I don’t know much about it, other than what the synopsis told me, but The Good Wife is a TV show that follows the life of a woman who has found herself in a humiliating and hurtful place after the discovery of her husband’s involvement with another woman. From the tone of the overview I’m guessing she got pegged as “the good wife” because of how she had quietly stuck in her husband’s shadow for so long (apparently he held some political office) and played the supportive role – not anymore however! She now struggles to make a name for herself by battling it out as a defense attorney (her original career intention). The point of the show is that she “trades in her identity as the ‘good wife’ and takes charge of her own destiny.”
The summer before my senior year of high school I went with my youth group on a missions trip to Africa. As the trip was coming to a close I became weary and began to complain. A friend called me out on it, and I was devastated. At that point in my life, my whole self worth rested in others’ perception of me (still does to some degree, but by God’s grace I’m beginning to find my identity in Christ). If I realized that someone else sensed my imperfection, I would freak out. In this particular instance, I withdrew from the individual, thinking that I would do them the service of not having to endure my unsavory flaws for the rest of the trip. My response to the rebuke caused more problems than the complaining did. Eventually I had a discussion with my youth pastor about it and was basically told that withdrawing was a “stupid” thing to do. He was right. He went on to instruct me in why what I was doing wasn’t God’s way. He helped me see that I was struggling to conform to this “ideal” that wasn’t biblical. You see, I had this picture in my head of what I thought the perfect Christian looked like, acted like. It was a picture that I had created, not a picture I had drawn from Scripture. I thought that if I prayed all the time, sang songs while I worked, never said a cross or grumbling word, spent at least an hour praying and reading my Bible, among a number of other things, that I was putting myself in this ultra spiritual league of godly women. To accomplish all these things though, my youth pastor pointed out that I was purposefully altering the personality that God had designed for me. Instead of letting myself enjoy the things I delighted in, I would focus on maintaining this persona I had created for myself. It went beyond actions too and involved my walk, tone, facial expressions, and gestures. My aim was to possess all poise, dignity, and decorum. I was constantly comparing myself to my ideal and to other people. If I noticed I had excelled in a particular area that day I congratulated myself and felt very prideful of it. If I had failed (e.g. let a complaint slip from my lips) I punished myself in some way (e.g. by depriving myself of people’s company) and was devastated at my defeat. My youth pastor helped me see that God had given me a particular personality that was purposeful and perfect for me as a person. My trying to adopt someone else’s personality wasn’t His intention. I didn’t need to cover up who I was in order to be a good Christian. Allowing myself to enjoy the things that I found interest in and be honest with people about my short comings was a revolutionary concept for me, and it was extremely freeing. This conversation was among the most important of my life.
I’m still learning to apply these truths today however. My husband is in medical school, and he is so busy. Because an unsupportive and nagging spouse is pretty common of medical students’ husbands or wives, I would strive to be the complete opposite. In the first two years of medical school I endeavored to take care of every aspect of our home and life without putting any claim on Daniel’s attention. I would even pull him away from the sink if he tried to do dishes to help me and insist that I had it under control. I wanted to take care of it all so that he only had to focus on studying. You see, I had this picture in my head of what a good wife was like and I was chasing it with all my might. I became so busy about all these things (cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, balancing the checkbook, taking care of the baby, filing the taxes, etc) that I began to miss the most important thing. Daniel finally approached me about it. It was no small conversation. He let me know that he felt like I wasn’t allowing him to be part of our family, and that I had stopped getting to know him as a person. This confession made me so angry and hurt me so much that I didn’t speak with him for the rest of the evening. All I could think about was how hard I had been working to take care of him and of all the sacrifices I had made, and that now it seemed as if it had all gone unnoticed. I knew that I had failed at times, but I thought I was doing so much better than all of these other wives. There I was, comparing myself to other people again. My standard for being a “good wife” came from my own ideals, not the Word, and not even my husband’s preferences! I was acting like Martha who was so busy about serving that she had missed that one needful thing, getting to know Jesus and what He wanted for her life. The Spirit gently brought me around to realize my mistake, and I was so grateful for my husband’s loving honesty. Since then we’ve been more intentional in our conversations, and I’ve found so much relief from his help around the house and with the baby. I’m learning that being a good wife for my husband is going to look different than my mom being a good wife for my dad or my friend Molly being a good wife for her husband Moses because it depends on the person you are loving.
According to the TV show, our culture today seems to pity women who have put aside their ambitions to focus on their families. It’s almost as if they get these sympathetic looks and pats on the head for their (what they see as foolish and unfortunate) choice. Being a good wife has gone out of style. “Pursue your goals, don’t give up your dreams, and focus on you” tends to be the message of the day. My problem with the show doesn’t lie with the fact that the character’s marriage was having problems but with how the identity of a good wife is undermined and discouraged. My contemporaries try and convince me that being a loyal support to my husband and family is beneath me, and my mind tries to convince me that to be a good wife I must conform to an unrealistic human standard. The Spirit is teaching me to see that I need to love people the way they want to be loved (with biblical love) and to love Him the way He has instructed me to love Him.
Here is a small example of something I did focus on Daniel and give him something that he enjoys:
Aletheia got to join in on making the bread 🙂
Yummy French Bread!
Finished product: Bruschetta
Daniel loved it and was blessed by the thoughtfulness. I’m so glad I have such an honest and loving husband who is passionate about strengthening our marriage and for the Spirit Who is good enough to grow me in Christ-likeness!