Kimberly Wagner: Have any of you ever seen the marriage miracle video from True Woman ’10 that told the story of my husband and I, of our story? Well, I am so glad that it appears to be a lot of you haven’t seen it. After I pray and introduce this session a little bit then we are going to watch that video again. I pray that God will use that in your heart and begin to open up your heart to hear what He wants to say to you this afternoon.
All right. Let’s go to the Father right now and ask Him to begin preparing our hearts for this session. I know you’ve been asking Him to prepare your heart for your time here in Indianapolis, but specifically for this session, what He wants to say to us today, all right?
Oh Father, it is so good to be in a place with thousands of women who are seeking Your face. And You, O God, the Almighty God, the Omnipotent, Eternal Ruler, You have orchestrated this weekend, and I thank You for that. You are gracious and merciful. I ask now that You would prepare our hearts for what You want to say to us—that You would speak to us.
Father, You know I have nothing good in me. I’ve nothing of myself to share. So I ask Holy Spirit, now, that You would fill me and that the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart would be acceptable in Your sight, Oh God, my great Redeemer. And Holy Spirit, would You speak through me what You want the ladies to hear and speak to each individual heart that’s here? Move across this room. Open our eyes to what we need to see in order to be transformed more into Christ’s image. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
God is so gracious. He is so gracious to be willing to work in our lives when we surrender to Him. How many of you could relate to that video? Have you ever approached the helper role like, “Well, I’m glad I’ve got this job. I get to help my husband improve.” How many of you have ever criticized where your husband chose to park? Or told him where to park? You know, it’s a parking space! What is the big deal? Why do we do that? Like they are a child and they can’t find their way, so we have to help them out.
There’s a common and destructive cycle that I’ve found to be prevalent in a lot of marriages, and I call it the “Fierce Women, Fearful Men Cycle.” We were caught in that cycle where a woman is strong. She may be extroverted or introverted, but she has strong ideas and opinions. As she exerts her strengths or her fierceness, maybe they are good desires, but that fierceness begins to warp into your husband’s worst nightmare.
As you begin to pressure him to either change or to follow your idea, then the husband can respond by just shutting down, by retreating into his own silent world, or he may just become passive and go along with whatever you say, and you have totally emasculated him. Or perhaps your husband, as you are exerting your fierceness, he responds in anger. And he can resort to physical or verbal abuse. There are many ways that the husband may react, but his reactions, if they are in either of those extremes, are wrong, just as a strong woman exerting her fierceness in a way that intimidates her husband is wrong.
So you may be here today and you may realize that “I am stuck in that cycle. I am one of those women. My husband is reacting in the way that you’ve described.” If you’re recognizing yourself as being stuck in that cycle, let me encourage you today. You don’t have to stay there. You don’t have to remain there. There’s good news. Our marital transition has been a journey of bringing down walls that divided us and building unity. I’m so thankful that because of the gospel, because of the work of God, that same process is available for every couple.
When my husband and I speak in marriage retreats, he’ll be off with the men (which I would love for him to be able to sit down and speak with each of your husbands). And when I’m with the women and I present this session, one thing I ask the women is, “When you walked in here today, did you think this is all my husband’s fault? Our problems are all his fault.” Usually we know that it is never one hundred percent one person’s fault. So I ask the women, “Are you willing to take responsibility for the percentage of the problems that may be your fault?" You may say, “Yeah. I’d say five percent of the hundred.” (Laughter)
So I just ask, did you hear me say in the video that I came to the place that I realized my heart was the problem? I want to challenge you to do something today. Are you willing to take responsibility and say, “My husband is not all the problem.” Are you willing to consider that?
Maybe we can just break the ice by just stating out loud—just making the statement—take a deep breath and say, “It’s not all his fault.” Would you be able to do that? Can we do that together? Take a deep breath. “It’s not all his fault.” Good!
I was at a retreat last year and asked the ladies to do that, and one of them just out loud said, “Well, I’m saying it with my mouth, but I don’t mean it in my heart.” (Laughter) So I hope that you do mean it in your heart.
So you may think, I know that it’s not all my husband’s fault. You may be struggling with the fact, “It’s my fierceness. It’s my strength. If I would just have a personality change.” Would you like to have a personality change? “If I would just become a little more quiet, less aggressive, less intimidating.”
What would you think if I told you that God created you to be a fierce woman? In fact, I think there is a little bit of fierceness in all of us. I think God created you to be a beautiful, fierce woman because strong women are His idea. I want us to see that in Genesis chapter 1.
So if you would, open up your Bibles to Genesis chapter 1, and let’s see this in verse 27. Genesis chapter 1 is just a summary account of the creation. Genesis chapter 2 goes into more detail. But chapter 1, verses 27–28 say: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
Now, I love the fact that first of all, he has this summary account. Because in those verses, what we just saw is that man and woman are both created equally in God’s image with God’s likeness stamped on them. They are of equal worth and value. They both were given an assignment by God to together rule as co-regents and have dominion over the earth.
I love that. Now they are both equal in worth and value, but we will see as we go into chapter two that they are given different roles to function in. Neither role is inferior or superior. Both are needed for the man and woman to cooperate together in harmony to fulfill God’s will for their lives.
So God created a strong woman. He created Eve, the first woman. Let’s see how He designed her in a certain way to fulfill His role for her. Look at Genesis 2:18. Now remember, I said chapter 1 was just a summary. And now we have gone back. It’s like a replay in slow motion and detail. Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone.’” Amen! I am thankful that He determined that and He said, “I will make him a helper fit for him.”
And so we see that God took Adam, and from that rib He formed the woman. Then in verse 22, “And the rib that the LORD God had taken from man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”
Now I love here in verse 18, it describes what we’re to be. “I will make a helper fit for him.” I love that noun. But do you know, when I was a young woman, I did not like that verse. When I read that word, “You will be a helper for your husband.” I thought, A helper? What a wimpy word. Helper? I don’t get to do anything important? I just get to help him out while he does all the good stuff?
But I love the fact that if you look in the Hebrew language, that word “helper” is also applied to God in description of Him being a helper to Israel. The helper role is not an insignificant one at all. It holds great and eternal purpose. In fact, the helper role, what I call it is “being iron sharpening iron” for your husband.
So we have been created to be strong women, to be beautifully fierce women like some of the women in Scripture—like Esther. Remember her? Courageously taking a stand for such a time as this for the sake of her people. Risking her life. Or what about Deborah, who led the armies of Israel into battle? And Priscilla. She and Aquila, her husband, they literally, Romans says, risked their necks for the apostle Paul’s life.
I love those fierce women of Scripture. They’re strong. They’re intelligent. They are committed to God, and they walk in humility before Him. I love that kind of fierce woman. That’s what I desire to be.
So we have seen here our calling, our design and our role is to be a helper to our husbands. But here comes that bad news when we get to Genesis chapter 3. Remember what happens there? In Genesis, chapter 3, Eve just couldn’t help herself, could she? She had to eat everything that she saw whether she was supposed to or not. So we see in Genesis chapter 3 that both the man and the woman were disobedient, and what came into place into the world was what we refer to as the “fall of man,” where sin entered the world and the world was completely changed from that point on.
Romans 8 says that the world is still groaning under the effects of the fall. We all still experience it because of that. We’re not going to read through that, but you may look at that later. There’s a lot of good meat in Genesis 3 to study and think about.
But look at verse 16 where because of their disobedience God pronounces this curse to the woman: “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Now that word “desire”—if you’re like me and you like to mark things in your Bible, you might underline that word because it’s a pretty significant word. It’s only used one other time in Scripture.
When I was, again, a young bride, and I would read that verse and see “your desire shall be for your husband,” I thought it meant, “Okay. I’m going to have this craving, this emotional craving for my husband or sexual desire for my husband that just can’t be controlled.” But that is not what that word is talking about.
Do you want to see the only other time it’s used in Scripture? Let’s real quickly look at chapter 4 and you’ll see where else it’s used in Scripture. Remember the first children? Remember Cain and Abel had a sibling spat, let’s say. And then Cain was angry. The Lord is speaking to him in Genesis 4:6–7: “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire . . .” There is that same word again if you want to underline it. “Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” And it’s the picture of sin wanting to control or dominate Cain. That’s what that word desire means.
So newsflash ladies, the flipside to the helper role is this ugly desire to control our husbands. It’s that attitude, “Well, I’m just whipping my man into shape.” And it’s ugly. We can kind of get on an ego trip sometimes to think, Well, I just need to control him. I know better than he does. And we treat our men, our husbands, like they’re our child or like we are the instructor and they need to learn from us, and it’s an ugly thing. But there is good news. We don’t have to stay trapped in that character trait. We don’t have to stay there. I’m thankful there’s victory at the cross.
So what I want to share with you today is a way to break out of the “Fierce Women, Fearful Men” cycle. If you have your notes, there’s a little acronym there—the Appreciation acronym. Gary Newman is a family counselor and a bestselling author. He performed a two-year study on why men have affairs. And what he found may surprise you. When the men that were surveyed answered the question, they said, “It’s not because of a sexual attraction to another woman, but it is because of an emotional disconnection from my wife.”
Remember what I said about my husband and I? We were just living like roommates. We were socially, emotionally disconnected from one another. Men said the number one reason they feel emotionally disconnected from their wives was because they felt under-appreciated.
Now ladies, please hear me. I am not saying if your husband has had an affair it is your fault. He is responsible for his sin. But I am not called to preach to men. I am not called to instruct men. We need to pray for godly pastors and teachers to be raised up to speak this message to men. So I am just responsible to share with you where our responsibility lies. I believe we are called to demonstrate true love to our husbands—the kind of love that is Christ-like love—the laying down of your life kind of love by showing them appreciation.
I’m going to run through this acronym quickly. But let me just say that I won’t be able to fill in all the content on that. But if you pick up the book Fierce Women, there will be much more of that content in the book. So let’s run quickly through this and see how far we can get, okay?
A—Admire and affirm. I believe this is at the heart of the helper role. A couple of years ago, my husband was talking to a man who was arguing why it’s better to just live with a woman than to marry her. He was divorced but he was living with his girlfriend. He kept talking about his ex-wife. He kept referring to her as “Miss Lucifer.”
He’d say, “Now, when I was married and I would come home from work, well, Miss Lucifer, she wouldn’t be greeting me at the door. When I came in, she would be griping and complaining.” And he used another word that I can’t say. Then he said, “But my girlfriend, now, when I walk through the door, she hugs me. She tells me what a great man I am. She kisses me. She has supper ready for me.”
She was admiring and affirming him. Now, ladies, I want to be the one that’s admiring and affirming my husband more than any other woman is. And you know, I think that is at the heart of the helper role.
P—Put yourself in his skin. What I mean by this is practice empathy. I think if we could bottle and sell empathy we would have the answer—there would be no more divorces. Empathy is simply climbing into his heart and mind to view the world from his perspective for a bit—to see what kind of struggles he may have faced that day, what kind of challenges—how does what I’m saying affect him? Am I making him feel like he’s an idiot? Or am I affirming or admiring him?
P—Pray like you mean it. Now if you have started putting yourself in his skin, that will help you in how to pray specifically for him. In the days of our marriage when we were at our worst, I would pray what I call, “God, get him!” prayers. Anybody else do that? Maybe it’s just me. They would be like, “Did you see what he did to me? Did you see how I’m being treated? Would you convict him? Make him miserable until he gets it right.” Do you ever do anything like that?
Well, I know God wants us to come to Him and pour out our heart. And yes, He wants to hear from us where we’re hurting, where we’re lonely, where we’re in need. Yes. But when we pray for our husbands, we need to intercede with hearts of compassion and burden for them—yes, to become all God wants them to be. But not in an angry, hand-on-my-hip attitude, but in, “Oh God! I know You love him, and he is caught in a net of sin. Would You show me how to walk with him through this in wisdom, in love, in compassion?” So pray like you mean it. Pray like you love your husband and you love God.
R—Releasing your prisoner. Now again, you may not have ever been guilty of this. But what I tended to do when my husband hurt my feelings—and that happened quite a bit in the first decade of our marriage, actually. Pretty much the first seven years was challenging to say the least. When he would hurt my feelings, well, I would put him in a prison, like “I’m going to punish you. You want to get out of there? You act right.” Do you ever put your husband in a prison? Yes. I’m encouraging you and challenging you today. Release him from that prison.
There’s a lot of things we can just let go. Let go of unrealistic expectations. Do you expect your husband to be able to read your mind? I was so bad about this. We would be on a trip—on vacation—I had romantic thoughts in my mind. He’s thinking about just getting there. I have my hand laid out there thinking he will want to hold my hand while we travel. And he’s thinking, I wonder where the best fuel price is. He doesn’t pick up my hand and pretty soon, I’m hurt. He doesn’t want to be romantic. He doesn’t have a clue what is going on with me. I start punishing him for an offense he doesn’t even know he’s committed. We need to let it go—these unrealistic expectations. I think, sometimes we expect our husbands to act more like our girlfriend than a man. So let it go.
Also, we need to let go of the “if only” thinking. Do you daydream thinking, Oh, if only I would have married that other guy. Or If only my husband was more like the man in my romance novel. True, but sad story. I know of a woman who, in the middle of the night as she’s reading her romance story, wakes up her husband and says, “I want you to read this paragraph right here. Why can’t you be more like him?” How do you think that husband felt? I’m sure he wanted to jump right in there and become like that guy. You know? So let it go. Let him out of that prison.
E—Encourage his leadership. Encourage his leadership. In order to help us to know how to encourage their leadership, it helps to climb in their skin, like I said earlier. And so, I wanted to do that. I wanted to see how men think and what they would say encourages their leadership.
I’m a writer on the True Woman blog. How many of you read the True Woman blog? Can I see your hands? All right. I hope when you leave this conference all of you will go and check out www.TrueWoman.com. We have many great blog articles. Nancy writes on there regularly; Mary Kassian writes on there; Paula Hendricks. We have a lot of great writers on there. There are many resources through that blog.
I did a blog post where I just asked the wives, “Will you go get your husband and ask him to fill out these answers to some of my questions.” One of my questions was, “How can we encourage your leadership?”
What some of the men said how we could encourage their leadership was . . . Let me read a few of those to you.
“Say thank you and mean it.”
One man said, “Watch for signals. We can’t always put into words what we are feeling.”
Another man said, “Just please hand out compliments. We like to know that we’re doing a good job.”
Another said, “Accept us. Stop trying to change us.”
One man said, “I just like to hear my wife say, ‘You’ve got what it takes.’”
Yes. That’s revealing. And ladies, I would encourage you to go home and ask your husband, “What could I do that would encourage you in your leadership role?” Ask him that. “What words communicate to you that I have confidence in you to lead me? What encourages you in that?”
C—Contentment. Contentment is huge in the marriage relationship. I think there is some kind of link between man’s role, his God-given role to provide, to protect and provide for the wife. I think there is a link between that role he has been given by God and him becoming discouraged when he sees you discontent or unhappy. Now it is not your husband’s responsibility to bring you happiness. We are not to find our contentment in them. So if you are looking to your husband as your source of contentment, you’re looking in the wrong place.
The heart of contentment really flows from having settled the three most important issues of life. And this could be a message in itself. But let me just real quickly say, contentment comes from 1) Acknowledging that God is God. He is sovereign. He is in control. And then number 2) That God is good. He is trustworthy. I can trust what He’s doing in my life—what He’s working—how He is allowing circumstances in my life. I can trust Him. And then 3) God is worthy of all my worship. And because I am finding my sufficiency in Him, I will be worshiping Him. So when you settle those issues and you are content, I’m telling you, that goes a long way in your husband being content in his role and how he’s living out his role.
I—Invest in him. Do you know just about any Saturday in the fall where you’ll find me? I’ll be right beside my husband as we cheer on a college football team. Or in March, I will be filling out the brackets for March Madness, for the NCAA tournament—basketball tournament. Do all of you fill out your brackets? Is that because I’m all about athletics? NO! In fact, if I was not married to my wonderful husband, I would be out hiking or biking a mountain trail in the fall.
But I have found out that as I invest in him, that means study him, get to know him, begin spending time doing activities that he enjoys. Now that doesn’t mean that you are to only do what he enjoys. What I’ve found is, after a few years of practicing that—and it wasn’t really years, but after a while of practicing that—my husband started doing some activities with me that he would have never done before. Antiquing? (Laughter) But he does. I think that investing in our husbands pays off. And we should do it just because it is a godly response to invest in them.
A—Accept him. When I married my husband, I married that man that you saw on that screen but not just that man, also the invented version of him that I had in my mind. I kept expecting him to turn out like that invented version, my romanticized ideal—the one that would spend late nights conversing with me through the night. But he’s normally asleep just after dark. Or the man that would cook gourmet meals with me in the kitchen, but yet it was more than a decade before he knew where the dinner plates were. So he was not that idealized version. I had to learn to accept him with his unique character traits and personality—that he is an introvert, I am an extrovert. There’s a difference there. But appreciate the differences.
Acceptance is something God has done for us. Now when I say acceptance, I don’t mean that you overlook sin, you ignore sin—not at all. There is biblical recourse for that. And really, I dedicate a chapter to that in the book, so I hope you’ll check that out.
T—Treat him like a man. Don’t expect him, like I said earlier, to act like your girlfriend. But treat him like a man and appreciate the masculine differences.
I—Intimate connections. When my husband has done a lot of counseling with men, and he and I do a lot of marital counseling, one thing we hear from men is, “My wife, she’s a great woman, good mother, good wife. But I’d like a little more of a wildcat in the bedroom instead of a wet blanket.” Out of respect for the men that are in the room because they are operating our audio-visual, I’m going to skip this section, but you can get it in the book, okay? (Laughter) All right. Let me just put this thought in your head. Where is your passion level with your husband? Okay? Check it out in the book.
O—Only a word. There’s a principle in Scripture that really we should live by in communication, and it’s Ephesians 4:29. I hope you use this in your home with your children, with yourself, that this is your standard of operating in communication. And Ephesians 4:29 says: “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth but only such a word as is good for building up [or edification and it’s good for the need of the moment] so that it will give grace to the listener.”
Proverbs 18 tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (v. 21). I fear that it is much easier—and I know it is in our natural state without the transformation Christ brings—to speak death-filled words than life-giving words. But that is what we are called to speak—life-giving words.
N—Never giving up. Take the word “divorce” out of your vocabulary. Don’t hang out with girls that diss your husband. Cut off all means of temptation for extra-marital relationships whether it’s emotional or physical—cut off the means for that.
My father battled lymphoma for ten years. The last four years of his life it was in his brain. We watched this hulk of a man—this highly intelligent man—lose his ability to walk, to bathe himself, to feed himself, to toilet himself. And I watched my mom, as his primary caregiver. We set up his bed in the living room. I watched her do all of those things for him, for years. At the cost of her own health at times.
When people would ask her, “Why do you keep doing this?” she would say, “I love him. I made a commitment—for better, for worse; in sickness and in health.” Ladies, never give up. I pray that each of you have the tenacity to go the long haul in marriage.
Now why? Why? Why am I talking to you about marriage? Why does it matter? Well, it matters because of this: Because the marriage relationship is that beautiful relationship, that beautiful picture that God designed and created to display His glory. Ephesians 5 talks about how Jesus is the Lover and Bridegroom of the Church. Your husband, yes, is to love you as Christ loves the church. We can’t make that happen. But we are to respond to our husbands in honoring them, in respecting them, loving them well, as the Church responds to Christ. Now if we’re not doing that, the world is not seeing an accurate picture of the gospel.
I shared with you in the video, and I cannot impress this strongly enough how God arrested my heart from a little girl. He graciously called me to Himself when I was five years old. I just wanted to tell everybody about Jesus. I grew up loving Jesus and with a passion for Him. And when I got married, I still loved Jesus, but I was not treating my husband in a way that demonstrated the love of Christ to the world.
And in Titus 2:3–5, and I really call that the biblical womanhood passage, there’s that little phrase. It goes through and it says, “Older women, you instruct the younger women to take care of their home, their children, to love their husbands so that . . .” and the King James Version is really strong in this “. . . so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed.”
As people are watching us and watching our marriages, do they see the glory of God displayed? What would happen ladies, what would happen if women became as passionate about showing the world what God’s love is like in how they relate to their husbands as they are passionate right now, maybe, about changing their husbands? What if you applied your fierceness that God’s placed within you to loving your husbands well, to appreciating him so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed; so that the watching world would be drawn to Christ? So that your relationship with your husband will become infectious and people will say, “Oh, my! I’ve never seen a marriage relationship like this. They are transformed. There must be a God.”
Then as it moves from your marriage relationship to your church, to your community, to the world, could revival happen? Let me pray for you for that.
Oh, God! We know You desire to display Your glory through marriages. You desire to call men to Yourself and to allow others to see Your transforming power. Would You do that in our lives? Would You accomplish that work?
Father, if there are ladies here that the Holy Spirit has dealt with their heart either in this session or any of the sessions this weekend, I just ask that they would not let this be an event that they enjoyed and experienced Your presence to some degree, but that we would repent of anything that You reveal to us and show us. And if we need to go home and ask our husband’s forgiveness or our children’s forgiveness or need to reconcile with a friend or a family member, oh God, would You pour out Your grace for repentance and allow us to obey what You call us to? We praise Your name. We thank You, Lord Jesus, for the cross. In Your name I pray, amen.