Someone once told me God speaks to us when we're sleeping because we have nothing else to do but listen to Him. Well, it's 2:30am, I had nothing better to do, and God just dropped a revelation on my spirit.
As I approach the big three-oh (30), a lot of life questions are floating around me. I've finished school and started my career, I'm working on my relationship with God, but will I get married? Will I have a child? It seems that now is the season to think about such things.
In theory, I want a God-fearing, compassionate spouse that I get along with. In online quizzes or in conversation, I would rank superficial qualities such as wealth or looks very low on the priority list. I know in my heart that the character of a man is the most important quality. Yet, what we know and what we feel are often in conflict with each other—I know I shouldn't eat fries every day, but if I smell fries, I want fries...
My Personal Problem
The biggest issue I've always wrestled with, concerning marriage, surrounds the concept of a wife submitting to her husband.
I have an aunt who is a housewife. Her husband makes all the decisions. She is not allowed to drive his car, which is nicer than the one he bought her. She goes where he wants to go. If he does not go, she doesn't go. When my family gets together for Thanksgiving dinner, she is the only person who doesn't come, even though she only lives about fifteen minutes away. If she's happy, I'm happy for her, but I can't imagine myself living like that.
What's more is that I have met my fair share of men who can barely support themselves and yet they want a woman who will bow down to them this same way. They expect her to do all the household chores, be supportive, take care of the children, maintain her sexiness, and still go to work to pay the bills—I guess they're looking for the Proverbs 31 woman (but her husband is well known at the gates, #iykyk).
A friend of mine was dating and had a child for man like this. They both worked, but she made significantly more. Yet, she was responsible for picking up their child from daycare. She bought their house. She was responsible for walking the dogs. She cut the grass. She painted her office. She painted rooms in her house. And when she got a moment to have a girls' night with us, she still brought the baby with her. I kept asking myself, what is his purpose then? Is he at least cooking and cleaning? I can't imagine working all day, rushing to the daycare after work to pick up my child, strapping her to my back while I mow the lawn and walk my dog, while my husband is chillin' like a villain inside the house I paid for.
While I think that these are both examples of men who are not necessarily seeking or listening to God and I don't think God would send such a man for me, I can't say it hasn't effected the way I view relationships. Because of these examples, I have difficulty with the questions "would you marry a man who makes significantly less that you?" and "would you be a housewife?" As a woman who has been essentially supporting myself for 7 years, it seems insane for me to marry a man who can't support me or one who would rule over me with an iron fist.
Like I said, I don't think God would put me in either situation; but, I do think God would send me a man who, though able to support me, would not be able to provide the standard of living I'm used to. This is where, when honest with myself, the truth doesn't look so good. As much as I can rationalize why I should be ok with this, the idea of working hard on a job, putting in the same amount of work at home, and then having to ask to spend money that's mostly mine sounds horrible. Why would I do that when currently I'm able to live on my own just fine, with complete autonomy and freedom?
Regardless of what my ideal lifestyle is, the fact that I feel this way, though probably a natural human reaction, is an indicator of a problem in faith (Matthew 6:25-33). One that I am sure the devil would be happy to exploit. You see, I have a Ph.D. in Computer Science. The likelihood of me finding a single, God-fearing man that makes even the same amount of money as me is borderline wishful thinking. Of the men my age I know right now, I know exactly 3 who make more than me. One is married. One doesn't believe in God. The other is spiritually confused and in a relationship. It is very likely that should God place a man in my life to be my spouse, he will make quite a bit less than me. Though I believe he would be compassionate and hardworking (unlike the examples I shared earlier), I will have to learn to consult with him before spending money and respect his opinion, even if most of the money is earned by me. Obviously, even with a man who made more than me or the same as me, this change would be necessary, but pride definitely rears its head more in the first situation. If it's not his money (makes sense to ask to use his money, right?), or our money (again, we equally contributed, we equally decide to spend), but my money, the devil starts doing a whole lot of talking. I can easily see the devil exploiting this by ruining a good marriage, or attempting to trick me into marrying a semi-God-fearing man who has money, instead of the fully-God-fearing man God intends for me. Now that is a test I don't want to fail! Like I said, it's easy to say I prefer a poorer God-fearing man than a richer semi-God-fearing man, but in practice, what would I actually do?
Introducing the Rich Man
In Sabbath school, less than 24 hours ago, we talked about the rich man (Matthew 19:16-30). Our topic of discussion was the difference in the rich man's reaction to following Jesus versus the reaction of Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:18-20)—the same is true of James and John (Matthew 4:21-22).
In class, I tried to explain a thought I had about why it was the middle class fishermen whom Jesus both approached and succeeded in recruiting versus the poor or the rich, and it came out completely botched (or at least, I feel like I didn't explain what I truly meant). What I was trying to express is that in Jesus' day, being poor really meant being a servant. A poor man was likely indebted to a master and could not think of following his own desires. Furthermore, would Jesus really ask you to cheat someone you owed by simply up and leaving? On the opposite end of the spectrum, the rich man already has everything he wants, making it hard to take a risk and follow uncharted territory that may leave him with less than he already has (materialistically). It is the middle class who would be both able and willing to just see what happens. In my actual response, however, I feel like my words minimized the abilities and perspective of poor. That weighed on my mind the entire day.
It's very possible that I didn't actually say anything wrong, but that I just feel guilty speaking on the poor at all since I've never been poor. At the time of the discussion I was thinking of myself as middle class, like Peter and Andrew, like James and John. Here, in the US, I am considered middle class. Naturally, that biases my opinions to favor middle class people...
But, God has revealed to me that I'm not middle class; I'm actually rich. I have way more in common with the rich man than I thought.
How the Rich Man is Me
You see, as I type these words on my fancy MacBook Pro, in the comforts of my very own apartment, with my fridge completely stocked (or rather it will be after I buy groceries today), the AC blowing, and my fluffy cat at my side, half of Puerto Rico still doesn't have power. Their laptops are dead, their AC doesn't work, their fridge doesn't work, and all their food spoilt. Clean water is in short supply and hot meals are probably hard to come by. Right now, there's an ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. People are fleeing their homes, leaving everything behind to live as refugees in countries that are sending them back to their death. Let's not forget about the atrocities happening in Aleppo, the poverty ripping through third world countries such that children are being recruited as soldiers or sold as brides...
Globally, the median income is $10,000 a year. That means half of the world's population is living on less than $10,000 a year. Liberia reported the lowest median income at $781 a year. My first job, at the age of 14, I only worked about 12 hours a week for 3 months at minimum-wage and made about $600 after taxes.
I am rich, and that scares me.
Jesus told the rich man to sell all his belongings and follow Him, but the rich man was saddened because he had great possessions. Is that any different than me being afraid of a situation where I have to ask permission of man who makes significant less money than me to purchase what I want?
In the Bible, the church is always represented by a woman because we are the Bride of Christ. The New Testament constantly tells us to draw parallels between our relationship to Christ and our Earthly marriages. In Christ, we are to submit to Him no matter what. Moses fled being a prince of Egypt, ended up in the wilderness for 40 years, and never got to see the promised land—but he's gonna be in Heaven. Jesus left Heaven, took on an Earthly body, lived a humble life, was (and still is) rejected, beaten, and ultimately killed (albeit only temporarily)—but He is God. John the Baptist was beheaded. John, who wrote Revelation, was exiled. Paul was thrown in jail. Peter was crucified.
The rich man wanted the lifestyle he had, that's why he wasn't willing to give it up. However, that wasn't what God wanted for him at that time. (I say at that time because there are examples of rich and prosperous servants of God—Job, David, Solomon, etc.) God is more concerned about our spiritual well-being than our material well-being. Most of us know this. As I said earlier, I know it is not of God to think I should not consider a man who makes less. So, why do I still feel saddened the same way the rich man does—especially when God hasn't even asked me to give anything up, yet?
Determined Not To Be the Rich Man
In a previous testimony, I concluded by asking would we drop everything to follow Jesus. When asked like that, I felt my answer would be yes without doubt. Yet, when placed in the context above, I see the same hesitancy as the rich man. This is why God included this situation in the Bible. This is why God woke me up at 2:30 in the morning to reevaluate my life. I will not be like the rich man, I will be like Andrew and Peter. If God should bring along a single, God-fearing man (emphasis on the God-fearing—I'm not saying jump off a yacht into a canoe with a man who isn't going to lead you closer to God!), I am resolved that money will not be my concern. Before tonight, it was something I thought I should be ok with, but now I have made peace with it. And now that I've made peace with it, I guess I can go back to sleep.
- Glenn Phelps and Steve Crabtree. "Worldwide, Median Household Income About $10,000". Gallup. December 16, 2013
- Maria Perez. "When Will Puerto Rico Have Power? Half of Island Still Without Electricity After Head of Power Authority Resigns". Newsweek. November 18, 2017
- Sarah Gibbens. "Myanmar's Rohingya Are in Crisis—What You Need to Know". National Geographic. September 29, 2017
- Nabih Bulos. "Syrian rebels on the cusp of losing Aleppo as humanitarian crisis deepens". LA Times. December 7, 2016
- Marcus Bleasdale. "Child Soldiers". Human Rights Watch. 2013
- Nick Kirkpatrick. "The ‘saddest bride I have ever seen’: Child marriage is as popular as ever in Bangladesh". The Washington Post. August 28, 2008