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Archive for May 9th, 2013

Helpmate

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’…So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribsand then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:18, 21-22 (NIV).

When I was growing up, my career goal was to be a housewife, staying home to raise the kids while my husband earned the paycheck.  I never aspired to be the president of a company or become a doctor, lawyer, or work in any other high-paying, high-stress job.  My personality has always been more laid back, happier to follow than lead.  My sister and I had a great system worked out between the two of us:  She would come up with brilliant ideas and I was happy to carry out her orders.

Even my career choices mirrored the desires of my heart:  First, I worked at a residential facility for trouble youth and then ran a daycare out of my home on two separate occasions, for a total of six years, working for the foster care and adoption system in between.

All of those careers helped prepare me for when I got married and we started our own family.  Biblically speaking, God made women to be the helpmates of their husbands, starting back with Adam and Eve.  Just as we are called to respect our husbands, a topic I talked about at length a year ago, God instructs women to be their husbands’ helpmates and equipped us very well for that job.

Some women will argue that to be a helpmate gives the perception that a woman is somehow weak.  On the contrary!  In my opinion, in order to be an effective helpmate, a woman has to have incredible strength. To be a helpmate is not to be a doormat, allowing the man to do whatever he wants and ordering his wife around as though he is the king and she is his servant.

No, a true helpmate is a woman who willingly comes alongside her husband, discovering his strengths and helping him to present his very best for the good of the entire family.  She is his teammate.  She makes sacrifices of her time, sometimes her comfort, and her selfishness for the greater good of her husband and children.  She will choose to clean the house instead of putting her feet up for ten minutes so that when her husband comes home, they can relax together.  She will ask him in the morning “What’s one thing I can do today to make your life easier?” and then do it, with a cheerful attitude.  She will handle the day-to-day scheduling, petty disagreements between their children, endless phone calls, as well as other chores to free up her husband’s emotional and physical reserves for the responsibilities that line up with his strengths.  She’ll consistently keep clean clothes in the drawer, favorite snacks stocked in the cupboard, and occasionally plan a special evening out to help refresh them both.  These things aren’t done grudgingly, but lovingly, out of a desire to genuinely meet his needs, not to check things off her “to do” list.

She will think about and nurture her husband’s whole body:  Spiritual, emotional, physical, and sexual; gently encouraging without nagging.  She will highlight his strengths in public and prayerfully consider how to bring up the difficult conversations out of earshot of everyone, including their children.  In turn, she will listen when her husband feels it is necessary to gently bring up a subject or two where she might need some encouragement to change, believing he wants the very best for her in the same way she brings up painful topics because she loves him.  She will show respect to her husband by teaching her children to honor their father, not cutting him down for the sake of a joke, which would minimize his position in their eyes.  She will make sure her husband knows he’s her first priority, second only to her relationship with God.  She will take the time to discover what makes her man stand out from the crowd and choose to encourage those areas, support his activities, and join him in them when able (either on the front lines or the sidelines).

None of the above suggestions can be accomplished successfully, though, without the right attitude.  In order to truly feel supported, a man needs to know that you really want to come alongside him and help carry his burden.  He wants the assurance that you’re his biggest support, even when he messes up.  Just as we want to be believed in and encouraged instead of nagged or ridiculed when we make a mistake, our husbands need to know we’re on the same team and we’re their biggest cheerleaders.

One last advantage for being the biggest fan of my spouse is that I set a good example for my children to follow.  They learn firsthand what it means to be less self-centered and more “other focused.”  When I am serving my husband cheerfully, they see my happiness that comes from sacrificing a little “me time” for the greater good of the family or just to put someone else’s needs before my own.  When I include them in the process such as going on a search for my husband’s favorite ice cream flavor to surprise him at the end of the day or checking off the list of items he needed picked up at the store, they start to feel the joy themselves of serving someone else simply for the sake of serving, asking for nothing in return.  My prayer is that they’ll in turn make that a habit for their own households someday.

Before you think it’s all one-sided and I’m always serving my husband while he sits back and rests, that’s not the point at all.  As I said before, we’re a team.  So when I willingly make life easier for him by taking care of the mundane things around the house, that frees him up to take care of us on the more important things that I don’t want to have to worry about.  It keeps the flow of the house balanced and just helps things run more smoothly than they would if everyone just looked out for their own needs.

As much as I believe my personality was made to be a helpmate, it doesn’t always come naturally for me.  Sometimes I’m in a bad mood, my day is already filled to overflowing, or I haven’t spent enough time being filled by God to have anything left to fill my husband.  Those are the times, though, when it really counts.  Being a helpmate when you are fully rested or when you have extra time is easy.  Being a true helpmate when it hurts a little is taking the instructions God gave us and simply obeying because He asks us too.  Then, I think, is when my husband appreciates it the most.

I just want to take a minute today to say how grateful I am to have the privilege to be Bill’s helpmate.  I’m still a work in progress, but I look forward to many more years of practice!

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Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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