Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Honest and Respectful

Leslie Basham: For a woman to respect her husband, does it mean she can’t bring up any issues?

Mary Kassian: Marriages need to be built on honesty. I need to reveal what’s on my heart, and my concerns, but to do it in a manner that is not critical and condescending and bossy and domineering, not in a way that tears him down but in a way that builds him up and gives him the opportunity to say, “Yes, I will move into that space. I will take leadership in this.”

I have found, actually, over the years that my husband now respects my opinion so highly, I need to be very cautious because when I say something he listens carefully.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Monday, June 2.

Here’s Nancy to introduce our guest.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the very first page of the Scripture, we read this verse: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

We’re talking this week about what it means to be female, what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a woman after God’s own heart. Our guest is Mary Kassian, a friend from north of the border in Canada. She’s an author, a speaker, a teacher. She’s a wife. She’s a mom of three teenaged sons.

Mary, thanks so much for the ways that you have helped me to understand more of this subject, and for being our guest this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Mary: I’m glad to be here, Nancy.

Nancy: I think back to that Helen Reddy song, “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”

The world has had, over the last four or five decades, a view of what it means to be woman. There’s that image of strong and invincible. I asked you a little while ago, “Do women really feel strong and invincible?”

I think we laughed and said, “Not the women we know.”

Mary: Right. They’re just feeling burned out.

Nancy: Right. So I don’t think most of us relate, as women, to feeling strong and invincible. Yet there’s been that image that that’s what we’re supposed to be.

Then we have kind of this cognitive dissonance as we look as Christian women. We say, “But the biblical view is something that’s quite different than that. I’m not quite sure I want to be that.” Especially as we talk with younger women today, we’re finding Christian girls, women in their 20's and in their 30's who say, “I’m not sure I really want to be feminine because there’s a negative image for some associated with that.

Mary: There is. There’s a negative image with the whole word femininity because women have been taught—and this is actually a result of feminism. Women have been taught that femininity is something that is very weak, someone who is very passive, someone who wears pink and has lace ruffles and goes to tea parties and really doesn’t have a brain to think on their own.

That’s not the image that is presented in the Word of God. The image of femininity is certainly something soft, and yet it’s something very strong. There’s this strength in it, and the submission to the authority of the Word of God and the power of God really transforms women into beautiful feminine creatures.

Nancy: You grew up as one sister.

Mary: That’s right.

Nancy: With five brothers.

Mary: Five brothers.

Nancy: How did that affect your view of what it meant to be feminine?

Mary: Well, I grew up with five brothers and my parents were immigrants and worked very, very hard to make ends meet. My dad taught me many of the same skills that my brothers were taught. I learned how to swing a hammer and really grew up with a lot of skills where I can do electrical wiring; I can frame a basement; I can do dry walling, and I can do all of those types of things.

I think often when we think about femininity and when we think of the roles of men and women, we’re thinking that women do the tea parties and men do this other.

Nancy: Swing the hammer.

Mary: Swing the hammers, do the car mechanic-type activities.

But I think that the Word of God doesn’t really address those specific types of activities. It addresses more the essence of our being, our personhood, who we are. For women, it is just an attitude of receptiveness, responsiveness, the heart that respects authority, softness, purity.

  • The Bible says those things are powerful.
  • Those things can change the world.
  • They can change the heart of a wayward husband.
  • They can change the heart of an unbelieving husband.
  • The respect and the womanliness of our behavior is a powerful thing.

Nancy: Yet we tend to think naturally if we have that soft, womanly, responsive manner about us that we’re going to get run over, that this is going to destroy us. Yet you’re saying that it has just the opposite effect. It becomes our greatest influence and power.

Mary: It does become our greatest influence and power. In fact in 1 Peter chapter 3 it says that husbands can be won over without a word from their wives (see verse 1). The wives don’t have to nag. They don’t have to criticize and try to change their husbands.

Husbands can be won over without a word when they see their behavior, when they see the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and the reverence and the beauty, the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight. That’s 1 Peter chapter 3:1-6.

So the Bible really goes counter-cultural in terms of defining how a woman has the most power.

Nancy: Have you seen that kind of influence work out in your own marriage?

Mary: I have. I really am what most people would consider to be a very independent, very capable, competent . . .

Nancy: Confident.

Mary: . . . confident woman. I didn’t have a whole lot of insecurity-type issues going into marriage.

I’ve been married for 20 years now to my husband Brent. I have gone through periods, Nancy, where I have tried to control Brent and tried to be the one setting the spiritual pace in our home and trying to be the one taking control.

I have found that that has come from time to time, and the Lord has corrected me on that because when I have gone outside of the boundaries of the Lord’s will for who I am in my marriage, I have found that it has been counterproductive.

The very things that I was striving for were the things that I was destroying. I was destroying my husband, and I was destroying his character, destroying his ability to be who God wanted him to be in our home and in our family.

But when the Lord corrected me and I was able to take a step back and say, “All right, Lord. We’ll do it Your way. I submit myself in obedience to Your way.” It was just more powerful than anything. The Lord did the work.

Nancy: So practically—now you’ve been married 20 years—there have to be times when you have some sort of insight or conviction or belief about a need in your husband’s life or your family or how the parenting is being done. And you see it before your husband does.

Does this mean you’re not going to say anything? You’re just going to be quiet and wait? How do you engage with your husband? How do you be a helper to him in those areas—it may relate to the spiritual leadership of the family or practical decisions of the family. Do you just lie down and die? How do you live out what it means to be a woman, a godly woman, in that marriage?

Mary: Well, I think my responsibility as a helper, a helpmate, is to be a spiritual antenna sometimes and to address issues such as that. Normally, when I see something that I want to address or that I feel is a concern, I’ll pray about it first. That’s the first step, “Lord, am I right? Am I wrong?” Just bringing it before the Lord first.

Nancy: Let’s not just move too quickly over that step because that’s a huge step.

Mary: That is a huge step.

Nancy: When we bring God into the equation, we’re bringing the power, the supreme ultimate power of the universe and saying not just “Am I right or am I wrong?” but, “Lord, how do You want to deal with this situation?”

Mary: That’s right. And so do I speak now? Do I not speak? Is this an issue that You have revealed to me that I just need to pray about faithfully and consistently, or is this something that I speak about?

I have found that just taking care in that first step is really vital. Then if the Lord gives me freedom to just say yes, I’ll address something with my husband.

I’ll say, “Honey, there’s something on my heart and I have a concern.” I just lay it out because marriages need to be built on honesty. I need to reveal what’s on my heart, and my concerns, but to do so in a manner that is:

  • not critical
  • not condescending
  • not bossy
  • not domineering
  • not in a way that tears him down but in a way that builds him up
  • in a way that gives him the opportunity to say, “Yes, I will move into that space. I will take leadership in this.”

I have found, actually, over the years my husband now respects my opinion so highly that I need to be very cautious because when I say something he listens carefully. And he will evaluate it very seriously.

So I think that’s the fruit of many years of being a godly woman, that the influence I have in his life is so great. It’s a greater influence than had I come barging in with my opinion, my way, and tried to dominate him.

Leslie: That’s Mary Kassian talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about ways we can be effective, honest and respectful to our husbands. As we talk about biblical womanhood and the need to affirm and support male leadership, the question often comes up, “Does that mean I can’t say anything?”

Mary has addressed that question in very helpful ways. This is difficult to pull off for a lot of women, and a group of friends are here to discuss what it looks like for them. We’ll hear from Carolyn McCulley, Holly Elliff and Kim Wagner. Nancy’s here to get us started.

Nancy: Do any of you relate to that concept that Mary Kassian mentioned about people thinking that femininity is something that is weak, passive; you put your brain to sleep? Have any of you ever had those thoughts?

Kim Wagner: Oh, definitely.

Growing up as a teenage girl, I was repelled by the idea of femininity. Being a feminine woman, to me, denoted a brainless woman, a weak woman, “wishy-washy,” indecisive, without an agenda or plan. I did not want to be that kind of woman.

I had been given a warped or twisted perspective of what femininity actually is. I’m thankful that in the last few years, God has been changing my heart and opening my eyes.

Really, I think the basis of femininity is humility, Christ-likeness. That may sound funny; Jesus Christ was a man.

But I love how in 1 Peter 3, he directs women back to the example of Christ at the cross, God in flesh surrendering to the cross—the humility that that took. I believe that’s the basis for femininity.

So now I desire to be a feminine woman.

Holly Elliff: So maybe what we’re talking about, then, is having a feminine heart even though that may exemplify itself in your life in a lot of different ways.

Kim: I love how she brought out at the beginning of today’s session about that she can do drywall. She grew up as a carpenter’s daughter. I know that all of you have been to my home, and you remember when we were going through the building of that home.

Every bit of the woodwork in that home, I finished myself. I went to tile class to learn how to lay tile.

In doing those activities which some people may say are manly activities, I know that my husband and the men around me were not intimidated. Their masculinity was not stripped from them by me doing masculine-type activities.

I believe that we can do some activities like that, but in a feminine way or with a feminine heart.

Holly: Carolyn, I know your life is a combination of things that are not typically just feminine activities. But God has shown you how to have a feminine heart in the midst of those things.

Carolyn McCulley: I actually had to go through kind of a dual process. I grew up in rebellion against anything that smacked of being feminine. So I hated to play with Barbies. Anything that was just a girly thing, I didn’t want anything to do with it.

As I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve regressed and now I’m a big princess. I love tea cups, and I love going to tea houses and getting my nails done and all that kind of stuff. But it’s kind of more about pampering, I think, than it is about anything that’s feminine.

The point is that I had to learn by looking at Scripture, what Scripture calls a strong woman as opposed to what our culture teaches to be a strong woman. Our culture would say, “You’re strong if you are absolutely unyielding to anyone else.”

That’s a feminist slogan: “Uppity women unite.” If you are angry, if you do not allow anyone to invade your firmly established territory and boundaries . . .

Yet we see in Abigail a wonderful picture of a woman who was called first intelligent and then beautiful. In this account in the Old Testament, she has an opportunity to be proactive and not passive when there’s ruin being threatened to her family and when her husband responds unwisely to David and ungraciously to David and his shepherds.

Her servants come to her and say, “Hey, do something.”

Now obviously, she had already established herself as a woman of action and wisdom because they knew when they couldn’t get a wise response out of her husband to come to her.

She does not trade on her physical assets, although David, being a man, probably did notice that she was beautiful. She did not manipulate him emotionally. She did not come crying in tears.

So she didn’t use two things that we often think are traditionally feminine, and they’re caricatures really, to burst into tears or try to work your physical appeal. Instead she called him to God’s standards and she said, “When you become king . . .”

So she expresses faith in God’s plan and word that He’s going to make David king. “When you become king you do not want to be accused of shedding blood. You do not want to be sinning in this manner” (1 Samuel 25:30-31, paraphrased).

She calls him to a higher standard. Having shown respect by bowing low, she simply appeals to him to go for God’s standards, and then backs off.

And David blesses her, not because she’s beautiful, but because of her discretion. So that is an example of a woman who was bold, who had initiative; she was not passive. And she was thoroughly feminine in every aspect.

Nancy: We’ve done a whole series on Revive Our Hearts on the story of Abigail. It’s called How to Live with the Fools in Your Life because, as you remember, Nabal, her husband, his name actually means “fool.”

If you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, we have a link there to that archived series on Abigail. You can read the transcript or order a set of CDs from that series.

But, Carolyn, I’m glad you brought up the example of Abigail, because she is such a great picture of how a woman can exert godly influence in a way that is distinctively feminine.

I think there’s this sense among a lot of Christian women that if I live by the biblical mandate to be submissive, to have a meek and a quiet spirit, that means that in the context of my marriage my husband can be sinning, he can be making foolish decisions and I will just lie down and die. I won’t say anything.

As I talked with Mary a few moments ago, she talked about how in her own marriage to Brent they work this out, and how she is able to exert godly influence.

Kim and Holly, I’ve known you both a long time. You’re both joyfully married women, but neither of your husbands is perfectly sanctified or what he will be in heaven. They have faults and flaws as all humans do.

So I’d like to ask you the question I asked Mary a few moments ago. When you have an insight into something or a conviction where you feel like your husband perhaps is not seeing it from God’s perspective, how do you give input in a way that is wise, that is womanly and that is effective without usurping leadership from him?

Kim: Well, Nancy, let me first say that the first several years of marriage, I did not do it in that way. I definitely inserted my input but it was not in a way that I would say was feminine or godly. It was to speak my mind.

I thought being the helper to my husband meant I’m really to help him and he needs some help here, so I’m going to give it. So when I saw him making what I thought were foolish decisions, whatever the problem I saw in him or deficiency, I thought, “Well, I’m going to help him by pointing these things out.

Nancy: How did he respond to that?

Kim: My husband changed before my very eyes. The confident, happy, easygoing young gentleman that I married became a defeated, depressed, unhappy husband.

So I wasn’t accomplishing being a helpmate to him. Rather, I was stripping him of his masculinity. God has been so faithful to teach me from His Word, from the truth of godly sisters to teach me that when I recognize something in my husband, it may be an area of sin. It may just be a weakness or a flaw.

  • The first thing I do is I go to my knees in prayer. I seek God about this and I ask Him, “Is this something that You want me to even approach my husband with?”
  • Then if God affirms to me, I ask that He give me the words to use.
  • Most times I write it down first.
  • After I’ve written it all out, I wait a day or two. I wait a period of time and I go back and I reread it to see, “Is this written in a way to cause him to feel guilty or does it harm him in any way?”
  • After I’ve determined if this is what God wants me to say, if this is what God wants me to do, then I start seeking Him about the timing. I’ve learned that it doesn’t need to be when he’s hungry or it’s late or he’s tired or he’s stressed from his schedule. But I seek God about the right timing.
  • Then I ask God to give me humility of spirit as I come and share with him and talk to him about my concerns. I try to encourage him to step out in his role of leader and in masculinity to be able to go forward from there with the information I’ve given him.
  • If he doesn’t choose to do what I think I see as best or what I believe even God would have him to do, I release that to God. It has happened over and over again that once I do release it to God, that allows God to work. And God works on him rather than me.

Holly: Marriage is sometimes tough. There are difficult moments. There are moments when you and your husband aren’t going to see eye to eye. In raising eight children, Billy and I have had a few of those where we did not agree or we didn’t view our issues from the same perspective.

What I’ve realized is that even that is part of God’s perfect plan because God did not build me to be like my husband. He built me to be a completer of my husband.

What that means is there are some things that I am perfectly designed to bring into the picture so that Billy’s strengths and weaknesses and my strengths and weaknesses together can better bring glory to the Lord.

So what I see happening so many times in marriages is that that conflict has happened over and over and over. So finally the woman gets angry because she can’t express herself. The man is reacting to that, so he either withdraws or also becomes angry.

And there is very, very little real communication in that marriage. And communication becomes such a minefield that the woman is frustrated because she can’t express her heart. The man is frustrated because he’s getting no encouragement, no support, feels like his wife is doubting everything he does.

It becomes very, very volatile. Something that God meant to be redemptive and good becomes a minefield within the marriage.

Carolyn: There is absolutely nothing passive about being a godly woman. It takes a great deal of strength of character to decide to trust God for the promises in His Word in the way He says He will operate. It takes great strength of character to determine that you are going to master your own sin by the grace of God and not be mastered by it.

So (I speak as a single woman), I’m encouraged when I watch marriages like yours or friendships of other people where they are going to put God’s Word to the test and say, “I’m going to work hard at this. I’m going to engage in this battle, this daily battle, to master myself and my sin and to trust God to grow by the grace of God,” and to say, “This is worth the effort.”

Leslie: That’s Carolyn McCulley on the ways God can use us to encourage the men around us. We also heard from Kim Wagner and Holly Elliff talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the kind of speech that marks the life of a true woman.

You can learn more from some of today’s guests at a unique gathering this October 9-11 in Chicago. True Woman ’08 is a national women’s conference that will show you what biblical womanhood is all about.

Our guest Mary Kassian will be speaking along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. And our guest Carolyn McCulley will be leading a session for singles. You’ll also hear from Dr. John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall and many others.

Don’t miss out on this chance to focus on God’s calling on you as a woman to worship, connect, and pause from the "dailyness" of life, to learn what it means to live as a true woman. Make plans now because spaces are filling up. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959 for more information on True Woman ’08.

How do you change your husband into the person you want him to be? Mary Kassian will be back tomorrow to challenge that way of thinking. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Children: Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries, and our mom is a true woman. Yeah she is.

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