Your marriage might be broken right now. You are unhappy, and sometimes you ask yourself why you married him, and can it ever be better? Maybe you’re just resigned to staying unhappy, or you are packing your bags to be out the door at the first chance you get. Emotionally you have exited the marriage long ago. You think, “this can’t ever get better or heal.” You are shaking your head and asking, bring honor to my husband? Seriously?
Proverbs 31 is the go-to place in the Bible for a treatise on “The Excellent Wife” or “The Wife of Noble Character.” In verses 10 through 31, we have a myriad of characteristics of a Godly wife, one who brings honor to her husband.
This is one busy lady! Even in modern terms, this woman is multi-tasking in and out of the home, and managing the affairs of a busy household so that her husband has full confidence in her as he sets out to do his thing in the world. He’s respected, because “she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” As much as any 21st century woman who brings home the bacon AND fries it up in a pan, this lady has got her act together, and for it her husband honors her.
I plan to touch upon many of the Proverbs 31 Wife characteristics as separate posts (read Proverbs 31 here). The Proverb addressed the MANY ways in which we can bring honor to our husbands. I also intend to address individually each of the 1 Corinthians 13 “love statements.” Today I want to address the overarching issue of bringing honor to our husbands through not just our actions, but our tongues.
Verse 26 tells us “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
I have had the joy of facilitating a Beth Moore women’s Bible study called Believing. In one lesson she reviewed and expanded upon the many ways the Bible addresses the issue of the tongue. Do a Bible search here on “tongue” and “mouth” and you will yield hundreds of results. Perhaps the most famous of these is from James 7. Bear with me as I post verses 2-12 in their entirety:
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider that a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
I love how at first, we are reminded that we ALL stumble, and we ALL sin. None of us claim perfection. Each of us probably can think of a time… multiple times… when our tongue was “evil and full of deadly poison.” And although we can apologize and ask for forgiveness, we never can take back what is spoken. Think for a moment about negative or angry words spoken over you by a parent, a family member, or other close friend. You’ve not forgotten these, have you?
In my Beth Moore study we were reminded of the power of the spoken word. We may struggle with bad thoughts, but nothing is more powerful than the spoken word in its potential for destroying… or building up.
During a season of my marriage when I was extremely wise in my own eyes, and refusing to respect and acknowledge my husband as leader of our family, my tongue was evil and poison. My attitude backed up my tongue, and I know sometimes spoke the negativity and disrespect even as loudly as my voice. I had picked up a family trait called “sarcasm” and I could deliver a sharp remark that could cut the receiver to the heart. I was irritable and impatient all the time towards my husband. I expected my husband to answer a question a nanosecond after it had left my lips (while I could enjoy the luxury of days to form that thought/question… and more than likely the “expected/right answer”). The tone of my words could drip with disgust and distain and disrespect and irony, inferring that I thought my husband was an utter idiot.
And, I managed to justify just about every restless evil that was issuing from my cursed mouth. I told myself I only spoke “honestly,” and only in private (when in fact I had also begun subtly tearing him down in the presence of others by my dismissive tones, sarcasm, rolling my eyes, taking an opposing position, answering for him, talking over him, correcting him, refusing him a voice). I would go to God in prayer with that same mouth and ask him what to do about this husband of mine. With this same mouth I praised God in church, read His Word aloud. Although I tried to avoid the evil of gossip about others, I know that I still engaged in it “surreptitiously.” Seriously, few people who knew the “public me/we” would ever have guessed what a bitch I was towards my husband. I now cringe to imagine if there had been a video tape of my evil speech… Well, God surely has that tape, as did my husband.
“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing… this should not be.”
I had methodically been cutting my husband down over the years with my sharp tongue. My words had been reckless and had pierced him like a sword (Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”)
In my bid to revive and save my marriage, I finally realized that I had to tame my tongue. Even then, I was clueless to the damage it had already wrecked.
Thank God he gave me new ears and a new heart to help me hear my own words, tone, and attitude towards my husband, as my husband would have heard them. I wanted my husband to show me he loved me and desired me. But sinning in my anger, I had done everything within the mighty power of my tongue to drive him away. I had thought my words nothing more than a spark, but it had set the forest on fire and should have by all rights decimated our marriage.
I thank God for my husband’s grace and forgiveness; for his bravery to tell me just how horrible my tongue had been, and the pernicious disrespect he’d felt from me for years; for his boldness to tell me the things he needed from me to feel loved: Respect, Interest, Patience; for his forgiveness. And I now praise God for SJ’s leading, instruction, and correction to help me tame my tongue, for taking me in hand to make our marriage better. For helping me learn to support and honor his role as leader in our marriage. I thank God for allowing green shoots to stay alive within the charred and scorched remains of my husband’s soul and ego, and that out of this hellfire God could grow new life into our marriage.
Do your want renewal and revival in your marriage? Do you want an end to bitterness and discord? Do you want to build your marriage into a lasting and loving relationship? Do you want intimacy, tenderness, joy, and pleasure in your marriage? I wanted all these things. And there was one critical way to set these hopes into motion.
I had to tame my tongue. And I had to ask my husband for help.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up… ” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Above all, remember that love does not dishonor.