Thank you for your patience. Hopefully this answer to our “Living the Dream” post will be encouraging to you! As always my comments will be bolded and Liz’s will be normal.
As a husband, God has given me the responsibility to provide for and protect her spiritually and physically so that God will be glorified. As a leader, my role is to be on alert for what God is already doing in my family, especially when it comes to the spiritual gifts and providential abilities he has given them. Why? These are clues as to how God wants me to lead. If I am to maximize my families effectiveness for Christ, I need to know what they are good at and develop those things.
As a wife, I am called to be a strong helper to my husband (Gen 2:18). To bear his burdens and strengthen his heart with the truth (Heb 10:24). I’m Paul’s biggest supporter! This doesn’t merely refer to cheerleading (and if it did, I’d be sunk). Instead, it includes discussing, encouraging, confronting, and sometimes bearing emotional burdens. My goal should be nothing short of Paul’s success in his pursuit to glorify God with his life. Thus, it is imperative that I be aware of the goals and abilities that Paul has.
So here are some questions that have helped us think about these things.
What are my spouses providential abilities and spiritual gifts? Many struggle to answer this question, even after years of marriage. Ignorance here is not just ignorance of your spouse, but it is ignorance of what God is doing in your family. The first will make it difficult to love, the latter will make it difficult to glorify God in your family. Has God gifted your spouse in cooking? Singing? Crafting? Leading? Teaching? Comforting? Administrating? In hospitality? Look through the passages on spiritual gifts (e.g. Rom 12:6-8, Eph 4:11-13) and see which one(s) your wife or husband has and how they are manifested in their lives. God wants you to include those gifts in his plan for your family because he gives gifts and abilities to be used for his glory. My input here is going to be in the form of an excellent quote from Wendy Alsup’s blog, Practical Theology for Women.
“In I Peter 3:7, Peter is basically saying to husbands to continue in the example of Christ. The specific practical application he gives to husbands of Christlikeness is living with their wives in an understanding way. He uses several key words. First, there’s understanding. It’s sometimes translated knowledge. It means understanding who she is, what makes her unique. It’s not what the husband WANTS her to be, but who she is herself. That’s why my practical examples of what this looks like in our home are irrelevant. So what if my husband is willing to take a week off work so I can go study whales? The larger question is what are your own wife’s giftings and burdens? What is important to her? What would help her flourish? For what does she deeply long? Nourishing the soul is of much greater value than symbolic gestures.”
How can I encourage her/him in those abilities? Now that you know their abilities, how can you encourage her to pursue those spiritual gifts or abilities? The easiest way is affirmation. Tell your spouse that they are good at X, Y, or Z! Tell them that they made it into your prayers—that you praised God for them because they were hospitable, because they had a musical ability and etc. Sometimes your spouse won’t even know they have a gift/ability until you say something. After that, it gets a little more tricky. If they love to cook and have the gift of hospitality encouraging them might look like sending them to a cooking workshop while you watch the kids (rather than purchasing an “As Seen on TV” gadget perhaps : ). If her gift is in leadership, you might look for an organization where she could cut her teeth in an administrative role. (I know of a good one—the Church!). I know one couple in which the wife is very gifted musically and uses her talents for the church, while the husband watches the kids during the practices. Now that’s forward thinking.
As wives, I think that our role in supporting our husbands’ goals and abilities generally comes down to an attitude. Do we genuinely encourage our husbands in their pursuits or do we just “go along” with his plan. Wives have historically been called on to support the calling and ministries of their spouse. Wives have supported their husbands’ through the completion of advanced degrees, job relocations, military deployments, long work hours or small ministry paychecks. And there is a special strength required to both bear these burdens and also provide strength and encouragement to a husband. I think of the Proverbs 31:11, “the heart of her husband trusts in her.” Wives need to recognize the accomplishment of grace in their husband’s lives. Men need their efforts to really matter to someone (obviously, God cares, but wives can be the tangible voice of God’s approval). As your husband’s “strong helper” are you willing to bear the burden of his abilities and goals while also creating a relationship where he feel secure and supported. I believe that each marriage should be characterized by mutual love, respect and support. For wives, these qualities can be exemplified by being purposeful, reliable and loving so that their husbands can more easily fulfill their leadership roles.
How can those abilities and gifts glorify God? This question reveals the ultimate end of all abilities and gifts. They are to glorify God. An English degree can translate into a series of biblical children’s books. An urban ministries class can lead to aiding a church plant in Philadelphia. An interest in cooking could turn into a hospitality role within the church body. A gift of administration may lead to an organizational position for various ministries of the church. A love of writing can become a co-authored blog :) The only limit to this is your joint creativity and desire. Basically, any spiritual gift many be expressed in a myriad of ways. But no matter what the ability is, God has a way for it to be used within the body of believers (Rom 12:4). We must invest our gifts and abilities so that the dividends are paid to God’s glory.
Of course, the questions that we didn’t answer is “what if your spouse thinks that they are talented in an area where they are not?” and “What if the goal they are pursuing is unwise?” But, we’re saving that for later : )