“I’ll surprise Judah and clean out that closet this afternoon,”
I thought to myself one morning as I made my daily to-do list. It was a spot that had been asking for some tender, loving care for far too long, and Judah, whose love language is organization (well, one of them), I was sure would be thrilled.
A good amount of tossing, dusting, and reconfiguring later, I was giddy to see Judah’s reaction to the closet makeover when he was finished with work.
It didn’t play out quite like I thought it would.
After getting home late following a taxing work day, he had to rush out right after dinner for an unexpected meeting. He returned at bedtime, exhausted and ready for his head to hit the pillow. Being the man of singular focus that he is (which I love about him), he didn’t even have time to notice the closet.
My expectations of laudation for completing this long-awaited project had gone down with the sun. Disappointed and slightly grumpy, I didn’t have the heart to point it out to him; instead I hoped for the satisfaction of him discovering it on his own in the morning.
As I laid in bed, Judah fast asleep beside me, the Lord cut through the sludge of yucky emotions and pricked my heart. What started as a task done in love had turned into a desire for my ego to be stroked. In my pride I wanted to be viewed as a perfect wife for the surprise of cleaning out that closet. My motives had turned from affectionate service to self-focused longing for praise. I knew that my kind Heavenly Father was revealing these wrong sources in order to get me back onto the joy-filled path of doing all for His glory instead of my own.
I’m going to take a wild guess that I’m not the only one who fights perfectionism in wifehood. The desire to be the best wife for our husbands is a good one—it certainly should be championed, not diminished (which, sadly, happens all-too-often in our western culture). If we’re not watchful, however, that good desire to love and serve our husbands with excellence can turn into striving to find our identity in being the “perfect” wife. We can recognize this shift has happened when rather than joyfully giving of our time and energy to serve our husbands (regardless of whether he notices) we find ourselves instead working for his approval. This leaves us discouraged and disgruntled when we don’t receive the reaction we were hoping for.
Here are three ways we can actively combat perfectionism and gain God’s heart for wifehood.
1. Remember that Our Worth is Found in Christ
First and foremost, we must remember that our worth is found in Jesus, not in how well we “perform” as a wife or in any other job description we might have.
When we are secure in our identity as a redeemed child of God, then—and only then—will we rightfully think about and live out our role as a wife.
Start by meditating on a passage (or passages) of Scripture that speak clearly to our identity in Christ (Rom. 8; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Eph. 2:4-6). This is the reality from which we are to walk out every other calling, including wifehood. When we continually recall that Jesus is our righteousness, our perfection, our joy, our hope, and our satisfaction, we are freed to be an excellent wife while also resting in the fact that it doesn’t define our worth. When we fall short, we know there is grace and forgiveness. When we face steep learning curves, we find hope in the sanctification that God is working in us. And ultimately, we remember that we are wives for the glory of God, able to humbly admit where we are not perfect and point back to His perfection instead.
2. Husbands and Wives are Mutually Sanctifying for One Another
It’s not easy to come face-to-face with our shortcomings as a wife. But when we realize that both of us are being used by God to sanctify each other, we can be sure that He can and will use even the ways we fall short as an opportunity for both of us to practice the “one another” passages in Scripture on a daily basis.
Christian husbands and wives are first and foremost brothers and sisters in Christ; this is the relationship that will last for eternity. We can tend to hyper-focus on the passages that deal primarily with marriage, but the foundation for a solid marriage is living out the commands that all Christians are called to practice with fellow believers.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”Colossians 3:12-13
When both a husband and wife understand this reality of mutual sanctification, there will be an abundance of grace for one another as we learn and grow together; cultivating an atmosphere of safety as we’re used by God to smooth rough edges and sharpen the strengths of our closest neighbor.
“Iron sharpens iron,Proverbs 27:17s
and one man sharpens another.”
3. We should always be growing
The foundation of a perfectionist mentality is pride, and pride keeps us from growth. Perfectionism makes us defensive when we are challenged to improve (because we’re disappointed that we’re not already viewed as perfect), and makes us sulk when we’re not applauded for our efforts.
Humility, however, cultivates a teachable spirit. It keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves, and frees us to serve and love with no strings attached. It fosters joy, because we aren’t serving for what we can gain or how we will be viewed by others, but simply out of love for God and those around us. Humility enables us to see where we can grow and take steps forward in doing so.
It is incredibly liberating as a wife to realize that it is a very good thing to always be getting better. It lifts the weight off our shoulders of maintaining a certain “standing” in our husband’s (or other’s) eyes, and it keeps us from the continual discouragement that comes when we see the many ways we fall short.
Ask God to help you reject the pride that hinders us from necessary growth, and embrace the humility that frees us to experience His grace to continually get better.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.””James 4:6
The “ultimate” passage on womanhood—Proverbs 31:10-31—begins with:
“An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” (v. 10)
It then goes on to describe the excellencies of this woman. If we are reading this through the eyes of a perfectionist, we will either start making to-do lists out of self-effort (quickly leading to burn-out), or fall into the “depths of despair” (as Anne Shirley would say) because it’s out of reach.
If we read this passage through the lens of verse 30, it all falls into perspective:
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,|
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Being an excellent wife starts with the fear of the Lord. We cannot be an excellent wife apart from God, because true excellence is the outflow of heart that has been transformed by His grace. This should fill us with such hope as we turn our eyes off of our insufficient, imperfect selves onto Christ and His glorious perfection. And as we do so, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Cor 3:18)
From one imperfect wife to another, let’s turn our gaze toward Jesus, finding our joy, identity, and fulfillment in Him.
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