When I was first engaged, I made Pinterest my best friend. My favorite of my countless boards was titled “Feather That Nest.” To be expected, it was chock full of recipes, DIY storage ideas, decorative inspo. and more. I figured that since I would be #wifing, I needed to set myself up for success by accumulating resources. After plowing through nearly every popular Christian non-fiction marriage book, in conjunction with every “How To” for hosting dinners, I felt as prepared as a girl could be going into marriage—eager for my #wifing journey to begin. I couldn’t have known then that no amount of Real Simple or Barefoot Contessa could have prepared this wife for what that first year would hold.
For the first two and a half months of our marriage, my husband and I lived with his father in his childhood home. We were temporarily unemployed, semi-homeless, relatively friendless, and completely clueless as to how to “do” marriage, much less under these circumstances. While boxes of the Pottery Barn bedding and dinnerware of my dreams sat idly in his dad’s basement, we slept in the same bed, on the same boy bedspread, where my husband had slept throughout his childhood. We didn’t grocery shop, because his step-mother did that. We didn’t cook our own meals, because his dad always did that. Our earliest marital arguments were interrupted by my father-in-law’s voice yelling, “Steaks are ready!” from downstairs. Yes, we were unbelievably lucky and grateful to have supportive family willing to take us in. We were just unintentionally functioning like college students on summer break. My nest, if you could call it that, was far from feathered. My Julia Childs cookbook was far from utilized. My domesticity was far from dominated. Was I even a wife?
In those first two months, I felt like anything but. Sure, I had the ring on my finger and a man sleeping next to me, but the extent of my cooking was pouring a bowl of cereal, I hadn’t ironed one shirt, I hadn’t organized a pantry, and I hadn’t even hosted one measly dinner party. While all of my friends were posting photos of their first home-cooked meals, we were splitting corndogs and cheese sticks from Sonic, fighting in the privacy of our car. As the comparison tide continued to crash down on me, I called to mind that this too would pass, and I too would have a lifetime of dishes to wash, laundry to fold, and meals to prepare—surely then I would feel like a wife.
We eventually did get jobs and moved into a place of our own, but much to my surprise I didn’t quite master #wifing right away. I nearly gave my husband salmonella on a bi-weekly basis for a year, and lost too many loads of laundry to tubes chapstick and ballpoint pens. I wept like a toddler at the grocery store when he insisted on doing the shopping until I could “stick to the budget”, arguing that things like stationery and sunflowers were, in fact, non-essentials; “essential” I learned is in the eye of the beholder. And whoever decided ironing a crease into dress slacks was a good idea is no friend of mine. #Wifing for me proved to be harder than not, and this came with a good deal of shame.
I didn’t have time to look at what the Bible said about it, because I was too busy thumbing through Instagram and pinning like a madwoman. I was not convinced that the Bible could hang with the times. Because those who #wife well, and looked cute doing it, deserve either a crown or a presidential nomination. However, had I looked to the Bible first, instead of mindlessly scrolling and shaming, I believe I would have saved myself, and my husband, a good amount of heartache.
Somewhere along the way I began to associate #wifing with dominating all things domestic. This includes but is not limited to: looking fashionable, hosting, cleaning (which has 15,000 subsections), exclusively cooking healthy food, cultivating a homestead ambiance that is equally inviting and awe-inspiring whilst staying within budget, maintaining (or acquiring) a hot bod, and intentionally speaking the husband’s love language. Oh, and maintaining a healthy and flourishing spiritual life. How is a girl supposed to do all this and work? This is a full time job in and of itself!
As a feisty entrepreneur, I was really hoping that the whole homemaker role was a product of culture, and not Biblical mandate. But after some research, I found that Scripture does commission the woman to be the keeper of the home. There are three primary references where women are charged to be homemakers. The first two incorporate some variation of the Greek word, Oikodespoteo, which literally means “manager or keeper of the house”.
“So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (1 Timothy 5:14).
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, of slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:4-5).
But these two New Testament passage describe the duties of keeping a home with relative ambiguity. The real OG housekeeping standard was set centuries before Titus and 1 Timothy were ever composed, tracing all the way back to King Solomon’s era. You know the one: Proverbs 31:10-31. The passage has become a sort of mantra for the sisterhood and can be found brush-lettered on everything from coffee mugs to canvases in Christian nests across the world. I loved this passage when I was younger as it cast a vision of what I would one day become. Now that I am an actual wife, I look at it apprehensively to see how I’m measuring up. Because the woman described in the 21-verse passage would sweep any pageant and make Martha Stewart say #goals. I get overwhelmed trying to embody Proverbs 31 in today’s society:
The heart of her husband trusts her to stick to the budget, and he will have no lack of gain. (11)
She is like the delivery truck bringing goods from Amazon; she brings home food, in her own totes, from the Aldi across town. (14)
She rises before it is light, and hopes that cereal will suffice. (15)
She considers a lipstick and buys it, after liquidating her assets on Facebook Garage Sale (16)
She dresses herself in athleisure wear and makes her arms strong with YouTube yoga and dusting the fans. (17)
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable, and she opens an etsy shop. Her lamp does not go out at night. (18)
She looks well to the ways of her household, and doesn’t spend her days watching Netflix and scrolling. (27)
“Many women are bosses, but you are #wifegoals” (29)
No sooner are we inspired that we are also met with insecurity. “Does she have meltdowns? Does she accidentally ever hit snooze? Does she let a tiny unkind word slip?”
Nowhere in the passage does it say, “She has a lifestyle blog-worthy home” or “She only feeds her children organic” or “Her napkin rings outshone the other ladies on the block.” If I’m not careful, I will let culture define #wifing for me. The passage doesn’t mention those things, nor does it shame a woman for working outside the home. It does not say that woman must forfeit her vocational endeavors and be forever bound to a broom and feather duster. In fact, several times throughout the passage this power woman is depicted as being business savvy—an investor (16), an entrepreneur (18), and a financial contributor (24). As Christian women, we must be careful not to reduce the role of homemaker to a list of chores. Sure, it’s easy to get caught in the weeds of the “to do” list, but when we lose sight of whom we get to serve—both the Lord and our families—homemaking becomes a “have to” rather than a “get to”.
This passage casts an inspiring, idealistic vision of a noble woman of God, but it doesn’t stop there. It also says that above these characteristics and skills, a fear of the Lord is what sets a woman apart as truly noble (Proverbs 31:29-30). This is in keeping with the prominent theme of Proverbs: that a reverent fear of the Lord, an acute awareness of his grandeur and who we are in light of it, is the beginning of wisdom. This wisdom is to be sought above anything else.
Somewhere along the way I started believing that being a wife was defined by what I did and didn’t do. But that’s not the gospel. I am a wife regardless of what I do and don’t do; it’s who I am. Likewise, because of Jesus our righteousness isn’t contingent upon our actions and shortcomings; it’s who we are. “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come… For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21, ESV). We aren’t better versions of ourselves depending on our actions and accomplishments; we are new because of Jesus; we are the righteousness of God. Likewise, I’m no more or less of a wife based on what I do or don’t do; on my best day and on my worst day, it’s who I am.
Cue the emoji praise hands. Let’s be free from the self-induced pressures of society telling us how we should cook, clean, shop, dress, and keep our homes, or that shames us when we don’t do it well enough. Because when we are free from that we are able to fix our eyes on Jesus, let his power be made perfect in our weaknesses, and prioritize taking care of the souls who live in our homes rather than how our homes look.