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[God's Design for Building Your Marriage 8] God's Design for Life Priorities

Wisdom from the Word

Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised.

Proverbs 31:30 (NET)

Understanding God’s Design

Assignment—For the next week, keep a chart of how you spend your time. Just take the chart at the end of this lesson and put it out in your home somewhere, perhaps on the refrigerator or beside a chair where you often sit down. (Assuming you can ever sit down!)

God’s priorities for you as a wife and mother are these: 1. Your relationship with God; 2. Your role as a helper to your husband; 3. Your children; 4. Your ministry. However, ranking these does not adequately explain how this really works. We cannot just choose God and neglect the other aspects of our lives. As believers, we are to be involved in all of these areas of life. Balance is an important concept, especially when partnered with the idea of priority. We are all to be involved in ministry in our churches; there is no option. However, the way that balances with our family relationships depends upon the needs of the people in our lives.

Our first priority is to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Mark 12:30). That is the first and greatest commandment. Whenever your priorities are out of order, you will be placing something else above God and that is idolatry. When you have God at the forefront of your life, it is much easier to put everything else in place for He gives us the love and devotion we need for our families and the abilities for our ministries.

We have already seen throughout this course that our marriage relationships are the most important relationships we have on earth. Time with our husbands builds the “one flesh” relationship of God’s design. The strength of that relationship impacts our children. The greatest security you can give them is a loving marriage. We must put time with our husbands before our time with our children. Someday your children will leave, and it will come much sooner than you expect. Your relationship with your husband must still be intact because it will be just the two of you once again.

Originally, I listed “home’ as the priority after children. Actually, what you do in your home is an extension of your ministry to your husband and children. What kind of order do they need as they seek a place of peace for work and study? What this means varies from family to family. The goal is not a Southern Living home but a home where people are more important than perfection. Remember the principle of being the helper; we are to adjust to our particular families. Remember, God has given the married couple jointly the instructions to rule the earth and create family—work and family. We work together to create a true home for our children. It is not the wife’s responsibility alone.

I like what Jani Ortlund says about the atmosphere of our homes.23

I believe that a godly home is a foretaste of heaven. Our homes, imperfect as they are, must be a haven from the chaos outside. They should be a reflection of our eternal home, where troubled souls find peace, wary hearts find rest, hungry bodies find refreshment, lonely pilgrims find communion, and wounded spirits find compassion.

                Jani Ortlund

Your own family is your primary ministry; yet, we are all called to minister within our local church (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10, 11). Again, how does this balance out? Ministry will always involve some sacrifice to both yourself and your family. However, it must be sacrifice that does not cost them more than they should bear. It must never become more important than they are.

My outside ministry was minimal when my children were small and grew as they gained more independence. Eventually when they were teenagers, I traveled around the country several times a year, teaching others how to study the Bible and lead classes. That meant that I would be away from my family for four days at a time, not there to deal with problems, etc. that came up. There were times when I missed my kids’ swim meets. I wasn’t there to cook or clean (but I did leave everything in order). However, Gary and the kids were my biggest encouragers in this ministry. I had their unqualified support. Sometimes I did return home to find Gary annoyed that he had to deal alone with some problem. If so, I would remind him that I was happy to stay home and not do the workshops anymore. That was not his desire; he merely wanted to vent his frustrations to me. Once he had, we went forward. My ministry was always secondary to my family. When I knew the kids’ schedules in advance, I would not plan to interfere with an event in their lives. When Gary had a chance to play golf for the weekend or he wanted us to do something together, I stayed home. I never accepted more workshops than I felt I could do with my family as my priority. The best thing about traveling was the appreciation that they felt for me in my absence. There is something to be said for leaving every now and then!

What does God say about managing our homes?

Proverbs 31 describes the kind of wife that the king should seek. It is not a job description for marriage but a character description of a strong woman. (The word translated excellent means strong or valiant!)

The Proverbs 31 woman was never a favorite of mine! I knew that I could never be as wonderful as she. She does it all: her own business, home, children, husband; she even works out! It was so freeing to me to see that she wasn’t doing all these things every day. I learned that it is her character rather than her activities that transfer from the culture of that day to our own. In that culture a strong woman would live out godliness in the ways listed. However you and your husband choose to fulfill your God-given mandate to work and to raise family (Gen. 1:26-28), your character must parallel hers.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31.

    1. List what the Proverbs 31 wife does for her home and family and then the character qualities indicated by that work. How do you show that character quality in the 21st century? Use the first person: I must . . .

Example: She works with her hands, making cloth (v. 13, 19) and clothing her family for the cold (v.21). I must be industrious and faithful to care for the needs of my family.

    2. How are you doing with these character qualities? Write down one area of needed improvement and one way you will work on it beginning today.

I love the fact that God gives freedom in marriage for each couple to work together and work out their own job descriptions. Many of you have chosen to be the primary household manager so that your children are raised well.

    3. If your primary responsibilities are in your home, what reason is given in Titus 2:3-5 for fulfilling all the responsibilities listed?

What is a “homemaker”? The literal word means “a keeper at home, one who looks after domestic affairs with prudence and care.”24

    4. How does the Proverbs 31 wife exemplify this kind of character?

Notice that the Proverbs 31 wife has a business and brings in income for her family. She is an astute money manager. I believe this passage is consistent with a woman having a paying job outside the home, if you and your husband agree. Each couple must decide how to fulfill God’s two primary instructions: to work and build family. But remember that family needs always trump work—for both of you!

Memorize the Word of Wisdom for the week and commit to fear the Lord.

Building Your Marriage with God’s Design

How are you doing as a homemaker? I hate the term “housewife”. I am not the wife in the house, but the woman making my house a home in every way. This applies to all women, whether they work outside the home or not.

    5. How are you doing in your task of making your house a home? What do you need to do to look after the domestic affairs with prudence and care? Is there any area where you are being careless?

As your husband’s helper, you need to consider his personal needs rather than your strengths. Perhaps you hate to cook but that is important to his well-being or perhaps to your family finances. You need to come up with a plan to improve in this area. If he needs order, you need to begin to put things in order for his sake. As the helper you must be the one to do the adjusting.

I remember visiting my sister when our children were young. In the late afternoon we would pick up all the toys and activities strewn all over the house because it was important to her husband that everything be orderly when he came home. She would have preferred spending time doing something more fun, but she adjusted to his desires.

    6. Married women: What is important to your husband in the home? What does he need provided in order to feel a sense of peace in the midst of chaos?

There was a point when I was constantly annoyed when I had to pick up after Gary. (This was not even daily, but I still got annoyed!) Then, I read Col. 3:23-24. Although it is in the context of slaves submitting to their masters, it applies to work in whatever form it takes: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” I began to apply those verses to my marriage situation; whenever I started resenting some of the repetitive or dirty work required to make my house a home of peace, I remembered that I was doing this for Christ. He delights when I work with my whole heart, however tedious or distasteful the task.

    7. Name one homemaking task that you resent. Write a prayer giving that chore to God. Ask Him to remind you whenever you begin to complain, even in your heart, that you are doing it for Him.

    8. What one tip for better home management do you have to share?

I received a book from a friend when my daughter was born. The authors suggested that mothers can feel a sense of accomplishment every day by simply making the bed. I lived by that principle and still do today. Despite the disasters and mess that the rest of the day may bring, I can see that one thing had been finished. Many times that has been the only thing I actually see accomplished in an entire day!

Go back and review the list of priorities on the first page of this lesson. Consider how balanced your life is and how the list of priorities affects it.

Read Luke 10:38-42.

Try to read this story as if you had never read it before.

    9. Why was Martha upset at Mary according to her complaint to Jesus (v.40)?

    10. What was Martha’s serving doing to her (v.40, 41)?

    11. For what reason did Jesus commend Mary (v.42)?

It is usually clear when I have begun to substitute service for devotion to God. I have little patience with others. I start feeling stressed rather than resting in God. I am definitely not at peace within or with others. As things go wrong, I grow upset and out-of-sorts.

    12. Consider your own service, even what you give to the Lord. Is it in the right priority in your life? How can you tell? If your priorities are out of whack, write down your plan to correct it.

By this point in this lesson, you should be getting close to the end of the six days of charting your activities. If not, wait until then to continue and answer the rest of the questions in this lesson.

Take the time to consider your priorities as revealed by your schedule. Also consider where you might be wasting time or spending too much time. Think about these questions. Remember our lesson on adorning ourselves with a gentle and quiet spirit rather than adorning ourselves outwardly? How did you do when you compare the time you spent on your grooming and exercise with your time with God? Did you focus this week on people or things? What priority does God have in your time? How much time did your husband get?

    13. What one area of your life, according to your record of time, needs the most work? Write down in the first person what you will do this week to improve that area.

Years ago I read Anne Ortlund’s book The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman.25 She does a wonderful job making suggestions about simplifying wardrobe and make-up. She describes her planner that has sections for a journal and an organizer for her schedule. The book gives ideas for placing priorities in order. If you need help in any of these areas, I recommend you read her book.

Parenting with God’s Design

You are responsible to teach your children to care for their own areas of your home and to manage their time with the priorities set out in this lesson. They must learn that their work is done for the Lord, not man.

    14. What will your children learn about priorities by watching you? Think about ways you spent your time this last week according to the record you have kept.

    15. How are you teaching your children to care for the things that God has given them? How are you teaching them to manage their time?

My mother usually picked up our things for us. Rarely did she make us look after our room or our belongings. Once every few months, we had a huge organizing time for our closet and room, and we did help. I think it was just easier for her to do it herself than it was to make us do it, but it was not the best thing for us. We needed to be totally responsible for our room and our possessions. As moms, we love to do for our kids but we may inadvertently handicap them. If you have anyone who comes to your home and cleans, consider how to teach your children to care for their things and to keep their rooms. Perhaps your cleaning service needs to skip their rooms and baths and only help you with your needs. Are you teaching them to care for their clothes?

An older friend once told me that she was concerned that if God called her daughter to missions, she would be unable to go because she was so spoiled. It really gave me something to think about. I know that my children are spoiled compared to the world, but I did try to force them to learn to do for themselves and to wait for possessions rather than expecting me to provide for their every desire.

Wisdom from a Mentor (Lisa)

With a BBA in Management/Marketing, I couldn’t wait until I got married, had kids and began to manage my household. I would always laugh on the outside when moms called themselves, “Household Engineers,” but on the inside I was saying, “That’s me! That’s me!” Anyway, I started to think that I was possibly running too tight a ship when the following scenario took place.

My husband and daughters were very involved in the Indian Princess program at the YMCA. They looked forward to the monthly meetings, the turkey shoot, Christmas parade and yes…THE CAMPOUT. It was an Indian Princess ritual for the dads to pick the daughters up early from school on Friday afternoon and caravan to the campgrounds. My precious little one could hardly sit through 1st grade that day knowing that her name would be called over the intercom saying, “Come to the office, your daddy is waiting for you.”

Well, it was such a day when my husband arrived early to school and approached the office with that gleam in his eye. He managed to leave work on time, pack the car, change clothes and get to school before the other dads. He was a proud man. He smugly went to the office and announced that he was here to pick up his daughter. The lady in the office, not the usual receptionist, asked him, “Who is your daughter’s teacher?” My husband looked at her with a smile and said, “Well, uh, it’s uh, you know, it’s only October and I haven’t gotten to know her yet, so, uh, could you just check?” The aide, slightly embarrassed for him, said, “Sure, what grade is she in?” My husband must have looked like a deer in headlights when he realized he didn’t know the answer to that question either. “This is terrible,” he said, “I should know these things!” “Would you like to use the phone and call your wife?” asked the aide. “No!” he said immediately. “That won’t be necessary!”

Since I was the president of the PTA, he would pull his eyeballs out, shove nails up his cuticles and walk on hot coals before he would allow that phone call to go through. Suddenly another dad showed up and he was able to redeem himself by happily letting the other dad go ahead of him. “1st grade…that’s it!” “She’s in 1st grade!” Well, the excited 1st grader was “finally” called down and the campout was a huge success.

After hearing this story, from many people, I decided that I would communicate and manage my household a little more openly with my husband. Even the obvious is not too obvious sometimes.

Summing It Up

    16. Explain the importance of “making a home” as you would to your children.

    17. How has God spoken to you this week?

 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Midnight-1:00 a.m.

           

1:00-2:00 a.m.

           

2:00-3:00 a.m.

           

3:00-4:00 a.m.

           

4:00-5:00 a.m.

           

5:00-6:00 a.m.

           

6:00-7:00 a.m.

           

7:00-8:00 a.m.

           

8:00-9:00 a.m.

           

9:00-10:00 a.m.

           

10:00-11:00 a.m.

           

11:00-Noon

           

Noon-1:00 p.m.

           

1:00-2:00 p.m.

           

2:00-3:00 p.m.

           

3:00-4:00 p.m.

           

4:00-5:00 p.m.

           

5:00-6:00 p.m.

           

6:00-7:00 p.m.

           

7:00-8:00 p.m.

           

8:00-9:00 p.m.

           

9:00-10:00 p.m.

           

10:00-11:00 p.m.

           

11:00-midnight

           


23 Ortlund, 147.

24 Zodhiates, 1033.

25 Anne Ortlund, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1977).

Related Topics: Marriage, Curriculum