A woman of noble character: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31, verse 30.
My wife and I have been married for 23 years. When we got married, George (HW) Bush was president and gas was under $1.15. Back then, I was 50 pounds lighter; back then, she didn’t have gray hair where her part meets her scalp. The big movie that year was “Batman” with Jack Nicholson, and the New Kids on the Block were actually new while Donny Osmond was trying to make a comeback. At the time we were married, I was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, and the night of our rehearsal dinner we received orders to report to a base in Southern Italy that following October. We didn’t have kids, we didn’t have a mortgage (let alone our fourth), we didn’t drive a minivan, and we didn’t go to church.
And even then, God was at work in us. Even then, He was drawing us together. For both of us, in the years ahead we would learn about charm and we would learn about beauty. We would even learn how to fear and praise the Lord. It wasn’t a process that started overnight and it sure hasn’t finished overnight. In fact, it hasn’t finished at all.
Through it, I find that it is my wife who is to be praised. Today is the Tuesday of Holy Week. Yesterday was the day when Christ expelled the moneychangers from God’s house, cleansing it of impurities. We should do the same of our sins, ridding ourselves of bad habits and things that drag us down into sin. Knowing that, traditionally, Tuesday is when Christ sat in the temple and taught, then went out to Bethany to be anointed by his friend. It was the day when He taught the parables of the two sons, the tenants who killed the master’s servant, and the story of the man who tried to enter the wedding banquet. It was the day when He said that the greatest commandment of all is to love God then love our neighbors as ourselves. Finally, it was the day when He started speaking woes to people, grieving in public for the Divine love that would be taken from them because they rejected it. In the background, the conspiracy to kill Him had already begun.
My wife knows these things better than me. I’m betting she would tell you that she doesn’t know all the stories or the order in which they happened. Yet she’s heard them all through her life and she understands their lessons much better than I do. It’s the details she wouldn’t recite verbatim. I think that’s because she doesn’t need to. She is a woman who sees the world as it is. Details matter but details aren’t the whole story and sometimes not even the real story. My wife knows better than me how charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
She knows it better than I do because she has more freely trusted God in all things. It’s not that I don’t believe: I do. I simply acknowledge that she’s better at putting that belief into practice than I am. My wife can do this because she respects, listens to, submits to, and is a friend of the Lord. Again, I am those things as well, but in a different way. I see that she’s better at it than me. For a long time, I felt threatened by that. Isn’t that a stupid thing to be threatened by? That the person closest to me would be a stronger believer than me? It’s petty jealousy; got skin, got sin as our friend Patrick would say.
Yet it’s still the truth. She’s a stronger believer than me. I can tell you more of those book-smart things that happened in the Bible but she can better relate to you what they really mean. Part of our growing together has been the realization that we’re a yin and yang combination, that our differences together make us able to grow more alike as one. What I don’t understand she helps me understand; what she doesn’t know I’m able to teach. Through it, I still say she’s a stronger believer than me, and from this I’m no longer threatened. Instead, I’m proud to be one who can praise her for her faith. It’s a very real thing, and a thing very much worthy of praise.
That’s amazing considering that we have had our own struggles with prosperity. Any young couple wrestles with charm and beauty. We did. We’re people, we’re Americans and we’re free: it’s part of our culture that we’d become wrapped up in the pursuit of ‘stuff.’ The world beckons us, and to be fair, some of that beckoning isn’t all bad. But whether it’s property, wealth, position, clothes, possessions, friends or advantage, ‘stuff’ is (to me) whatever drags you down. Things can be charming at first, but the charm can hide an obligation. External beauty is a function of work and makeup; that which is of the world is bound to decay. When that happens, debt, distraction, and dissolution are things that can await you if you take your eye off the ball. I’d be lying to you if both of us still didn’t occasionally feel the pull of stuff in our lives. It’s easy to let bills, obligations, and desires for more things pull you away from what’s better. That tug is constant; it’s one of the enemy’s effective tactics. The trick is realizing that he’s tugging you with a rope around your neck.
Kudos, then, to my wife (anyone in fact) who’s learned that faith in the Lord is the antidote to cure this common poison.
So on this Tuesday of Holy Week, 23 years (this month) since we got married, I’ll raise a toast to my wife and acknowledge that I’m thankful to learn with her and from her about things that matter most. Namely faith, eternity, selflessness and love, then how to share those in ways that matter. God has been at work at us in each of the four decades in which we’ve been married. He’s at work in us still.