Glass pitchers, dish sets, serving platters…
Recently, I watched a young bride-to-be open gifts at a shower. Beautiful, useful, and fun things. All appropriate for a young couple starting their new life together.
However, another thing is true about every shower I’ve been to. At the point that chairs are arranged for present time, an invisible divider separates the knowing from the innocent.
While gifts are passed, subtle warnings are tossed, both in the same direction:
“You young ones can survive on love alone…WE are the ones who need a new mixer to keep us going…”
Ribbon breaking and chuckles.
“Oh, man. I wish I could register again. My registry would be all laundry detergent!”
Paper tearing and heads nodding.
“Honey, all you really need is some lingere and bathroom cleaner and you’ll be fine…”
Bow collecting and knee slapping.
The seasoned women laugh while the innocent girl balances pretty packages on her lap. I watch her. She smiles and giggles, and I can tell she hears, but doesn’t believe. She wants to be one of us, yet feels alone in her hope.
At the recent shower, I joined in the joking, but after watching the bride field these subtle hints about her future, I started thinking, “How can we really prepare her for marriage? To be a wife? What advice did I need back then?” For the rest of the party, I was distracted…
I remember, many years ago, being on that side of the party room. I, too, caught the joke-warnings tossed my way as I opened gifts. Like all brides-to-be, I tucked them under the wrappings and privately vowed that my marriage would be different…it would be perfect…because I would be perfect. Wife extraordinaire.
But now, in my twenty-third year of hindsight, it’s obvious that I was pretty messed up about the whole “wife” thing. My man and I always got along, had fun, and supported each other, but as soon as I donned the “Mrs.” sash, things got way more complicated.
You see, over the years, in preparation of being a wife, I had sub-consciously collected versions of wives who, I thought, were the ideal. Of course, I took from my parents’ marriage and other admirable marriages in my family, but I also wanted to become the perfect blend of Olivia Walton, Caroline Ingalls, Hope (Bo’s) and Kayla (Patch’s), and Carol Brady. After the ceremony, with a new name and thank-you notes to write, I unknowingly dragged all of these women into our new home.
It probably started with the gift registry, actually. It was probably Hope or Kayla (check out The Days’ of Our Lives, if you don’t know these women) who were with me when we registered for gifts, because we added more than a dozen champagne flutes to our list. This speaks volumes of what I thought our married nights would be like.
By the way, we received every one of them.
After I hung up the wedding gown, and put the flutes on the shelf, the harem and I got busy:
Caroline and I would smile sweetly and cook up a storm, then Carol and I laughed heartily at his jokes and cross-stitched. Olivia and I spoke softly and dreamed of having a bunch of babies. Hope, Kayla, and I would fluff our hair, cue the mood music, and wait for the pouring of the champagne…
My poor husband. He thought he was marrying one, low-maintenance, uncomplicated girl. The one he dated. He didn’t know that she was part of a package deal.
These memories flooded my mind at the shower that morning. Suddenly, I wanted to warn her…
…but my warnings felt different from the understated ones that were tossed her way in jest. I don’t want to warn the blushing girl in the chair about laundry or the bathroom cleaning. She’ll eventually learn that the china gets broken and the silver loses it’s shine. She’ll figure out that the honeymoon ends and the quilts unravel. These things require an adjustment, of course, but pose no real threat. They are beautiful signs, actually, of two lives becoming comfortable and settled in together.
I drove home from the shower thinking. How would I prepare her? What could I possibly say to give her a head-start in her new role? What, exactly, are my warnings for her?
Still processing, I went back again to those early days with all of those versions of wives in my head. Those mostly-fictional women who kept me busy during those early years. They ran me into the ground and distracted me from my husband. I tuned everything out and I listened solely to their voices. I turned away from God’s plan and I focused on their images. Instead of being the woman that he loves, I became the wife of my dreams. I cooked, cleaned, and poured champagne. For him? No, honestly. For them.
So twisted. So weird. So true.
My sweet husband tried to tell me.
“Honey, don’t worry about doing that, now. Just come watch the game with me.”
“You’ve done enough today, let’s just hang out.”
I was confused. We were both living with all of these amazing women…why the dissatisfaction?
Alarmed, I started reading “wife books”. I devoured them, actually, hoping they would clarify what I was doing wrong, but they only added voices to the noise. With each book, the author herself would join the group within me, pulling and pressuring me throughout my day. I was a distracted, exhausted mess. Again, my heart goes out to my poor, sweet, patient husband as I remember.
I wish I could go back and talk to myself as a bride. But I can’t. However, I can be grateful that I learned. God got a hold of me and disbanded the sorority in my mind. He broke through the noise and gave me new focus. Thankfully, my husband is patient and our marriage is solid. He and I both have grasped that we must seek God first in our marriage, and that makes all of the difference, for both of us.
This remembering finally helps to clarify what I want to say to today’s bride at the shower:
You are about to take on a new title, but don’t let it overshadow your main role. Yes, listen as godly women advise you about homemaking and marital-relations. Prayerfully observe solid marriages around you and ask specific questions when you need help.
But also learn from my mistakes. Don’t focus so hard on being a wife that you forget that your main role is to be His daughter. Beware of filling your head with images of who you think you should be ~causing you to abandon the unique person who your fiance’ loves. Resist allowing the voices in your head or of the world to drown out the Voice that you really need to hear. And certainly don’t answer to the pressures of fictitious creatures! Instead, respond to the call of your Creator who lived and died for you.
Sweet, innocent girl, open your new dishes and collect recipes. Take your new role seriously. But don’t elevate it above where it should be. Seek the Lord above all else and He will give you the motivation you need each day to smile, fix meals, fluff your hair, laugh, and play the romantic mood music. Be His daughter first, so you can be his wife.
Your dreams? Well, with Him at the center of your marriage, they will be better than you can imagine!
And who knows? They might even include a little champagne…