The Art of Being a Wife
About the Guest
Marriage should be a work of art, and the best marriages are definitely collaborative works. Artist and author Barbara Rainey shares marriage lessons taken from a pallet of more than four decades of matrimony.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Marriage should be a work of art, and the best marriages are definitely collaborative works. Barbara Rainey shares marriage lessons taken from a pallet of more than four decades of matrimony.
The Art of Being a Wife
Bob: In the Book of James, the Bible says we are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Barbara Rainey says she doesn’t see that being lived out today in a lot of marriages.
Barbara: We are so quick, as women, to say exactly what we think / exactly how we feel without much regard for how that impacts him—or other people, for that matter. We have a really high value in our culture today on being truthful / on saying what we think; but we don’t have an equally high value on saying it in love. It affects our marriages. We all say things in our marriages that we probably shouldn’t say.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Would your marriage be different / be better if you slowed down and didn’t speak as thoughtlessly as you sometimes do?
We’re going to hear from Barbara Rainey on that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Most of the time, I am glad our program is radio and not television. That way I can wear pajamas to the studio if I want to and nobody knows what I’m—
Dennis: You have never done that. [Laughter]
Barbara: Except all of us in the studio would know! [Laughter]
Dennis: Twenty-four years—
Barbara: You should try it sometime! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, I’d have to go buy a pair of pajamas first before I did that.
Barbara: Oh! [Laughter]
Bob: But, there are days when you think the visual would be helpful. Actually, what we’re going to hear today—
Dennis: Of you and your pajamas? I’m not getting beyond that.
Bob: No, not that visual. There’s a different visual here. It involves your wife, who is joining us again. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today, Barbara.
Barbara: Thanks, Bob.
Bob: You had an opportunity, not long ago, to speak to a group of wives and moms. You were talking from the book you’ve written, Letters to My Daughters. You did something unique as you began this message that we really can’t—we can’t show it on radio the way we wish we could.
Barbara: I wish we could show it. It actually was quite fun. What we did is—I set up an artist easel on the stage, with a large canvas. I had two wooden palettes. I invited a woman to help me do this—someone whom I had never met before / someone who has an interest in art. So, I wasn’t asking someone to do something that would be totally foreign to her. But nonetheless, we didn’t really talk this through ahead of time. On this easel—I did tell her ahead of time, “Here’s what I want us to do—you and I are going to paint something.”
We had the easel turned away from the audience so they couldn’t see it.
I told the audience that each of us had a palette in our hands, with different colors. She had five colors and I had five colors. We had two that were the same, but the other four were each different. That was to illustrate for the audience that a husband has responsibilities in marriage that are different than a wife, and a wife has responsibilities that are different than the husband. Both of us are commanded to love—that was the color we had in common. In that illustration, the love was the color white—we both had the color white.
We went to work painting, much like you do in a marriage. I didn’t know her very well, and she didn’t know me. That’s very much like a marriage when it begins. We think we know each other, but we don’t know each other at all.
Dennis: And so, I’m wondering if you whispered to her what you were going to paint?
Barbara: No—well, I did tell her what shape I wanted us to paint, but I was not talking to her as we painted. I was talking to the audience, and I was explaining, “One of the colors on my husband’s palette is, ‘Live with your wife in an understanding way.’
“He’s been commanded to do that, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not supposed to be understanding of him.”
As this woman and I painted this image on this canvas, I was explaining that principle. I reached over and I got some of her yellow off of her palette, and I put some yellow on my half of the painting. For about ten minutes we worked on this painting. It was a painting of a heart—she did one half and I did one half—and they were very different. Yet, there were some similarities between them; because we were both painting the same picture. Then, when we finished, we turned it around and showed the audience.
The whole idea was to help create a visual so women could see that God’s idea for marriage was to create a masterpiece—to create a painting that was unique from every other couple’s painting on the planet. The painting that Dennis and I create in our marriage is going to very different than the painting you [Bob] and Mary Ann create.
Bob: So that opening illustration—quite literally an illustration—set up the rest of what you wanted to talk about. That’s what our listeners are going to get a chance to hear today—how you took that opening illustration and explained to young wives what the marriage masterpiece is supposed to look like.
Barbara: My husband and I could not be more different. We still run into that, even after 40 years of marriage. I made a list of all the ways that we’re different—and this is just a start.
My husband thinks globally. He’s always thinking in the big picture. I think locally—I think about my home, I think about my neighborhood—I think a lot smaller than he does. That’s a big difference in the two of us.
My husband is spontaneous / I am a planner—and that’s a big clash in our marriage, oftentimes.
One of the ways that’s a big clash in our marriage is anytime we travel by car. My husband’s way of packing the car is to just get everything that’s going to go and just throw it in there: “It’s going with us; right? Does it matter what order it’s in?”
And the answer is: “Yes!” [Laughter] “Yes. You put the big suitcases on the bottom, and then the smaller ones, and then the tiny ones on top. You’re careful with the things that could break, and you organize things, just so, in the car.” Lots of clashes in our marriage, because he’s spontaneous and I’m a planner.
He is an extravert, and I am an introvert. He is a road-runner, and I am a homebody. He would be on the road all the time if he could, but I have been the one who has sort of pulled him back and said: “No; we’re going too much. We can’t go anymore.” Sometimes, that’s been a stress for him / sometimes, he hasn’t liked that—but it’s been a good balance in our marriage.
He’s a people-person / I’m a task-person. He loves to hunt and fish, and I love art and beauty. He’s a random thinker / I think sequentially, in order.
His love language is the physical / my love language is words. He processes information quickly / I process information slowly and methodically. Rules, to him, are guidelines. [Laughter] Rules, to me, are to be kept. He thinks with the big picture, and the general idea is good enough. I’m a perfectionist—details matter and accuracy is important.
Now, that’s just a summary. There are lots more differences between us. As a result of all those differences, we both hurt one another; and we suffer. Our brokenness makes life difficult for the other person.
Another thing that has been just this little irritant for me for years is that, when my husband comes home from work in the afternoon or in the early evening—sometimes, it’s later in the evening—his office is literally six steps inside the front door, on the left.
Instead of going into the office to deposit his things, he walks past his office, around the corner, into the kitchen. At one end of the island goes the backpack, and then the keys, and then his stack of papers—all the way down the island are all of his things.
For a long time, that just used to drive me crazy. I thought: “Seriously?! Your office is right there—it’s all yours—the whole room is yours. You can put it all in there any way you want to put it in there, but the island is where we live / it’s where we cook; and his stuff is all the way down.”
One day, I thought, “You know, there will probably come a day when I will wish his stuff was all over the island; because I would rather have him and his stuff all over the island than not have him at all.” I finally backed off and said: “You know what? Who cares?” So I just am constantly moving stuff away, when it’s time to cook and clean, so it doesn’t get all ruined.
What I want you to do really quickly is—remember this, first of all—differences have a divine purpose.
We tend to look at the differences as irritants / as things that we would like to do away with or change; but differences have a divine purpose.
Secondly, every couple struggles with unhealthy comparisons. We are always looking at other wives; we’re always looking at other husbands; we’re always looking at other marriages; and we think that we’re short on something. It reminds me of what happened with Eve—I think that’s what happened with Eve. She compared herself—because she listened to the enemy—and she compared herself with God and thought, “He has something I don’t have, and it’s not fair.” That’s where it all began, and I think we’re dealing with it still today.
Alright, number three—every couple has a unique calling. Within the form and the shape that God has designed for marriage, God has purposes that He wants to do with your marriage that are different than your neighbors’, or your friends’, or your next-door neighbor, or your sister.
God has a unique calling for every single marriage.
One of the reasons that I chose this board is because it reminds me of my friend Donna, who lives in Alaska. Donna is a homeschooling mom. She cooks all her own food; she cans; she does all these very domestic, feminine-sounding activities; but Donna also packs heat. Donna also knows how to kill a bear. Donna also knows how to repair an engine on all kinds of vehicles. Donna knows how to do things that most of us in this room have never even thought about doing. But Donna has a unique calling in her marriage; because she’s married to a man who’s a bush pilot, and they own a lodge in the wilderness in Alaska. That’s not God’s calling for my life / it’s not His calling for your life. It is His calling for her life, and she is embracing it. She is saying, “Thank You, God, for what You have called me to do.”
I have another friend who lives in New Zealand. She is married to a man who has been on dialysis for 20 years. That is not my calling—it’s probably not most of your calling, either—but God has called Nikki to be married to Andy and to live with him in the real extreme challenges that he has to face every day because he doesn’t have kidneys that work.
I don’t know what it is about your marriage that is unique—that God has placed in you for His purposes—but you do. Our responsibility is to identify that and see what God wants to do, because He has a story to tell with you and your husband that He can’t tell with anybody else.
The first tip I wanted to give you is: “Listen to the artist of your marriage.” The second one is—I want you to: “Listen to the author of your marriage story,”—and that’s the Holy Spirit. God is the one who designed this concept and created this image of marriage, and He has a purpose for your marriage.
The Holy Spirit is the one who makes it work—He’s the one who is orchestrating your story.
Who created your marriage? It was God Himself. And who brought you two together as husband and wife? God brought you together as husband and wife; didn’t He? Well, He is the One who knows how to make it work.
There’s a story in the Book of John about Jesus. The story goes like this: Jesus was at home, and his brothers were there. It was the time for the feast. The feast came and it was one of the feasts when everyone—all the men—had to go to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. His brothers came to Him and said: “It’s time for the feast. We’re going, and You need to come too.” And Jesus said, “It’s not My time yet.” They said: “But You need to show Yourself. People need to know who You are. You need to come where everyone is and make Yourself known.” And Jesus said: “No. It’s not My time.”
That always puzzled me; because in the very next verse, after the brothers left, Jesus got up and went. I never understood: “Why did Jesus not go in the beginning when they asked Him to go if He was going to go ahead and go anyway?”—right? It just didn’t make sense to me.
But then I found the answer one day; and it’s in John 8:28, just a few verses later. Jesus said in verse 28—He said, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak the things that the Father has taught Me.” Then, in verse 29, He said, “He has not left Me alone”—speaking of the Father—“for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” When I finally thought about that verse for a minute, it just was really stunning to me—and still is—Jesus said, “I do nothing apart from the Father.”
Now I want you to think for a minute: “As a wife, how many things do you do apart from the Father?
“How many things do you do on your own?” It’s a hard question; isn’t it? How many times do we speak on our own initiative? How many times do we say what we want to say on our own initiative—without listening to the Father / without listening to the Spirit—say: “Should I say this to my husband? Is this the right thing for me to tell him? Should I keep my mouth shut?”
Jesus didn’t go to the feast, because the Father didn’t tell Him to go to the feast. He waited until He got permission from God, and then He went the next day.
What that does for me, as a wife, is—I need to be listening to the Holy Spirit and saying what He wants me to say and not saying what I want to say. We are so quick, as women, to say exactly what we think / exactly how we feel, without much regard for how that impacts him—or other people, for that matter.
We have a really high value in our culture today on being truthful / on saying what we think, but we don’t have an equally high value on saying it in love and on self-restraint. Neither one of those are virtues that we’re lifting up in our culture today. We’re lifting up one without the other, and it affects our marriages. We all say things in our marriages that we probably shouldn’t say.
There is forgiveness—so I don’t want anybody to think that we’re talking about perfection, because it can’t happen. The point is— we need to be growing, as women, and learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit and what He says.
I want to read you a couple—short paragraph out of my book on the Holy Spirit:
Now that we’ve traveled 40 years of marriage by faith, I’ve come to realize that the Holy Spirit is my dearest Friend. He is misunderstood, and neglected, and often ignored; but this greatest gift to those of us who believe is the One who has helped me most become who I am today.
It is because of Him that our marriage has survived and not died. It is because of Him that our marriage thrives, even today.
He has whispered truth to me and guided me to the best paths. He has given me wisdom when I asked; He has gently nudged me to speak; and at other times, He has nudged me to be quiet. When I have listened to His leading, I have never, ever been sorry. When I haven’t listened, I’ve had regrets and plenty of them.
Following the Holy Spirit has been slow and arduous, not because He is not a good leader, but because I’m not a good follower. Whispers require attentiveness; and the Holy Spirit whispers to us, which I love! Sometimes I wish He’d be a little louder so I could really be sure I’m hearing Him, but He doesn’t yell at us. He’s not in your face. He whispers, because He wants us to pay attention to His voice, and we need to learn to hear His voice.
Whispering requires attentiveness, and understanding means learning His language. We need to know how He speaks. If you’re not there yet, be patient with yourself; because Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice,” and you will, too, in time. So it’s a growing thing, to learn to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.
Number three—listen to God’s truth about you and your marriage. The overriding lesson that I want to share with you from 40 years of marriage is this: “God is faithful, and He will give us what we need to rise above any challenge, if we ask Him and if we wait for Him to provide.”
I think we’re way too impatient in this culture. I think social media has robbed us—and the internet—of our patience. I get so impatient when I try to go online and find something and that’s not there [snap of fingers] that fast. I think that seeps over into my relationship with God. It seeps over into my marriage:
“I want things fixed now!”” “I want God to tell me what to do now!” “I want God to take care of this right now.” And God says: “Wait! Wait on Me.” Waiting is so very challenging and hard.
I got a text from my daughter the other day. I was going to read it to you, but it will take too long to pull it up—impatient; right? But she wrote that just a few days ago—and this is a daughter who lives in another state / not Ashley who is here with me—she said, “Ohh!”—she wrote out: “Argh! Marriage is so hard.” She said, “I’m having such a struggle today, and it’s so hard.” She said, “Will you pray for me?” And I did. And it’s just true—we all have those days; don’t we?—when marriage just feels impossible: “It’s impossible to understand this man,” “It’s impossible to live with this man,” “It’s impossible—the situation that we find ourselves in.”
But I want to encourage you not to quit and give up when you run into those impossibilities in your marriage, because you’re going to keep running into those impossibilities in your marriage.
They aren’t going to go away. You’re going to keep running into them. If you quit on your marriage, you’re interrupting the process of what God wants to do. If we’ll just wait, He will produce the beauty and the hope that we long for in our marriages.
One of my very favorite verses—that I have loved for decades—is in Luke 1:37. That verse comes in the story of when Gabriel came to visit Mary. He showed up and he told her that she was going to have a baby. And she said: “How can this be? I’m a virgin / I’m a young girl. How can this possibly be true?” And what did he say to her? He said to her, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
I have taken that verse to heart for decades, because there are lots of times in my marriage when it feels way too hard / it feels impossible. It feels like we’ll never get through this rough place. It feels like we’ll never come to understanding / we’ll never really get to a place of peace again.
I remind myself of this verse—if we belong to Him, He can make our marriages work. That’s the big picture that I want you to hear and understand: “If you belong to Him, He is the One who can give you the kind of marriage that you wanted and that you got married for in the first place.”
Dennis: And, we’ve been listening to a message by Barbara Rainey, called “The Masterpiece of Marriage.” You just heard her talking about her husband—marriage to an impossible man. [Laughter]
Bob: There are times, though, that the two of you, working on the same painting, have not always made it exactly the same; right?
Dennis: More than a few times. You know, it is interesting, though—if you don’t quit, the Master will cause the image of Christ to emerge from the broken palettes / the broken people—of a husband and a wife in a marriage relationship—who are committed to one another for a lifetime.
Bob: Well—and I would imagine, Barbara, that painting, side by side, with another artist probably makes you a little better in what you do rather than just being on your own and only using your gifts and abilities.
Dennis: That’s easy for you to say! If you knew my artistic abilities—Bob, if I was painting on there—no; no; no! [Laughter]
Bob: Have finger paint and have—
Dennis: There you go!
Bob: —and have—[Laughter]
The good news is—you had zero to do with the art for Barbara’s book Letters to My Daughters, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Listeners can go online to order a copy of Barbara’s book. Again, the title is Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. You can order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you don’t have a copy of the book, I’d encourage you to get it.
Maybe you know somebody you’d like to buy a copy for and pass it on to them. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now: “Happy anniversary!” today to a couple, who have been married 42 years—Dean and Wendy Macinskas, who live in Telford, Pennsylvania. They listen to FamilyLife Today on WDAC / they’ve been to the Weekend to Remember®. Forty-two years of marriage as husband and wife—“Congratulations!” to Dean and Wendy—and I hope you have a great celebration of your 42nd anniversary today.
At FamilyLife, we are committed to helping more couples celebrate more anniversaries. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families; because we believe godly families can change the world, one home at a time.
We appreciate those of you who invest in the spiritual strength and health of marriages and families by investing in the work of FamilyLife—those of you who are Legacy Partners and give each month or those of you who will, from time to time, make a donation. On behalf of those who listen and benefit from this ministry, I just want to express our gratitude for your investment in those marriages and in those families.
If you can help with a donation today, we’d love to send you a banner that Barbara Rainey has created for your home that declares that your home is an embassy of the kingdom of heaven. It’s a way to remind yourself and others who visit that your ultimate allegiance is to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. That’s our gift to you when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and make an online donation, or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate over the phone. Or you can mail your donation, along with your request for the banner, to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Barbara Rainey as she interacts with a group of moms of teens. They have questions about parenting teenagers, and Barbara has some great answers. We’ll hear that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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