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Over the years I have read many marriage books. But I have never come across one that was quite like Jen’s book, The Unveiled Wife. As many of you know from reading my book, Redeeming Childbirth: Experiencing His Presence in Pregnancy, Labor, Childbirth, and Beyond, I highly value that “Every Woman Has Her Story.” In fact, that is the title of the very first chapter in my book. Why? In a book about childbirth, why is the first chapter “Every Woman has Her Story?” Well, as I was writing Redeeming Childbirth, much like Jen, I had to re-live some painful and relationally hurtful experiences in order to truly redeem what I had experienced for God’s glory. Or rather, in order for the Lord to bring His work to completion in me, I had to undergo the raw heart work in writing and rewriting every experience. And it was through that process of sanctification, that His name was most glorified. My vision for Redeeming Childbirth greatly grew as I realized the power behind every woman’s story and felt led to empower other women to tell their stories, their birth testimonies of God’s goodness in the midst of all that can happen in this season in a woman’s life. That is why I appreciate Jen’s book so much. Because she shares vulnerably, from her heart, about the messiness of marriage from her experience. It’s her real life story. Part of the reason I was so motivated to share my stories in Redeeming Childbirth, and the stories of other women–sisters in Christ, was because as I looked through scripture, what I saw was stories of ordinary men and women, just like us. I saw stories and testimonies. I saw confession of sin and repentance. I saw sacrifice, pain, suffering, loss, tragedy, and mourning, as well as joy, strength, wisdom, endurance, faithfulness, grace, hope, mercy, and love. God’s word is full of stories of those who have gone before us, so that we might learn and be encouraged.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness –2 Timothy 3:16, ESV
So in honor of #BeingUnveiled, which is the theme of Jen’s book, I have been inspired to share with you some of my “ugly.” I have shared a lot of the good, the bad, and ugly truths I have learned and experienced on the journey God has me on, but today, I am going to share something that Jen’s book has inspired me to share. In her book, she talks about jealousy towards other women and her husband. I could SO relate on that topic though, my story is different than hers. Since my good friend has put herself out there on the line talking about hard topics like sex, pornography and all kinds of other intimate issues, I am feeling inspired to do the same. So, buckle your seat belts folks, these next few weeks I may be writing on issues that I haven’t before. I’m digging deep into my journals from the past as a newly married wife.
The Jealous Wife
Before I met and married my husband, I was full of life, living a life of adventure going to University in Canada, serving in missions internationally in Turkey and in Mexico during my summers. I worked hard, knew my purpose in life and was living focused and on a mission. You could say, I was pretty content it just being me and Jesus. I guess you could say that what Jen shared in the video interview about how she thought she was close to perfect, pretty much described me too. Then I met, and later married my husband. I struggled throughout the courtship and engagement, because I knew that marriage to Isaac meant that we would be missionaries here, not overseas. He was certain God had called him here, to be a missionary right where God had planted him in the middle of the rat race in business. He was an entrepreneur, and worked his heart out giving it his best, while I struggled, dissatisfied, discontent, and lonely. After having called off the engagement a couple of times, believing in my heart God had called me to full time missionary work, God and I had an encounter. It’s not really an experience easily put into words. But to put it bluntly, God humbled me. He pointed out my sin. God showed me that I was jealous for control over my life. I was a strong woman, I was independent and tough. I craved the satisfaction from experiencing His presence in doing something so selfless, for His glory. But I had put the position of missionary on a pedestal, and thought I could only experience Him in one profession.
God taught me that marriage is a high calling, an opportunity for sanctification, and one way His glory shines bright in this dark world. Click2Tweet
God gave me the vision of an olive branch and a vineyard while on a trip in Europe before Isaac and I were engaged. As we drove through the country side, we learned about history and heritage, God spoke to me through John 15, where in verses 15-17 Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” This verse may not seem clear to you with regard to hearing the Lord say, Angie, get married. But you have to understand that as I was desperately trying to understand what the call to marriage was supposed to be, I had a very different idea in my mind. The thought of giving up my dream for another’s? The thought of not being in control of my life? Then when I began connecting the dots between heritage, history, legacy, and bearing fruit that should abide, it occurred to me that marriage and motherhood is missionary work. In fact, it’s exponential, right?! But that conviction, didn’t create change in my heart with regard to the sins of selfishness, and a spirit of independence that I brought into my marriage. Over the next few years I really struggled. I was angry towards my husband at times, blaming him for my current life circumstances, which at the time looked pretty pitiful compared to being a missionary. I was jealous that he would go to work early and come home late. I was jealous that he had the opportunity to make impact, while I was at home pregnant or feeding babies. Isaac traveled a lot and spoke at conferences, and I would get so angry with him for leaving me with the little ones. Aside from being scared while he was gone, I would cry myself to sleep most nights, and dwell on the worst case scenario. Like Jen shared, I felt abandoned. And in the night, when your husband is alone, like Toby Mac says, “And when your head hits the pillow at the nightfall, You can bet your life that its gonna be a fight ya’ll.” Because I had often had a heart full of jealousy and anger towards Isaac for leaving us, and ultimately for taking away my opportunity to serve God the way I had dreamed, I felt the guilt of the sin in my heart. And that guilt and jealousy led me to become jealous of the other women that were at the conference and also to distrust my husband. I was fearful that he would cheat on me, though he had never given me any reason to doubt him. I lied in bed, balling my eyes out in a puddle of tears in my pillow calling him over and over again to only get a voicemail, and my imagination would take my thoughts captive. I began to believe lies that could have only been from the enemy. And then, by the time my husband would call or come home, I was even more mad at him, as if he had cheated on me when he hadn’t. It wasn’t until we finally began getting really involved in church and developing deep friendships with others in our season of life and older than us, that I began to catch the vision for the ministry I was placed in by God in marriage and motherhood. I was blessed to have a few beautiful women in my life to model for me what being an intentional homemaker, wife, and mother looked like, but in my heart I craved something more. My heart ached to be appreciated, loved, and listened to. But the reality is that God was refining me and showing me that I really didn’t have my full identity in Him, in the gospel, if I thought I had to do something or be someone. I had made an idol out of being a missionary and God knew that in order for me to know Him more fully, I had to experience more of what selflessness looks like. In some ways, being a missionary would have been easier for me. But as a woman who landed into the stay-at-home role by default, I struggled to find my worth. It isn’t a role that is highly valued in society.
I would fall into the enemy’s comparison trap, finding myself jealous of my husband and the respect he got for what he did for work, and frustrated by the disrespect my role received from so many. It wasn’t until I surrendered to Christ’s call on my life into the mission of marriage and family, that I began to experience the refinement of what it meant to lay down one’s life for the sake of another. It is a constant, daily surrender that sanctifies and cleanses me of my sins, my selfishness and pride, because it is the job that doesn’t get recognition. Sometimes you get an unprompted thank you, and once in a while you get a surprise bouquet of flowers, but mostly, wives and moms get the opportunity to grow a servant’s heart, that doesn’t look for praise.
God wants us to love and care for others without the expectation of recognition or reward. Click2Tweet
Over the last fifteen years of marriage, I have seen the competitive struggle within myself. I have seen myself desire to be the one to go to work. I have instigated those arguments with my husband, where I have yelled, with tears streaming down my face, you don’t know what it’s like to be home all day every day. I realize now, more than ever, that what that revealed in me was an ugly jealous sin. And it revealed a lack of identity firmly rooted in what Christ had done for me on the cross. His life and death gave me purpose all those years ago, but I hadn’t actually accepted the truth that Christ chose me, for me, not for what I do for Him.
My jealousy of my husband’s career and influence, was really a reflection of my lack of identity in Christ. Once I realized that the problem wasn’t going to go away or get better until I took personal responsibility for my sin, everything began to change.
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I hope you will come back for next week for the rest of my story when I share 3 Key Characteristics & Exercises to a Thriving Life-Long Marriage. Click2Tweet
Jennifer Smith began UnveiledWife.com, a web-based ministry for wives, in March 2011. She publishes weekly marriage articles including encouragements, devotions, and prayers of the day. She authored The Unveiled Wife, Wife After God, and 31 Prayers For My Husband. She is passionately devoted to encouraging wives all around the world to develop God-centered marriages. Jennifer and her family reside in Central Oregon.
Social media is a large part of Jennifer’s ministry for Unveiled Wife via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, where she serves a community of over 450,000 wives. Connect with Jennifer on social media @unveiledwife!