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During my first few weeks of marriage, I began to feel let down by the women in my church, and it was simply because I felt that in all the talks about marriage that had come up over the years, all I’d ever really learned was how to be a “praying woman”. Whilst praying is great, the other nitty gritty eventualities in marriage are an essential conversation to be had before you take your vows.
I had no illusions that marriage would be a walk in the park, however I also did not foresee the hurdles we’ve had to tackle thus far and I have a niggling suspicion these challenges are quite common place in marriage, yet often go unmentioned.
So at this point you may be thinking ‘oooh, someone didn’t take their premarital classes...’- we did but there are some conversations about marriage that in hindsight didn’t suit the format of the premarital sessions we had. When I look back over our the earlier stages of our marriage I wish I sat down with some of the older ladies and listened to all their stories about how it really pans out; how to gauge when situations are serious and in need of intervention or are best kept private. For example I would’ve been keen to ask ‘what does submission look like really?’ and pick their brains about less spoken about issues related to sex such as laziness, vaginismus or impotency? And the ultimate question being, ‘what does a 21st century Christian wife look like?
But it did make me wonder why the married women in my life seemed so tired all of the time? And why no one was telling me what to expect?
Paul in Titus 2 verse 3-5 instructs older women to teach or encourage the younger women. "Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited". Reading back at this text I now see why the Proverbs 31 wife in all her glory, is a tall bill- but perhaps with insights, stories and advice from Christian wives with experience, (who you trust within the safety of your congregation) can help us younger women to make sense of how to grow in our role as Christian wives; in relation to real life, real feelings and real issues.
The older women in my church were incredible, hard-working, prayerful and encouraging, but I could never seem to get any straight conversations about marriage and relationships. I realise now looking back that as a young woman growing up in the congregation, I’d often hear about how tired they might be followed by a “God knows, we keep praying”. I have no doubts that some of these women had friends they would confide in and draw strength from, but it did make me wonder why the married women in my life seemed so tired all of the time? And why no one was telling me what to expect? Is it because they do not want to appear to be complaining? Are those conversations always meant to be so private? I felt that wives spent more time ‘managing’ and ‘making do’ and so could not negotiate time in their lives to impart their wisdom and experiences to the younger women in their church. It seems that there was a gap where my church could have done more to help facilitate those conversations so that these things were not discussed ‘behind the scenes’ but instead in a healthy and safe space.
Beyond good Christian books and marriage conferences, there is something valuable about bridging the gap between the older and younger women
During the first month of marriage I struggled with vaginismus, which essentially made sex difficult for us. Having saved myself until marriage, I was so disappointed, stressed, ashamed and worried about my marriage – even with an incredible supportive and patient husband. Having done a bit of research around the condition, I began to feel cheated. Vaginismus is very common among women and I’d never heard of it before. We prayed, we did research, but in all of that I kept thinking, “I bet I know an older woman who has gone through this”, why did nobody prepare me for the possibility? Why does this feel like such a secret and how can I know that as a couple we are handling this in a healthy way?
Paul has highlighted a really important aspect of marriage, which in my case (and perhaps for many others) is often over looked. Beyond good Christian books and marriage conferences, there is something valuable about bridging the gap between the older and younger women. Paul is showing us that young marriages benefit from the wisdom and education of the older women; how to love our husbands and children, to be kind, manage homes, and submit; all to the glory of God.
Written by Eleasah Phoenix Louis, a Christian, community activist and educator with particular focus on Christian pedagogy for ethnic minority groups and racial justice.
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The Apostle Paul said let the older women teach the younger women, but is the younger generation of today teachable? Do older women have a genuine desire to impart their wisdom? Kemi Koleoso is the leader of the women's ministry at Jubilee Church London, they are set to have their Courage Conference for women later this month. She told Lady T why she believes women need to be Christ-like not world-like.