was your first child. But you know what I’ve figured out? The details of the story really don’t ever matter—they really don’t—and so I’ve learned—I am learning—I constantly fight this, because it really bugs me some days—to let him tell the story how he sees it.
Third, our husbands need our support in the home. I think the place that this comes into play in my life, mostly, is around the children. It’s that I need to not step in and interfere in my husband’s parenting. I need to not step in and disagree with his leadership in front of the children. There is a time that I go and say, “I think you overreacted with this child; let me tell you what’s going on in their heart,” or, “I think you let him get away with too much. I know he’s a boy, but…” So there are times that I will do that, but that is in private—not in front of the kids.
Bob: Well again, we’ve been listening to Cindy Easley talking with a roomful of wives about what it looks like to support your husband in his job, in public, in the home. This is more important than I think a lot of wives understand.
Barbara: It really is, because I think we get confused about our role and, just as Cindy said, we feel like it’s our responsibility—again, as we’ve been talking about helping—help him get the story right.
Well, maybe it doesn’t really matter if the story is right. Nobody’s going to know.
I struggled with that too, because I tend to be more precise about things than Dennis does, and I’ve had to learn to keep my mouth shut, and if he gets the story wrong, nobody knows but me.
Dennis: I think what we’re pointing out here is a woman’s words and her attitude towards her husband are incredibly powerful. So are you using your words to build up or tear down? Usually it takes a reminder like this just to say, “Why don’t you major in the good things that he does, instead of majoring in the minors?”
Bob: When you’re talking about a wife’s role, you can’t avoid the fact that the Bible uses a word that a lot of us don’t like to bring up—it’s the word “submission.” It’s coming under the leadership—under the authority—of your husband. It’s a Bible word, so you kind of having to deal with it. We had a guest who joined us on FamilyLife Today who did not like that word when she read it in her Bible, and she kind of kicked against it for a while.
God worked on her heart and said, “This is an area where you need to grow.” So she decided that she would be a submissive wife even if it killed her—and she went after it. Her name is Sarah Horn, and here’s some of what she shared with us.
Dennis: What would you say is the biggest misconception young women today have about submission when it comes to their marriage?
Sarah: Well, you think you’re going to be a doormat. You think you’re going to be a Stepford wife, or you’re going to check your brain at the door, you don’t have any say—you can’t say anything, you step back like you’re a servant of some sort—that’s not what it is at all. Something that I learned from the Proverbs 31 wife experience that really, truly went into this year as well is that we as women and as wives are such profound influences to our husbands.
Sarah: It’s enormously powerful—and I think we don’t recognize that. We are so conditioned today that we need to stand up for our rights and to lead as we see—that miss seeing that whole idea of being that influence and what that looks like. So it’s less about being a doormat or being walked all over and it’s more about really leaning into, “What do you want to teach me about my role as a wife, and how can I grow in this?”
Dennis: Cliff—as you went through this one-year experiment—how did you see him change as a leader? How your submission to him empowered him to begin to assume more and more responsibility as a man who leads his family spiritually—and your family?
Sarah: Yes. I thought I would change. In some ways I was concerned of how I would change.
But with him I saw so much growth and change in what he did as leader, and it was—just by stepping back a little—it was like he had more room and just the opportunity to really start thinking about what it looked like to lead our family. The biggest difference I saw was with our son. He would—instead of saying, “Do what your mom says,” he would do more of an example with him and say, “Your mom needs help in the kitchen. Come on, I’m going to show you to how to do the dishes.”
So it was very much an example setting. As I was talking to him, maybe sharing concerns—things that were going on—he listened, and he would give more advice if I asked for it. There were just different things that he would do that told me that he was taking this leadership more seriously as well.
Bob: How would Cliff say you are a different wife as a result of your one-year submission experiment?
Sarah: I actually asked him this the other day. He texted me—he’s deployed right now—and I said, “What was the difference that you saw after we went through this year?”
He said, “You were more willing to let me lead. You were more willing to step back and let me make the decisions for our family.” That boosts him—that gives him confidence. That also puts some—I would say—good pressure on him to be more intentional about leading.
Dennis: It does.
Bob: Is it scary for you to do that? Because now you’re not calling the shots like you used to.
Sarah: The longer that we’re doing it, it’s less scary.
Dennis: You’ve learned to trust him.
Sarah: I have.
Dennis: That he will hear you, listen to you.
Sarah: Well—and more importantly—I’ve learned to trust God. So if my husband does make a decision I don’t necessarily agree with or I think, “Mm...I don’t know about this,” I’m trusting God to take care of the details and to watch over our family and our marriage and those decisions—and that He will bless it.”
Bob: Well again, we’ve been listening to Sarah Horn talk about her one-year experiment with submission—where it was a paradigm shift for their marriage.
But Barbara—as she was describing it you could hear there was joy that came into the marriage. I was thinking about the fact that a lot of wives I’ve talked to over the years, inside of them is a need for security and a sense that “the only way I’ll ever have security is if I can be in control of the situation.” Their insecurity is what is keeping them from trusting their husbands’ leadership—because they’re not in control if they’re letting him lead.
Barbara: To me the most important thing that she said was that she learned the submission is more about trusting God than it is trusting your husband. To me that’s really the key ingredient—because if you look at the life of Jesus—Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father, and He submitted to the plan even though it meant His death. And yet God brought great good out of that for us.
So, as our example, if I can submit to God and to His plan for me and for my marriage, the end result is I’m more relaxed—I’m much more at ease in the relationship—because I know God’s going to take care of it and God’s going to cover it—even if my husband makes a poor decision. So that’s really the focus of submission—is trusting God—not trusting your husband.
Dennis: And I think in this culture young wives today—and when I speak of young wives I’m talking about those 35 and under—they need to be really careful they’re not listening to the drumbeat of the culture—that has turned the word “submission” into a dirty word or a demeaning word—when it is a divine word. It was chosen by God as a piece of how to describe how a woman relates to her husband. It’s not a mindless term, but it is important to empower your husband going through a lifetime together—to believe in him, support him, respect him—and it shows up when you submit to him as he makes decisions.
Bob: Barbara, that doesn’t mean if you’re trusting yourself to God that your husband’s not ever going to make a mistake and that there won’t be consequences with his mistake.
Barbara: Right; right.
Bob: You may have to bear some pain as the consequences of a bad decision your husband made; right?
Barbara: Yes, you might have to. That’s the scary part—but that’s again—the part where you have to trust that God is bigger and that He knows what He’s doing and that He’s going to turn it into good in your life and in your marriage.
Dennis: And it also doesn’t mean that a wife doesn’t disagree with her husband.
Dennis: It is iron sharpening iron. It’s not that Barbara dutifully nods and goes, “Just have it your way, sweetheart.” No, it is expressing what she sees through her perspective and it’s incumbent upon me. I have to listen to what she said. If I don’t listen I’m being disobedient to God.
Bob: Yes, but as we’ve learned over the years it’s the wise wife who knows how to properly express what it is she’s trying to say to her husband.
We had Ann Wilson, who is a speaker—she and her husband, Dave, have spoken at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways and have spoken on our Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. She was talking to a group of women at one point and she talked about how she had to learn the right way to communicate with Dave, so that he would hear and understand what it was she was trying to say.
Ann: I love Ephesians 4:15 because it says, “Speak the truth in love.” Some of us so great at speaking the truth. I am just a verbal processor, so it’s just like—I just vomit it all out. Some of you are like that; aren’t you? You’re verbally processing so things come out that I wish I could put back in. I can speak the truth—and some of us are so loving that we’re so caring and we don’t like conflict even that we are only speaking good words, and sometimes we hide some of the things that we feel and we push it down—but both things are necessary.
I think we need to speak truth, but we need to be able to package it in a way that they receive it.
I have learned over the years that I cannot just verbally process when my thoughts are going with Dave. I need to take my thought, I need to capture it—it says to take our thoughts captive; right? And I need to take it and pray, “God, should I say this to Dave?” first of all. “Will it benefit him? Will it benefit us?” And then, if God gives me the okay, my next prayer is then, “God, help me to package it in a way that he will be able to hear me and accept what I say.”
This takes time. Don’t you feel like, “I don’t have time for all that,” you know? “I’m busy!” But I’m telling you—this is so critical—because sometimes I need to put a little bow on it—for him to accept it, and then—though, it’s so worth it—because he hears me. He hears my love and I have to couch it in respect—because I do respect him. I think it’s so important.
So words. What kind of words? I would challenge you to ask your husbands, “What are the things that make you feel respected when I say them?” Dave said, “When you say, ‘I believe in you,’ when you say, ‘I need you,’ and when you say, ‘I want you.’”
Bob: Well again, that’s Ann Wilson, and I think a lot of guys would nod their heads and say, “Those are powerful words.” When my wife says, “I believe in you, I need you, and I want you,” that communicates a lot to a husband, and it motivates a husband to want to be the man that his wife believes in and wants and needs.
Dennis: I’m reminded of a book that was written a number of years ago called The Measure of a Man. It talked about how a man can measure up to how God views him in Scripture and kind of what his duties are. Well, I want to tell you something: a wife is a yardstick to measure her man and let her man know, is he leading the family?
Is he protecting the family? Providing for the family? Is he being a caretaker? Men do a lot of things that I think get taken for granted, and it’s a wise woman who knows how to pick those things out and just say, “That was wonderful. That was really good.”
Recently Barbara has mentioned a couple of times—she said, “Thank you for just being generous.” It’s just interesting how, as a man, those words ring in your heart. It’s back to that idea of being a yardstick. She reminds me of the truth.
Bob: You’ve been doing the same thing, reminding your daughters of the truth of God’s Word when it comes to being a wife, and you’ve been sharing that with others as well. Barbara wrote a book last year called Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, and there have been tens of thousands of copies of that book that have sold. In fact, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have read it and found it very helpful, and lot of people who are giving the book as a wedding gift to young brides.
We have copies of the book Letters to My Daughters in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order online at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” Ask about the book Letters to My Daughters when you get in touch with us.
I know that many of you are grateful for the wise counsel that you hear on FamilyLife Today—from our guests—from Dennis and Barbara—each weekday. Our goal here is to provide practical, biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family, and we want to be honest about that. We want it to not be sugar-coated—we want it to be kind of the unvarnished, real look at what marriage and family life is all about. But we always want to be pointing you back to the Scriptures, because that’s the source for help and hope. That’s where our help comes from and that’s where our hope is found.
We’re passionate about wanting to get this message into the minds and hearts of more and more couples all around the world. So we keep looking for expanded ways to do that, through our network of radio stations, through the Internet, through our FamilyLife Today mobile app, other ways that we’re trying to get this message out to more people. I just have to say thank you to those of you who partner with us in this endeavor as monthly Legacy Partners—those of you who, month in and month out—provide the financial foundation necessary for this ministry to be sustained.
If you’re a long-time listener and you’ve never joined us as a Legacy Partner, today would be a great day for you to join the team. Help us reach more people with practical, biblical help and hope for their marriage and for their family. You can do that by signing up online at FamilyLifeToday.com to be a monthly Legacy Partner, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and just say, “I’d like to be a Legacy Partner.”
We’d love to have you join the team.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow, when we’re going to hear some sage counsel on what to look for when you are looking for a future mate. The sage counsel is going to come from our friend Alistair Begg, so don’t get confused when you hear Alistair Begg on FamilyLife Today; okay? It’s him with us tomorrow—hope you can be with us tomorrow as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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