Read an Excerpt
The Whole hearted Wife
10 Keys to a More Loving Relationship
By ERIN SMALLEY, GREG SMALLEY, Gary Smalley
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2014 Erin Smalley, Greg Smalley, and Gary Smalley
All rights reserved.
Key One: Honoring
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The Value of a Diamond
One momentous day in third grade, our (Greg and Erin's) daughter Murphy came home from school with a flyer that had caught her attention. She had learned that day about Crater of Diamonds State Park located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, approximately a five-hour drive from our home. The brochure highlighted the fact that this park is the only diamond-producing site in the world that's open to the public. Visitors are welcome to search for diamonds and keep whatever they find. In fact, at this park someone had discovered a forty-carat diamond. Murphy had read all this in the brochure and was captivated. She begged and pleaded for us to go hunting for diamonds. We had to admit it did sound pretty interesting.
Memorial Day wasn't too far off, and it turned out that some friends not far from Murfreesboro had invited us to their cabin for the weekend. Perfect! We could make an adventure of it—and maybe even strike it rich. So in great anticipation we piled into the car for the five-hour drive, met our friends at their cabin, and got up early the next morning to begin our quest for diamonds.
Well, it was what the brochure didn't say that set the tone for the day. Crater of Diamonds State Park is a thirty-seven-acre, barren wasteland. Dirty. Dusty. Hot. Humid. Nasty! We discovered that we had to rent shovels, sifters, and buckets just to begin our search for diamonds. Then we were told to simply pick anywhere we wanted and start digging. Every shovelful went into a sifter. Next, we had to shake the sifter until we found any little nugget bigger than a pebble. Then we had to sift again, this time in water that just got dirtier and dirtier. If we thought a tiny nugget looked as if it might be a diamond, we were told to take it to the evaluator.
Needless to say, it didn't take long in the sweltering heat and muck for us all to discover that this treasure hunt wasn't what we had envisioned. Twenty minutes into the shoveling, bucket dumping, and sifting, the kids were crying—and on the inside so was I (Erin). I can clearly remember the sweat accumulating around my feet as the perspiration ran down every part of my body, collecting dusty grime along the way.
After an hour of strenuous work, none of us had found a thing. What a contrast to the treasure hunt we had anticipated. We had embarked on this adventure with high hopes. We had devoted an awful lot of resources—gas, travel, time, and hard work—just for the chance to unearth a diamond we could bring home and proudly display. Murphy—and the rest of us—valued diamonds. You might say that in our minds they held a place of honor.
Honoring what we deeply value and cherish is one of the most vital principles in marriage. I (Gary) have spoken around the world to thousands of couples and have written numerous best-selling books on relationships. And to this day I still consider the idea of honor essential for a successful marriage. In fact, honor is foundational to all other relationship-building principles you'll ever learn. This concept appears in almost all of my books and in virtually all of my marriage videos.
Marital expert Dr. John Gottman agrees that honor (or admiration) is one of the most important aspects of a healthy marital relationship: Admiration [is one] of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner's personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect.
The fact that honor is an essential ingredient in relationships is no surprise, since Scripture states that God Himself deserves our honor (1 Samuel 2:30; Revelation 4:11; 5:12–13), and the Ten Commandments include the command to honor (Exodus 20:12). The apostle Paul also emphasized the importance of expressing honor in relationships: "Be devoted to one another in ... love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10, emphasis added).
Honor is "a decision expressed by placing high value, worth, and importance on another person." It's essentially an attitude you hold toward your husband. It means viewing your husband as a "priceless diamond" and granting him a "highly respected position" in your life. Closely related to honor is the concept of cherishing. Like honor, cherishing is an attitude that conveys deep value and high regard.
Sometimes it's difficult for us to affirm our husbands' value because we feel worthless and devalued ourselves. We may have grown up in an abusive home or lacked the nurturing love we so desperately needed as children. Or other life experiences may have beaten us down and made us feel flawed or unlovable. Whatever the case may be, the first step in learning to honor our husbands often involves understanding and embracing our own value in God's eyes.
Embracing Your Value
Have you ever wandered through a maze of mirrors at a House of Mirrors carnival attraction? The curved and elongated mirrors are designed to reflect distorted images when you stand in front of them. The mirrors can make you look short, tall, thin, fat, funny, weird, crazy, or scary depending on how the image is distorted.
Like a house of mirrors, the world we live in is filled with distorted images. When Adam and Eve's perfect world was destroyed, we inherited from them a fallen, sin-stained world. Every aspect of our culture, including TV shows, movies, and magazines, presents a distorted image of reality. Not even the things we consider good or normal in today's world come close to God's original flawless design.
And if that isn't bad enough, we also have to contend with an enemy, "the father of lies" (John 8:44), who relentlessly tries to twist the truth about who we are. No wonder it often feels as if we're living in a crazy house of mirrors!
What do you see when you look in the mirror? Does your image look warped, or does it reflect the truth about how God created you?
You might wonder why this matters, but the fact is, how we view ourselves directly impacts how we view our husbands. In fact, we cant adequately love and honor our husbands unless we love ourselves and understand our value in God's sight. The second greatest commandment tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). The assumption is that we already love ourselves, but many of us struggle with doing just that because we don't understand our value.
If we want to see a true reflection of our value, we need to look at ourselves in God's mirror. Consider these truths from the Bible that declare how much your heavenly Father cherishes you:
He knit you together in your mother's womb and knows everything about you (Psalm 139:1, 13).
You are "precious and honored" in His sight (Isaiah 43:4).
He knew you even before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:5).
He takes "great delight" in you and rejoices "over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).
You are more valuable to Him than "many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29).
Nothing can ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:39).
He has "lavished" His love on you and calls you His child (1 John 3:1).
Even if you were the only person on earth, God would have sent His Son to die for you. You're that precious to Him! The apostle Peter described God's amazing love in these words:
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began. (1 Peter 1:18–20, NLT)
But for some of us, really feeling valuable and loved is difficult, and we may need to take some specific steps to re-train our minds to see God's view of us rather than a distorted one. Christian counselor Robert McGee addressed this issue of grasping your great personal worth in his popular best seller The Search for Significance. McGee recommends writing the following truths on a three-by-five-inch card to remind us of our value in Christ:
1. I am deeply loved by God (1 John 4:9–10).
2. I am completely forgiven and am fully pleasing to God (Romans 5:1).
3. I am totally accepted by God (Colossians 1:21-22).
4. I am a new creation, complete in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Embracing your personal value is so important to a healthy marriage that we (Greg and Gary) devoted an entire chapter to it in Winning Your Husband Back Before It's Too Late. In the chapter "Looking in the Mirror ... Becoming Whole," we reminded women that they must become secure in their identity in Christ and confident of their unique worth in Him.
If your identity isn't rooted in Christ, you may try to draw all your worth from your husband—a need he can never meet. Or you may believe that your worth is based on fulfilling your husband's expectations. This makes your worth dependent on your husband's viewpoint rather than on God's.
Author BeNeca Ward illustrates this in her book Third Generation Country:
My mother sat me down and said, ... "True beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which means that how beautiful you are to other people is always going to be subjective." ... She went on to tell me that I needed to ... identify [and] celebrate what I thought was [beautiful or] weird or unusual [about me] because God had given ... me [those special things to make] me different from everybody else. I learned how to appreciate, embrace, and enhance those special things so that they would shine rather than be hidden.
Take a few minutes right now to consider your life and answer these important questions:
1. How do I honestly see myself?
2. What do I value about myself?
3. What is God's design for me?
4. How did God uniquely create me?
5. What special gifts and talents has God given me?
Here are a few of the characteristics I (Erin) value about the way God designed me:
1. I'm highly relational. I love being with and relating to people—especially other women.
2. I love to help others when they are hurting—both physically and emotionally (which is why I became a nurse and a counselor).
3. I live life passionately and wholeheartedly. I love deeply, rejoice greatly, and grieve losses sincerely.
4. I have a deep faith in the Lord, and I love to worship in very traditional ways.
5. I'm adventurous and love to try new things.
So what's on your list? God has beautifully and creatively designed you, so thank Him for the unique gifts and abilities He has given you. Let those "special things" shine! And remember: When you embrace your own value in God's sight, you'll gain a greater understanding of your husband's value and a deeper desire to honor him.
Honoring Your Husband
One of the best illustrations of what it means to honor your husband is an analogy I (Gary) used when I was speaking at a large marriage conference. A friend of mine had loaned me an old, beat-up violin for making a point. Several of the strings were missing, and the one that was still there was actually hanging off, attached only on one end of the violin. There was little of the polish or brilliance you might see from a professionally owned instrument.
I passed the violin around so the audience could see it. At first it moved along pretty quickly from person to person. But when I pointed out that the word Stradivarius, though faded, was etched inside the violin, the room instantly came alive with oohs and aahs. All of a sudden, this battered violin took on a whole new level of significance. It was valuable! After all, many Stradivarius violins, made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, are valued at more than a million dollars. The violin was passed around slowly and carefully after that comment. Its value had been recognized. This is what honor conveys.
The most powerful way to honor your husband is to recognize and affirm his immense value. Remember the way the audience reacted when they realized the old violin was a Stradivarius? Now imagine yourself oohing or aahing when your husband walks into the room. This may sound a bit ridiculous, but if you really choose to view your husband as a valuable treasure, a precious gift from God, your attitude toward him will reflect this. Treating him as someone you deeply value and cherish will also make it easier to put legs on the idea of loving him, especially when it's difficult. In many cases, love begins to flow when you've made the choice to honor your husband.
At times you may not feel like honoring your spouse. But here's the good news: The choice to honor your husband is just that—a choice. You can choose to treat your husband as if he's a priceless treasure—a Stradivarius or a twenty-four-carat diamond—regardless of your feelings. You can choose to treat him with respect simply because he's your husband, whether or not you agree with everything he does.
How do you view your husband? As an old, beat-up violin or as a Stradivarius? How do you treat him? Like a worthless pebble or a twenty-four-carat diamond you've just unearthed?
Ephesians 5:33 says, "The wife must respect her husband." Note that the apostle Paul didn't qualify this statement. He didn't say, "Respect your husband as long as he deserves your respect." God has placed husbands in a leadership position in the marriage, and for that reason alone, wives are called to respect and honor them.
This doesn't mean you must honor your husband's negative qualities or shortcomings. Rather, truthfully focus on those qualities you value and admire. This is in keeping with Philippians 4:8:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Honor affirms what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. That's why it's so important to affirm with words and actions the good we see in our husbands. When we choose to recognize their immense value and treat them like priceless treasures, we're honoring them. This is what Romans 12:10 (NASB) calls us to do: "Give preference to one another in honor."
Another way we can honor our husbands is by recognizing and valuing the differences in our relationship. Differences can sometimes cause great irritation in a marriage, but they can also spice things up and stimulate growth. In essence, how spouses handle their differences can determine in great part whether a marriage will succeed or fail.
I (Gary) have been speaking and writing about gender differences for more than thirty years. The following are a few of the key differences I've discovered through decades of research and observation. See if you recognize any of these differences in your marriage:
love to share facts;
tend to connect by doing things with others;
tend to be very competitive and task oriented;
usually find their identity through their accomplishments; Women ...
love to express feelings;
tend to connect by talking;
tend to be relationally motivated and focused on cooperation;
usually find their identity through their relationships.
It's true that generalizations like these don't always apply across the board. But in my experience, they're accurate about 70 to 80 percent of the time.
My point is this: You honor your spouse when you value his differences instead of despising them or viewing them as irritants. One way to honor your husband's differences is to make a list of the God-given things you admire about him. In fact, recognizing that these traits are part of the way God designed your husband is another way to praise God! Making a list of positive characteristics can also help restore honor where it has been lacking in your relationship.
Excerpted from The Whole hearted Wife by ERIN SMALLEY, GREG SMALLEY, Gary Smalley. Copyright © 2014 Erin Smalley, Greg Smalley, and Gary Smalley. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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