So, to warn you, a prerequisite for speaking at Women’s Encounter is crying. Just so you know. I don’t do public speaking, at least not to groups of people older than 6. So I’ll probably lose it.
My name is Rachel Rhodes. My husband is Paul. We've been married for 10 years, and we have 4 kids. Nathan, our oldest, is 6. Jacob is 4. Then we have Zadie, who will be two next month, and our youngest is Gideon, who was born in December.
I went to my first Encounter last April, almost a year ago. Ladies (well.... and guys!), if you haven't been to Encounter, I really encourage you to go. It's hard to describe what Encounter is. It's not really a "retreat." It's not really a "conference." It really is an "Encounter" - a time for you to get away from your normal and encounter God. For me, it was just a really great time of refreshing my soul. At that point in my life, I was giving a lot, and not getting a lot put back in.
In my life, I'm surrounded by "Christian." I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, worked at a Christian bookstore, married a Christian husband, go to this Christian church, volunteer at Christian ministries, etc. I knew I would get something out of Encounter, but what knocked me over was something totally surprising to me: a teaching on True Worth.
It's hard for me to put into words exactly what was impressed on my heart that weekend, but I think I can sum it up in this:
I don't think I'm one that struggles with self-image. I know who I am; I know what I am; I am completely content. I am a wife, mom, and at the time I went, a worship leader. Good things. But it struck me that God doesn't care if I'm good. My good things don't matter to Him. I think part of the reason this struck me is because all my life I've worked to be good. I know you can't earn God's love, but maybe on some level I thought He'd love me more since I tried so hard. But He doesn't love me because I'm good. He loves me because I am His. He made me. He died for me to redeem me and keep me as HIS. Nothing I can do can make Him love me any more or any less. This is reassuring because if there’s any time I can’t do those “good” things, He’s not going to love me less.
So that's a little about my Encounter, in a nutshell. But I have another side of Encounter to talk about: the side of a wife whose husband has also gone to Encounter.
Paul went to his first Encounter a year and a half ago, in September of 2012. He has been to 6 since then.
I will admit - Paul's first Encounter, I really more or less nagged him to go. It was like, "Okay, Dad and JC want you to go to this thing in September. I know you need it, even if you don't think you do. You don't have to work that weekend. You're going."
Not really the “submissive wife” role. Oops.
But Paul I think would agree. It was a good thing I "forced" him to go. Encounter for him has changed our marriage and our lives.
I have trouble being honest about when we have problems in our marriage. Everyone has problems at some point, but I feel like to talk about those problems is somehow disrespecting my husband, because I love him and we really do have a great marriage overall. So this is hard for me.
I won't go into the details of what all has changed, because that is Paul's testimony and not mine. But I will tell you this: Ladies, if you want your husband to change, all of your nagging and crying in the world isn't going to do it. It has to be his decision to change, and it has to be God that puts it in his heart that it's time to change.
I think all of us want our husbands to change at some point, for one reason or another. And sometimes we're not nice about it: "You need to get your crap together, and you need to do it now, on my time schedule, the way I say you should do it." Sometimes I wish it worked that way, but that's not how it goes. (And this is not to say I don't continue to have outbursts where I talk to Paul this way. It's a process....)
And most guys I know - my husband included - shut down when their wives start after them in that way. Oh, they may change for a while to keep the peace, but it's not a lasting change. Most of the things that are different since Paul’s Encounter are things that I had tried and tried for all of our marriage to get Paul to do. He would change for a while, to make me happy, but then slowly shift back to the same old ways. But since his Encounter, he made the choice to change, because he knew it was GOD that wanted the change.
Okay, so remember I told you Paul had been to 7 Encounters? What follows Encounter? Seven weeks of...... Post Encounters. So for him, that's 49 weeks in the last year and a half that he's had Post Encounter meetings to go to.
I don't know how many of you did your Post Encounters, but I think that those meetings are almost as important as the weekend itself. But I think a lot of wives guilt their husbands into not going. They may not mean for it to be that way, but I think that’s how it comes off…. "You had your weekend, and it was good, but I had to watch the kids by myself. Now you want to leave us alone on our one free night a week for the next two months?"
I have had several times where I’ve forgotten about the meetings. Paul would be at work all weekend, and I’d think we’d finally have a night together, and he’d remind me a couple hours before he had to leave. I didn’t say anything to him, but there were times that after he left I’d be fuming while washing dishes, and have to really pray about my attitude. I’d say, “God, if this is something I need to be upset about and talk to Paul about, let me be able to do that. If it’s not, then change my attitude.” And I think every time, by the time he came home, my attitude had changed, and I was happy for him and wanted to hear about how the meeting went.
Ladies, I have a question for you. Be really honest. If you knew that giving up one night a week, just 2 or 3 hours a week, would make your husband a better husband, a better father, and a better Christian..... Would you let him go for that time?
As Christians, we’re told to “consider one another’s interests ahead of your own,” and also to “motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” I think this is especially true in marriage. A lot of times there’s this disconnect in how we treat other Christians and how we treat our spouses. We think, “oh, I’m supposed to treat my friends at church this way,” but we don’t even consider that our first person we are supposed to be “considering ahead of ourselves” and “motivating” is the person we live with every day! So we need to support our husbands in what they want to do. In what we want him to do! I say I want Paul to be a better Christian and a better leader, and meeting with other Christian men can achieve this! Since he has started meeting with a men’s Sunday School class, and having weekly meetings with brothers in Christ, the whole spiritual tone of our house has changed.
Our men need this time together. The Bible says, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." They are challenging each other, encouraging each other, and keeping each other accountable. It's a good thing! But they need our encouragement. I think sometimes we let them know we want them to lead better, but then just leave them to figure it out on their own. God made us to be their “helper” and the original word for “helper” is the same as we use when we say “God is our helper.” We need to support them to meet and have their time with Christian men. Trust me – and I know this from experience - even as messed up as it seems, a wife nagging a husband telling him he needs to step up doesn't get his attention like another man telling him he needs to do something.
Okay. So…. Men.
Maybe you're sitting there and saying, "YES. This is exactly what my wife needed to hear. I've been trying to tell her how important Post is to me."
Well. I've got something for you too.
This part is really hard for me to get out, because I don’t think that as a woman, I have the right to stand up here and teach men. But I felt like God wanted me to say these things tonight, so I’m going to try to get through it. My heart is to try to help you understand what might be going on in your wife’s head.
Ephesians says, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her."
Your time meeting with other men, even though it is very important time, does not come out of "family time" or one-on-one time with your wife. You can't come home from 3 hours of meeting with other men, being built up, encouragement, prayer.......and then come home and ignore your family because you still think you need your "me" time. This time with men is your "me" time. When you come home is your "we" time. Your family needs you. Think of it as “on the job training” – you meet together to get the skills you need to lead your family. I heard a speaker say once that you come home from your paid job, so you can go to your real job. Your family needs you. They need you to be present with them and be engaged. You may have to give something up - TV time, or computer time, or working on a project time - because your family needs your time also. It’s the most important job that you could ever have. A lot of men may say, “But I don’t know how to start leading my family.” The best place to start? Prayer. I don’t know very many wives who, when asked, “Can we pray together?” are going to say, “No.”
I thought I’d tell you how we do it in our house. Paul has a crazy work schedule, working some days and some nights. The mornings he’s home, he reads the Bible at the kitchen table. He will pick out a verse that the kids can understand, and call them into the room and say, “Listen to this,” or he’ll ask me my opinion on a passage while the kids are listening. We talk about what we’ve discussed in our groups, and ask the kids about what they learned at Sunday school. He reads a kids Bible with the boys every night, and they kneel in the living room to pray. (This is not because we’re super religious. We started to help them concentrate – when they sit, they fidgit and look around, so he had them kneel looking at the boring couch.)
“Leading your family” sounds intimidating, but it’s not like teaching an hour-long discourse on the Bible every day. It’s just as simple as bringing your spiritual life into your family life. God gave the command in the Old Testament “talk about [the Scripture] when you are at home, and on the road, when you go to bed, and when you get up.”
I know it’s hard to make yourself vulnerable – both as a wife humbly asking her husband to lead, and as a husband making those first attempts to lead – but it has to start somewhere. Someone has to be willing to take that first step, for the sake of your family.
I hope what I've talked about tonight makes sense, because as a mother of a 3-month-old (and 3 other children), I sometimes feel am not able to communicate above a 1st grade level. (smile) So I'm going to close tonight with God's word on this topic, because He says it so much better than I do.
But first, let's pray.
God, I pray you speak to our hearts. If there are areas that need to change, reveal them to us. Open our ears to hear your voice speaking to us through your Word. Amen.
These are all the verses I mentioned tonight, in their entirety.
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the One who sustains me.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.