I hope this series encourages people. I hope it spurs women to be the wives God calls us to be. I hope it brings clarity to our roles in marriage.
But I also hope women aren’t discouraged. I know we’re talking about this “better wife.” I also know its easy to fall short of this facade that she seems to be touting. While the Song does set the standard and explains God’s heart towards marriage, it doesn’t negate the humanity of spouses. Rather, in chapter 5 bleeding into 6, Solomon addressed how our fallen nature impacts marriage. He lets the inside, ugly parts of the wife show and gives insight on how to handle conflict.
So if you’re feeling you don’t measure up in your pursuit of intimacy or sexuality, take heart and keep reading. We can be better wives in and through our shortcomings.
A better wife is still a human wife.
Even after knowing the glory of marital sex, we can still avoid it. Having phenomenal husbands doesn’t mean we don’t reject them at times. Being a good wife isn’t the same as being a perfect wife.
Song of Solomon 5:2-3 explains this “perfect” couple’s lack of perfection. The woman in the Song says, “I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling: ‘open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of night.’ But I responded, ‘I’ve taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them soiled?'” In essence, what is happening here is her husband gets home late from work, but he’s primed and ready to go. He says as he smacks her on the butt, “hey, babe, ya wanna?” She just was dealing with his unruly children all day, cleaned the whole house, cooked when she didn’t want to, and would just like to relax and unwind. So she snaps back at him, “I have a headache.” Solomon puts it more eloquently, but you get the point.
It could have been written that she had a deep conversation with her husband in that moment how she would be more than willing to meet her husband sexual needs if he would also cater to her emotional needs. Or that her husband wouldn’t press her seeing how tired she was. Or that she would jump at the opportunity to engage in physical intimacy. But it wasn’t. It was written out in the Bible, in this perfect marriage, that rejection in marriage is common. It wasn’t said that it was right, just that it is something that happens.
The vast majority of women I know put unachievable standards of perfection on themselves. We think we can simultaneously be the perfect wife, the ultimate mother, the best cook, the humble disciple, the hardest worker, and so much more. Yet we aren’t accounting for our humanity. We will fail. This is natural. When we juggle so much and put such high standards on ourselves, the only way we really can go is down. We need to do our best and simultaneously remember we can’t achieve perfection.
The better wife is still human. She still fails. While she is constantly trying to be the best version of herself, she knows sometimes the worst gets out. She isn’t perfect because no one but God is perfect. She is trying, but sometimes she has a “headache.”
A better wife doesn’t stay in her failure.
This next point is pivotal. It’s what separates a “better wife” from the rest. We all fail, even the better wife, but the better wife doesn’t stay in that state of failure and sin.
The wife in Song of Solomon goes on in 5:4-6 to say, “my lover tried to unlatch the door, and my heart thrilled within me. I jumped to open the door for my love, and my hands dripped with perfume. My fingers dripped woth lovely myrrh and I pulled back the bolt. I opened to my lover, but he was gone! My heart sank. I searched for him but could not find him anywhere. I called to him but there was no reply.” To put it more in current terms, she began to feel bad about rejecting her husband. She went to go see if he was feeling it, but the mood passed. He was either enthralled in sports or sound asleep. The woman in the song realized she wasn’t being biblical in honoring her husband so she worked towards reconciliation.
It can be hard to admit we’re wrong in life, and it seems particularly painful in marriage to claim fault. The beauty and pain of marriage is that it is a clear reflection of self. Gary and Betsy Ricucci put it vividly when they stated, “one of the wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, ‘here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!'” In this extremely intimate human relationship, we are face to face with our own selfish nature. It’s ugly and painful. It’s easier to blame our spouse: to say he shouldn’t come on to me when I’m tired or she should always be ready to go. But to achieve the marriage God designed for us, we have to be willing to be aware of our personal shortcomings. We have to say that we reacted purely out of selfish motives and humble ourselves to repent to our spouse. Only then will we unlock all that marriage can be.
Our spouse may not make us feel better right away when we admit wrong. That’s what we hope for and, perhaps, even ideally how it should go. But as we see in the song, her husband moved on in that moment. That temporary rejection of our remorse can spark a couple negative reactions in us: overwhelming guilt or passive denial. Sometimes we resort to the idea that we are the worst wife ever. This thinking isn’t helpful or holy because we tend to morph into what we repeatedly tell ourselves we are. Sometimes we think, “well screw you too of you don’t want my apology!” This obviously isn’t the humble, respectful attitude God calls us to embody. Thankfully we have another option, the option the woman in the Song chose. We can choose to keep pursuing our husbands though everything. Later in the chapter (5:7) we find the woman continually seeks out her husband. In and through conflict, she reminds herself of the good man she married and intentionally chooses to believe the best in him. (5:10-16)
A better wife admits when she’s wrong. She doesn’t blame shift in conflict. She isn’t overwhelmed by guilt nor does she stop caring. She chooses to not focus on the issues in her husband but speaks life about him. She never stops pursuing him, even in trials in their marriage.
A better wife reconciles to her husband.
One of the things we could learn from this wife is how she spoke to her friends about her husband post conflict. In Song of Solomon 5:10-16, she went into detail about how wonderful he is and listed all the things she adored in him. We may feel justified, but there is nothing righteous about verbally demolishing our spose to our friends in order to win them over to our side.
Once she expressed everything right about her man, her friends asked where he went. In Song of Solomon 6:2-3, she replied to them, “my lover had gone down to his garden, to his spice beds, to browse in the garden and gather lilies. I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine. He browses among the lilies.” While I didn’t cite all of the pursuit part, in essence just before this bold claim of knowing exactly where her man is, she was just in a panic trying to find him. So is this contradictory or what? I don’t believe so. I believe this is something we do in our marriages today.
Recently I told my husband some of the dark shadows in my past. Building up to it, I was petrified! I was literally planning what to do if he left me. But when I confessed to him, his words literally were to me, “I don’t know why you’re crying. That was a long time ago.” It was highly anticlimactic. But I think I paralleled what the woman in the Song did. She felt so much remorse and guilt that she forgot this sacred history and bond she and her husband had for a moment.
Was the woman in the Song and I myself wrong and needed to repent? Yes. But does a wrong bring down a marriage? It shouldn’t. Our marriages aren’t middle school dating relationships. It isn’t a here one day, gone the next situation. There should be a solid foundation of love and trust built. Christian marriages are designed to reflect our relationship with the one, true God. Therefore, as important as love and trust is in marriage, forgiveness is equally important. Whether we neglect our husbands sexually one night or break him in another, perhaps deeper way, biblically, we are to forgive one another and continue to cultivate intimacy with our spouse.
Throughout the song the garden is an euphemism for the woman’s body. Despite wronging him, she knew her man wasn’t off to find another lover. Yes, she panicked initially. But ultimately she had confidence that one night, or maybe more, of having a “headache” wouldn’t drive her husband into bed with a mistress. I believe God wants us to have this level of security in our marriage.
There’s no place to be conceited in marriage, but there is a call for confidence. The devil knows you’re in a marriage to a good, godly man and there’s nothing he can do about that. But he can convince you to constantly doubt yourself and your marriage. It can make every mistake become a catastrophe. He can rob you of security. The woman wasn’t bragging that she is the perfect wife and that’s how she won her man. No! She just went through remorse and repentance for her sins. She simply remember the man of integrity that she married and was confident in their history and intimacy together. God doesn’t want every breeze that blows to break your marriage. How then would you withstand the storm? Operate in love and forgiveness; then you will be able to walk in confidence.
A better wife seeks out her husband to repent. She makes amends with him when there is conflict. She doesn’t stay overwhelmed by guilt. She accepts forgiveness and moves on in grace. She is assured of the man she married and their ability to weather storms together. Her marriage is marked my forgiveness and security which enables her to walk in love and confidence.
If you aren’t perfect, take heart! None of us are. We get this idea of the perfect wife either from others we know or books we read, including the Bible. But the perfect wife doesn’t exist. This realization isn’t a disheartening one though. Rather it is encouraging because it takes the perfectionist pressure off of us women. When the level of perfect is taken off the table, we are now free to be good, to be a better wife. We can and will make mistakes. We’ll reject our husbands, yell at our kids, and be unkind to strangers. But we’ll also repent and grow. We can accept grace and ask for God’s help to do better next time. And we can be confident knowing we have a God and a husband who loves and forgives us. We can be better without being perfect.