a conversation for wives over the book:“sacred influence”by gary thomas

In the past, any time I’ve picked up a book written specifically for wives, I lost enthusiasm within the first few chapters. Part of the problem could have been that I wasn’t ready or willing to face facts and confront my own areas of opportunity. Yet there is something noticeably different about Sacred Influence right from the beginning. In fact, I didn’t even make it all the way through the first two pages before I was in tears and vowing to share this book with other wives if the rest of the book lived up to the expectations I had after reading the Introduction.

“… if I could but glimpse the passion he (God) feels for you and the tears he cries when you cry – how he feels each slight that you feel and how he hates the condescending tone with which you often get addressed – then I might begin to realize why God would care about a book like this… He doesn’t want to leave you alone in relationships that brings you less than what he designed.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

As the author goes on to describe, God sees and hears everything in our marriages, and He (God) knows that our husbands can “provide great strength, nurture, comfort, and security but also that they can be frustrating, terrifying, demanding, and selfish”.

With that being said, let’s begin…

I N T R O D U C T I O N :

Ladies, I cannot describe how excited I am to have you join me in reading through Sacred Influence. Just as we are eager to share with one another a great recipe, or a nifty household cleaning tip, I have been longing to share this book with you because I have found the insight offered to be of extreme value. Of course, there is no absolute “fix” for all of our woes, and we will always face challenges this side of heaven. My prayer is that you will walk away from this journey properly equipped with the tools to release your husband from the unattainable expectations we’ve placed on them, an understanding of how your actions and words may impact him in ways you didn’t realize, and the confidence to move forward as a woman who realizes just how precious her value truly is – imperfections and all. So, how is this going to work? Since you have already read the chapters being discussed, there is no need for me to paraphrase. (I couldn’t possibly do the pages justice anyway.) Instead, I’ll be sharing a few sentences from each chapter that I found noteworthy. A sentence or two that had me reaching for a highlighter and perhaps a personal experience that it related to for me. The difficult part will be selecting just one as I’ve found even more of the book is being underlined the second time through.

That’s where you come in! I’d love to hear what you took to heart, or even if there was something difficult that you’re having trouble working through.
Please note: I am in no way a trained professional. I am simply an imperfect wife living with an imperfect husband, who cares a great deal about my marriage. I believe we sisters can and should be in a loving community with one another that offers love, support, and encouragement. My stance on marriage is that you hang in even through the difficulties*, that marriage is intended to be a beautiful display of covenant love, and that God can redeem even a broken marriage. It must be said, the information here is going to be taken out of context to some degree. If you haven’t read through the pages yourself, I urge you to do so.

* Hanging in does not mean subjecting yourself or your children to harm. Gary Thomas will address this as well in the text, and I also encourage you to seek professional help.

C H A P T E R   O N E :

“Let the words of the Bible wash away any mistaken cultural notions you may hold that inaccurately depict God’s view of women… …You may have thought that biblical submission sentences you to a second-tier status, that you must be your husband’s doormat and allow him to walk all over you without ever raising your voice as you quietly pray in the corner. Such an outdated view comes from the culture, not the Bible.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Although the word itself carries a lot of weight and controversy, it is so clear to me that submission is the Creator’s design for marriage. Yet it is rare to see Biblical submission within the context of marriage. It has always been a difficult aspect for me because I myself thought, on some level, that submitting meant shutting my mouth. And I really did not want a marriage in which I kept my mouth shut and in turn resented my husband as a result. The world’s view of submission allows for one of two ways of dealing with it. Essentially, being a doormat. Or retaliating and running the other direction – in other words, being a tyrant. I knew I didn’t want to be either of those things. That couldn’t be what God was asking of women. It was surprisingly refreshing to learn just what the Creator of marriage really had in mind!

“If you’re trying to find your primary refuge in your husband, if you’ve centered your hope on him, if your security depends on his approval, and if you will do almost anything to gain his acceptance – than you’ve just given to a man what rightfully belongs to God alone. And that means you’ve turned marriage into idol worship. “… And what happens when an idol disappoints you? Ah, that’s the type of experience that gives birth to the cliche, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

For a long time I held a false belief that if my husband truly loved me, he would magically stop doing all of the things that hurt me. Although I was completely unaware of it’s presence, that lie had worked it’s way into my life, and transformed the very lens through which I saw my husband. I knew he wasn’t perfect, yet when he fell short of the expectations I had placed on him to the point of causing me pain, I in turn questioned whether his love for and devotion to me was really sincere. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we took our vows and began striving for a great marriage for the sake of enjoying it.

It was a painful truth to learn that I was looking to my husband in many areas where I should have been looking to God. I think the fact that most days we really did have a “great” marriage fueled that false sense of security and turned those moments when our marriage let me down into an extreme fall. Our marriage has been transformed by simply realigning our purposes. We now understand the truth that our marriage is meant to be enjoyed, that the work we put in to it is specifically so that it will be more lovely and more wonderful. Yet the beauty within marriage is not how happy it makes us, but how it points to something far greater than the two of us. How it brings glory and honor to God. Again, that doesn’t make all of our troubles disappear. But as a wife, it means that when my husband isn’t perfect, as is the case from time to time, I can be more quick to give him grace, because he was never meant to be my everything anyway.

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts! What did you think of chapter one?

C H A P T E R   T W O :

“Be wary of overestimating your willingness to live with a glaring hurt or a gaping need. Don’t pretend that Satan won’t exploit it… be willing to create a climate in which your spouse will be motivated… This is a courageous and healthy movement toward your spouse and toward preserving and strengthening your marriage, and it is an act of commitment, not rebellion.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

My tendency is actually to be on the other end of the spectrum, and I have a hard time acting as though everything is OK when it isn’t. As one who struggles with the need to people-please, I have always felt that my husband is the one person who I should be able to be completely honest with. It felt like a game to put on a happy face or pretend to be something I didn’t mean from the bottom of my heart. I’ve always felt a little guilty that I wasn’t a “strong enough” woman to overcome that quality in myself. For that reason, to me this chapter was more about the affirmation of my desire to be honest about the areas of our marriage that needed improvement, and the encouragement to do so in a God-honoring way (“without nagging and without petty recrimination”).

What I believe will give you the most boldness and courage to address issues that need to change is, first, understanding who you are in Christ and, second, letting God, not your marital status, define your life. Armed with that acceptance, security, and empowerment, you become a mighty force for good.
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

If you’ve been reading along with us thus far, or if you didn’t happen to catch it in the title of the book alone, you’ve likely by now caught on to the fact that this book is intended to reveal to us women how we possess the power to influence our husbands. In my opinion, there are a lot of incorrect viewpoints on woman empowerment in marriage out there. I personally have found those beliefs to do more harm than good when it comes to my marriage. But truly knowing who I am meant to be as a Godly woman, what my role as a wife is intended to be, and the ability that I have been given me to influence my husband and to move my marriage… now that is truly empowering in a way I can get on board with! I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or takeaways from chapter two.

Is there a specific part of the chapter that spoke to you? Have you considered whether it is better to deal with a momentary discomfort for the sake of making your marriage better for a lifetime? Are you actively working in your marriage and being courageous enough to take a stand for what is right? the elle in love, intentional marriage, sacred influence, for wives If you are anything like me and find yourself flipping ahead in books to get an idea of what’s coming, than you’ve likely noticed that we have just one chapter remaining in Part One. We have one more week to focus on the why before moving on to the what and how. Basically, after that fire in our belly is good and lit, we are going to be equipped with the proper tools to do something about it. I love it! Can’t wait to have you back next Wednesday as we take a look at chapter three!

C H A P T E R   T H R E E :

“What if your husband’s faults are God’s tools to shape you? What if the very thing that most bugs you about your man constitutes God’s plan to teach you something new?”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

A couple years ago at a marriage retreat, Kelly and I were introduced to the concept that our spouse is like a chisel. God uses our spouse as a tool to smooth out our rough edges, to help mold us in to who He wants us to be. I love that comparison! As wonderful as my husband is, he is not a perfect being. To believe he is would be to deny the absolute truth that none of us can be. So, I’ll admit there are times he tests my patience. And I’m pretty darn sure there are times when I test his.

If you can relate, then perhaps you can also agree there are two parts to this “chisel” reality… 1- I am being sculpted through my marriage. 2- I am used as a means to sculpt my husband.

Let’s start with being sculpted first. As the author puts it, our marriage isn’t just a number on a scale, it is an equation (x + y = z). We cannot control him, but we can have an overall impact in our marriage by working to be better ourselves. In those times when respecting my husband is challenging, it is best to focus on myself and how I can grow and improve through that particular situation, rather than on what “he is doing wrong”. That’s tough sometimes because it feels better to look at his faults rather than my own. But if you can set your pride aside for a moment, you just might find within the trying times, those areas for your own improvement are also revealed.

The good news is, we are also in the position to influence our husbands. Which leads me to being used as a tool to shape his life. And this next quote is perfect for discussion on that point…

 “When you dream something in a positive way, you offer yourself to God as an instrument of love, change, and spiritual transformation. When you demand that someone change for your sake, you are literally trying to bend the world around your comfort, your needs, and your happiness. That’s pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness…”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Influencing my husband is not about getting my way, or trying to control him. Period. Knowing that I am being used to shape the kind of husband, someday father, and man my husband is should only be about loving and honoring him. Not because he is deserving all of the time. But because that is what I have been called to do. For a long time I didn’t realize just how much influence I have on my man, and it was a humbling awakening to learn that a lot of the actions I took made it more difficult for him to be the kind of husband he is called to be.

Ruth Graham said, “If two people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary.” In other words, we are still two different people. I was created to support and balance out my husband. I am gifted differently than he is and I can offer a point of view that he may not see on his own. We all know that sometimes a man needs to be gently nudged in a different direction. The key is to check our motives, and to understand how to do that in a really beautiful and effective way. A way that he can accept. A way that will ensure he appreciates just how much he needs you by his side.

C H A P T E R   F O U R:

This is a humbling one. Admittedly, my initial reaction was rooted in pride. Yeah, yeah. I still appreciate the little things about my husband. And I know that he isn’t perfect… Yay me!

But then I read the following…

“… wives who, in the abstract, know their husbands can’t be perfect; but in reality, they resent the fact that they’re not. As author and marriage counselor Leslie Vernick states, “They’re looking for their Prince Charming. When he turns out to be just a regular guy, they’re disappointed.”
“Since every wife is married to an imperfect man, every wife will have legitimate disappointments in her marriage. Are you going to define your husband by these disappointments, or will you pray that God will open your eyes to the common blessings that your husband provides and to which you often become blinded?”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Could it be that I might actually resent my husband for being imperfect? The word resent is a bit harsh, so it is easy to say no and dismiss the thought all together. But what about if I ask the question another way? If I really stop to consider what is going on inside when I feel hurt or frustrated, is it because, on some level, I actually expect for him to act perfectly?

A while back, I heard somewhere that romantic movies are to a woman what certain magazines are to men. Basically, unrealistic expectations are implanted in our mind. Up until hearing that, I had never even considered that as a woman I needed to guard myself against the allure of the romantic man. When it comes to romance, we tend to think of the roses and champagne kind of treatment. Yet it isn’t just the expectation of occasional extravagance that’s being referred to. Have you ever noticed how the leading man always knows exactly what to say? Or that he would never make the mistake of assuming his lady is in a joking mood when she really just needs to feel loved?

By definition, “romantic” can mean fanciful; impractical; unrealistic.

I may know that my husband will stumble, but I need to actively guard myself against allowing the disappointment to take over when he does. I also need to remind myself often that there is a difference between being prepared for disappointment, and expecting failure. Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve responded to my husband with a why am I not surprised attitude – which, let’s be honest, just really isn’t fair. And it certainly isn’t encouraging to him.

“Husbands detect disappointment with uncanny accuracy. Because we so deeply value affirmation, whenever we don’t get it, it feels like living with one long, loud, psychic scream. And we tend to react like this: “If I can’t please her by trying my hardest, then why should I try at all? I’m not saying we should react this way; I’m just saying that’s how we usually do react.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Wow. If that’s isn’t a true statement. I know I have been guilty of running my husband down a path of feeling inadequate no matter what he does. It breaks my heart to think I’ve been so caught up in myself at times to not realize that’s what I was doing. I’ve also seen how his eyes light up when he knows that he is sincerely appreciated for what he does, or how he strives to move mountains when his wife believes he can.

The dynamic between a husband and a wife might seem like a “duh” thing, but that doesn’t make it easy all of the time. Having it put into such simple words woke me up to what was really happening, and in a way, that understanding makes it easier to cling to the truth in times of confusion. I don’t always love the fact that my husband is swayed by my words and actions. But I cannot deny the fact that this is how we were made. There is a specific reason that God created a wife for Adam, and it wasn’t to make him feel like crap for what he was missing on his own.

Marriage isn’t about romance and happily ever afters. The romance is nice. The thought that he knows me so well he knows what kind of a mood I’m in by how I smile at him is quite lovely. Those little things might have their place in marriage. But they aren’t always reliable. They certainly aren’t what makes our commitment good. They are nothing compared to the deliberate choices we make on a daily basis to confront our weaknesses, to learn from our mistakes, and to build our marriage one stone at a time.

C H A P T E R   F I V E:

“Perhaps you think that the more your husband loves you, the better he’ll become at reading your mind. That’s a romantic but highly unrealistic, and even destructive, notion. It can create havoc in a marriage, and it hinders mature communication by keeping you from being direct, while at the same time tempting you toward resentment when your husband proves utterly incapable of telepathy.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence
 I think, a little bit, every woman wants her man to pick up on her cues without having to say exactly what she’s thinking. I’m not proud of it, but I have been guilty of actually telling the Mister that he should know me well enough to know what I need depending on my mood.
 … Yikes. That sounds even worse when you admit it in writing. When I think back to the early years of our marriage, I know there were a lot of times that I expected him to just know what I wanted. I assumed my subtle cues were enough for him to pick up on, and on occasion even thought that him not knowing meant he didn’t care. And unfortunately, I accused him of such.
The thing is, now – after almost 12 years of marriage – my man knows me pretty well. He has learned things such as how working from home means that sometimes I appreciate him offering to take me on a little escape, even if just for a meal away from the house. Or that sometimes I really just need for him to listen while I vent, rather than finding a solution to my problems. We learn more about one another with each trip around the sun, but it has taken a lot of good communication, and quite a few lessons of what poor communication looks like the hard way. Even still, I needed the reminder to be aware of this romantic idea creeping into my thoughts. It is an intentional choice to be straightforward with my husband. I’m not perfect at that all of the time, but I have noticed that even in the small things, speaking directly can make a big difference.
“… it’s not that I’m not pursuing holiness. It’s just that I know that my Father will get me where He wants me to be and that even my failures serve, in some way, to glorify Him. My relationship with God is growing to be all about His grace, His mercy, His power.”
— Elyse Fitzpatrick, quoted in  Sacred Influence

Kel and I are both pretty extreme perfectionists, which means we both are really hard on ourselves when we make a mistake. Up until recently, a lot of our “improve our marriage” conversations centered around what we could each be doing better. If you could just do this instead of that… I’d really love it if you would change this behavior… We didn’t realize what we were doing, but on some level we thought the key to bettering our relationship was to strive harder at doing things right.

The best thing we have ever done for our marriage is switch our focus toward grace. There’s a whole lot more to that than I can explain here, but basically it starts with a better understanding about what it means to accept God’s grace. It’s really easy to beat myself up when I inevitably fail. But really, truly understanding the power of God’s grace allows me to look at my failures with a heart of gratitude instead of contempt for my inadequacies. In turn, walking in that grace and mercy myself allows me to more freely give the same to my husband. It’s a really beautiful dynamic when we are both receiving and offering grace, and even though we haven’t perfected it – and probably never will – I find myself wondering why we didn’t figure that out sooner. But then I remember that is just one of the many imperfections that make us thankful for grace in the first place.

Speaking of grace, if you are following along with this study, I apologize for this post being a week late. Let’s just say last week was a doozy! ;) I had thought about catching up with two chapters this week, but there is just too much to cram in, so we will pick up with chapter 6 next week.

C H A P T E R   S I X:

Many wives may reject the idea of being called to be a “helper” without so much as giving consideration to what it truly asks of us. On some level I’ve always longed for a marriage the way the Creator intended, yet I myself have struggled with frustration over the thought that my purpose as a wife is to be a “helper”.

In our current season of life, our morning routine consists of me lending a hand to my husband as he’s trying to get out the door by ironing his shirt, pouring his coffee, and preparing a quick breakfast for him to take with him. He is capable of doing those things himself, of course, but on mornings when he goes to the office, and I’m working from home, that’s my way of lending a hand and letting him know how much I appreciate that he works so hard to provide for our family.

At the same time, it’s hard to think that what I bring to the table as a wife can be summed up in an old-school sitcom version of a housewife. That depiction of a helper (aka: submissive wife) is often likened to that of assistant, or more accurately a “gofer”. You know… Do as your told. Offer assistance when needed. Stay out of the way of the person who is in charge.

That never quite added up to me. I wanted to be a godly wife, and most days I enjoy lending a helping hand to my husband. Yet I knew I brought more value than that of a gofer, and I couldn’t understand how to best apply my unique gifts if I was merely meant to fulfill the position of peon in our relationship. At times, that misconception even had me struggling with the desire to be the “one in control” (the one who wears the pants, some would say).

To be clear, my husband has never ordered me around, he asks my opinion a lot, and we have both always acted as more a team. But we’ve learned that without a proper understanding of what the Biblical definition of helper is, we were accepting less than God’s best for our marriage.

“If you have entered into God’s invention called marriage, your role is to be your husband’s helper. This does not diminish you any more than the Bible diminishes God by calling him our helper. In fact, being able to help assumes, in one sense, that you have something the person you are helping lacks.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Being a wife – being a helper – is not only about offering an extra set of hands when needed. It is about being a partner. A teammate. A valuable, contributing member of our family. And as in any team, having established and clearly defined roles will help tremendously in accomplishing a goal together.

“How often do you give thought to this role of helper? How often do you wake up and think, “How can I help my husband today?” When you repeatedly ask this question, you’re living in a marriage as God designed it. When you allow selfishness to reign (“How come my husband isn’t helping me?), you’re living in marriage as Satan polluted it.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

C H A P T E R   S E V E N:

We have the privilege of talking to and working with a lot of young couples before their wedding day. When we ask them what they are looking forward to most, they often respond with “just being married”.

I remember being that couple. We dated long-distance those first couple years of our relationship, and we would dream about a day when we would live in the same town. As we looked forward to our wedding, we grew even more excited about living within the same walls. Those little things like putting away groceries in cabinets that were ours and sitting on the couch together at the end of a long day were things that we looked forward to.

“Yet we live in a culture that glorifies selfishness more than responsibility. Books and movies urge us to “follow our hearts,” regardless of our commitments. We need to recapture the beauty of responsibility and the glory of faithfulness.

Instead of giving thanks for romance when it comes, we crave it, demand it, and even build our lives around it. We rarely give ourselves the opportunity to experience the more steadfast satisfaction of loyalty, commitment, and responsibility.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Throughout our twelve years of marriage, we have been through quite a few seasons together. There have been days of love letters, flowers, and holding hands; and there have been days so consumed with obligation that merely a moment within eyesight of one another seems an accomplishment.

I have to admit, there have been times when I felt as though those busy seasons of simply doing life together were something to be ashamed of. That perhaps we were losing a special part of us if a few weeks passed by without that feeling of being swept off my feet. But when I think about the “steadfast satisfaction of loyalty, commitment, and responsibility”, I can’t help but fall in love with my husband all over again for being exactly that. Steadfast. Loyal. Committed. Responsible.

I will always appreciate that my husband understands and even speaks to the hopeless romantic in me. Yet the bond that is forged through years of fulfilling our responsibilities to one another runs so. much. deeper.

As a wife, I have a responsibility to my husband. Sometimes, I can get caught up in my own emotions and it is certainly easier to uphold my end of the deal when he meets my expectations. I’ve found though, that when I’m intentional about focusing on what I am called to be, rather than on how it feels, our marriage is so much sweeter and all the more enjoyable!

“Ironically, if more women would concern themselves with being responsible instead of obsessing about whether they feel happy, fulfilled, and “important,” we would have a lot more women who are happy and fulfilled…”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on chapter seven. Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

C H A P T E R   E I G H T:

For me personally, this chapter hit really close to home. It was huge for me to learn more about the way my husband’s mind works and understand why sometimes it seems as though we are on such different levels when talking through emotionally heavy situations or disagreements. Although it took all of about two seconds of being in a relationship to recognize that the male and female minds work differently, I have found the deeper level of understanding offered in this chapter to be extremely helpful.

“… men may take up to seven hours longer to process complex emotional data.”
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

Raise your hand if you’ve ever expected your husband to keep up with the emotional roller coaster you’re riding. Hand sheepishly reaches toward the ceiling. Yep, I’ve been guilty of that one plenty of times. It’s probably a “duh” thing, but I hadn’t confronted the reality that my husband can’t do anything about the fact that he needs the time to process. This lesson really gave me so much additional appreciation for all of the effort he puts in to being there for me and what I’m going through – even when he hasn’t had time to process it just yet.

“Because of the way the female brain works (with a release of oxytocin), talking through emotional issues has a calming effect, while the opposite is true for most men; such discussions can create anxiety and distress…
You probably feel soothed by talking through problems; for men, it can feel like torture.
— Gary Thomas, Sacred Influence

I can talk through things until the sun comes up – especially when it’s something that’s weighing on me heavily. Lately we’ve both been dealing with a lot, and there has been a ton of conversation about what the future looks like. So, my brain has been in overdrive. This is a really great reminder to me that even though the Mister is willing to take care of my needs (and lovingly wrap his arms around me) while I gab the night away, I need to be intentional about making sure he’s getting what he needs and provide him with opportunities to rest his mind as well.

coming soon….