Transforming Thoughts and Attitudes

What does a godly life look like? The Bible is full of answers to that question. Many books, magazine articles, and even movies have been written on the subject. If I were to boil it down to one sentence I think it would look something like…Humble yourself in obedience to God, giving up your ways for His ways.

My husband is not a believer. When we were first married I knew I had to be the spiritual leader of our family, because he was not, but I wound up taking the lead in everything. I think in some ways I devalued him in our children’s eyes and my own. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I thought I was doing the right thing. 

I regret to say that it was about 22 years or so into our now 37 years of marriage God really started to shake me up about what it means to be a godly wife. I was starting a small group for unequally yoked women. If I was going to lead, I needed to learn how to follow. Not something that this control-freak of a woman wanted to hear. That meant learning to follow God more closely and following my husband. Being married to a non-believer did not exempt me from being what God commanded me to be as a wife, including submitting to my husband. I had allowed myself to believe, because he is an unbeliever, I did not need to submit to him. Some of the women in our unequally yoked study group didn’t want to hear this, either. They just wanted the 12-step plan to fix their husbands, but all God [and I] were offering were the steps to growing ourselves into godliness.

We cannot change our husbands. We cannot choose salvation or anything else for them. We are not their keepers. We were created to be their helpmates. That word does not do justice to the original Hebrew words ezer and neged meaning helper and opposite or compliment  respectively. We were created to help, but also to compliment or complete the man. Before anyone starts getting upset with me let me say I am not being sexist. God created men and women to be different in many ways. We are designed to compliment and complete each other. That is the way God created us and why God said that a husband and wife become one flesh. Together we are a whole unit. We each have God-given roles to fill in the family. Instead of fighting that in the name of equality we should embrace our role as woman, wife, and mother.

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I could not grasp how I could submit to my husband when he was not a believer and he was not being the godly husband described in Ephesians 5. God told me that I needed to submit to hubby in everything, so long as it did not cause me to sin. That was a real eye opener and a real paradigm changer. God set me on a path to change my thoughts, attitudes,  and behavior.

It had taken a long time for us to get into the pattern of behavior we had toward each other. We were almost emptynesters and at times it felt like we were more like roommates than a married couple. 

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It was not an easy thing to make these changes. It took a whole lot of seeking God and perseverance. When God is at work we need to have patience and not give up (Galatians 6:9, 2 Thessalomians 3:13. I know, that word, patience, has become a bad word to many. I/We don’t like having to be patient, but it is one of the nine parts of the Fruit of the Spirit  (Galatians 5:22-23) and as such is a key component to godly living. God’s Word is full of commands to wait and be patient on God’s timing. His ways and His thoughts are not like our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yes, He loves us as we are, but too much to leave us where we are. Our words and actions in everyday interactions are the true witness to the power of God at work within us. We can try to witness to others (even within our own family) with all the right Christian lingo and Bible verses, but if our lives don’t match up with that it will mean nothing. The legacy we want to leave with our family and friends is one that shows how having faith and living in Jesus with Him as Savior AND Lord is The Way of Life.

The first thing I had to learn was to put hubby second only to God. He had to come first even before me. Jesus said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” Mark 9:35b ESV.

Next I needed to learn about my hubby. For example, hubby works a 50 hour week and needs his down time. When we were first married I didn’t understand that and I felt neglected and got angry. God taught me to stop thinking selfishly. He helped me to realize how my hardworking hubby needed that time to decompress after a long day. When I started looking at it as a gift to him and stopped complaining, he started spending more time with me, even if it is a fairly silent dinner or sitting side-by-side watching TV.

I learned that men bond in different ways than women do. Men bond side by side with other men watching a sport or doing an activity, while women bond over face to face conversations (and food). When I start looking at how God created us differently I stopped taking those differences as a personal offense and instead started learning to understand and embrace our differences.

I read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I could not get hubby to read it, but I did talk to him about what I learned from it and what I learned helped me understand him even more. I figured out that his love language is acts of service and mine are physical touch and words of affirmation. He uses his own love language more than mine to “speak” love to me. So, now I have learned to recognize, appreciate, and receive his acts of service as a gift of love, even though he is using his love language and not mine. It may sound like I do a lot of accommodating for him, but in some ways he does a lot of accommodating for me, too.

Confession time. I am a pack rat and not a very good housekeeper. I would rather do anything else besides clean house,  do dishes, or do laundry. Since I am currently a homemaker (as I pursue a speaking and writing ministry) I do not expect a lot from hubby at home with chores. When I make sure he has clean clothes and good food to eat, these acts of service speak love to him. I am still working on the clean and uncluttered home. I’ve discovered that clutter stresses him out and that is one of the reasons he will hide out in his den. If I want him around me more I need to be more diligent with keeping a tidy home.

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I once dressed up as a social butterfly for Halloween at work ( butterfly wings, and I hung a phone, calendar, etc. all over me). That’s me. A very social person. I like to talk. I like to do things and go places. Hubby is more of a homebody when he isn’t working. I have friends with whom I love to hang out. Some weeks I am out nearly every day. That’s out of balance. I know that. I am working on it. But it’s hard because it’s fun. Housework isn’t fun, it’s work. But when I start thinking about how it affects how hubby perceives my love for him, it should change my attitude towards it. I say should because it hasn’t translated into a regular course of action yet. 

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When God began working this all out in me our small group was going through a study on the dreaded Proverbs 31 woman (Proverbs 31:10-31). It definitely was a God-thing, because I didn’t like her very much. She just seemed too perfect. But as we went through the study I realized a few things.

1) A husband  needs to feel he can trust his wife to feel secure, especially in regards to fidelity and finances.

2) A husband needs to know his wife appreciates him and respects him.

3) A wife needs to look after the welfare of her husband, family, and her home (The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV). Instead of being the unattainably perfect woman we dread hearing about, the Proverbs 31 woman is a guide to us in how to be a godly woman and wife.

It’s all a matter of perspective and attitude. Our lives and our marriages are what we make of them. We can only change and control ourselves,  but when we change we will often see change in our spouses as well. This isn’t just a marriage concept either. I have seen it work with co-workers and my children.

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These changes and any other real, godly changes in me have all stemed from the fact that I am a child of God and I want to please and obey Him. It is part of growing in the relationship I have with Him. But I have to really want the relationship more than whatever “rights or attitudes” He wants to pull out of me, so He can fill me with the Fruit of His Spirit. If I want more of His presence I need to present myself as a humble servant, just as Jesus did when He humbled Himself in taking human flesh to serve us and die in our place.  Real, lasting change has to be in God’s timing and power. I fail miserably when I try to do things in my own power. I am too weak, but God’s power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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I had to learn to put away selfish desires and look at the needs of others first Philippians 2:4). It is a hard thing to shift from the “I am number one” attitude that the world shouts out at the top of its lungs to the J.O.Y. mindset.

Jesus first
Others
Yourself

Life in Christ is not about our rights, but about being righteous in His strength and power (2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 4:13). Isn’t it such a relief to know that God is okay with our weaknesses, because it allows His grace and power to work in and through us. It is a witness to others around us. But God also requires us to take a step in faith, in obedience, and sometimes even in fear and He will show up and help, guide, and strengthen us in it. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it IS worth the effort. And since God is completely trustworthy we can trust Him with the outcome of our obedience.

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Other things I am learning from our friend, the Proverbs 31 woman, are about setting priorities, money and time management. She is a hard worker and she makes wise decisions (v. 25-26). She makes their home beautiful and her family is well dressed (v. 21-22). She runs her household well and takes good care of her children (v. 27).

Part of this is making sure they are raised in a godly way. Making sure to instruct them in prayer and the ways of the Lord. This should come before extracurricular activities and those activites should not interfere with attending church, youth group,  etc. I have seen it too many times in the years I spent working with youth. The children of parents who allowed sports and other activities to take precedence over godly things were the children who wandered away from the Lord as they grew up. Our family activities centered around church, youth groups, etc. and family. Despite the fact they only had one believing parent all of our children are serving the Lord and raising their children to do the same. It is so important to raise them with the right priorities and help them to develop their own faith. That’s something else I have seen often. Children taken to church and Sunday school, but not taught prayer, reading the Bible or any other faith-building activities at home. We cannot rely upon church and Sunday school attendance to change our children alone. They need parental guidance and examples to form their own faith and relationship with God in Jesus.

Becoming a believer is not the end of the road, but just the beginning. We are made a new creation when we become a believer, but the transformation of our minds – thoughts and attitudes – is just beginning. But Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is right there to walk us through it, teach, correct, and encourage us on our way. Praise the Lord!

How is Jesus working in your life to change your thoughts and attitudes? Please share in the comments section.

Blessings and peace,

Julia

 

I welcome your comments. I would appreciate it if you would share this with your friends.

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