“An excellent wife who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (NASB)
I have been married for about 5 years now, so I think that my impressive tenure earns me the opportunity to weigh in on the subject of marriage. Prior to my vows, I would've had something insightful to share about unconditional love and mutual submission, but now all I know is that I don't know anything. But hey, I know I don’t know anything so that puts me ahead of the game, right? Maybe. I don’t know.
What I’ve actually learned in my first 5 years of marriage is, “I don’t know why my wife said yes.” Look at me…I’m a mess. I leave clothes everywhere, rarely put the lid down, stink in a whole host of places, and I am still addicted to video games and sports shows. My wife on the other hand is refined. She always knows where everything is, has hangers (and uses them), doesn’t yell at me when she falls in the toilet late at night, and always smells delightful even when she gets done working out. So my question then is this, “Why is an excellent wife so hard to find?” Proverbs 31:10 says, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth’s is far above jewels.” (NASB) This makes absolutely no since to me. There must obviously be a surplus if there were enough of them available for me to get one. Excellent wives should be growing on trees somewhere magical, or falling our of rainbows like gorgeous skittles. Seriously.
There are some exceptions to the rule, I’m sure. Somewhere in America right now, there is a guy sitting in front of his TV pounding back a brewsky, trying not to burn himself with his freshly nuked “Hungry Man” dinner stunned that his wife is the star of the latest episode of “COPS”. And if you’ve ever watched mid-afternoon talk shows, you are familiar with the, “I brought you all this way, and put you on national television to tell you a secret speech.” “the results are in (cue crowd gasp) and you are NOT the father!” “BOO BOO HISS HISS.” We have seen it millions of times; dysfunctional dramas played out for everyone to see on dozens of different stages all inching back the curtain on the truth a little bit further. And that truth is that we have long forgotten what it means to be an “excellent wife” and it has terribly handicapped the American Church.
It’s hardest for men to identify with the paradigm of being a wife because we weren’t designed to fill that role in the natural since of the word. But spiritually it is a responsibility that falls to all of us that call ourselves Christians. Male and female alike have been charged with the task of becoming the “Bride of Christ.” Even the phrase seems a little weird. Like one of those cheesy late 60’s horror movies, “She came from the swamp!” “Who?” “THE BRIDE OF CHRIST!” This, of course, is followed by a blood curdling scram and an invitation to the lobby by an animated hotdog for a two dollar candy in an eight dollar box. But it only sounds that way because we as “the Church” rarely discuss the topic.
In conservative sects of our body, we talk about our churches as organizations full of responsibility to do social works, which, I’ve noticed, never actually happen because of our inept hierarchies of leadership. Jason Upton, a modern worship artist, categorizes them clearly, “Powerful weaklings that practice their politics, stealing from Jesus’ beautiful Bride.” In charismatic circles we use phrases like “kingdom dynamics” and “authority mandates” and then build our own kingdoms where we exercise despot authority. Through out the body it goes, on and on like a cancer that we don’t know we have until we get weak in the shower one morning, or that nose bleed on the bus ride to work wont stop gushing. We seek help but it’s too late. We are eaten up with disease. It has been choking us from within, starving our organs from lifeblood. Not even the crack team of “experts” in white can figure it out. They poke and the prod at us but to no avail. They do, however, write books about us, impressive weighty books with charts and graphs and projections about the spread of the disease. They quarantine us off from the general population and tell their children not to go near us. We have become the unloved and outcast. Where once we were respected and honored, we are feared and barred from entry. “Where did it go so terribly wrong?”, we ask ourselves, while walking along empty, poorly lit corridors towing our IV behind us. Can anyone help us?
The hyper-spiritual answer is of course, “JEEEEEESUSSSS can heal us! Hallelujah! Jesus can fix our cancer!” You can almost hear the tambourine rattle. But, sadly, it’s not the answer. Not this time. The answer to the question, “What has gone so terribly wrong with the church?” isn’t, Jesus needs to fix it. The answer is a simple one. The church is no longer the church. We look like the church and we act like the church but really at the core of who we are we are no longer the Bride of Christ. We have become his secretaries, his envoys, his ambassadors, and his dignitaries, but not his Bride. It all sounds very impressive and self important, but it is very far from the heart of God. We have replaced intimacy with business and a relationship with Christ with church affiliations and titles. We no longer “remain in him.” We have separated ourselves from the vine and have become dry branches, good for kindling and not much more. So you see, the answer isn’t Jesus heal us from this cancer. This cancer is self-imposed. When you separate yourself from things like, oh, I don’t know, air… for example, life gets harder and harder to sustain until eventually, well, you get the point
Could it be that an “excellent wife” is hard for Christ to find because we are busy pretending to be lots of other things that we think are important to him? Could it be that we all have this chronic death sentence because we have forgotten how to be close to Jesus? We generally think of hard to find things in the context that they are hidden but rarely do we think that they may be disguised. Maybe I found my excellent wife because she was just there…out in the open for all to see, busy being excellent. Who she is was as obvious as my pile of dirty laundry in our closet. Maybe we see ourselves in these descriptions of the modern American church. Wandering aimlessly through or local congregations with the rest of the walking wounded. I’d like to take my blog and aim it directly at Proverbs 31 for a while. Verse by verse examining an excellent wife and supposing what that might mean for the church. If your reading this, weak, nose bleeding, white knuckle death grip on your tambourine, go ahead and unplug the IV. I promise it wasn’t helping anyway.