It was after a week of telling God, "No, I don't want to be a maid for the rest of my life" that I heard the following message on Sunday: There's mission in the mundane.
Let me back up.
When I got married 2.5 years ago, I went in thinking that David and I were going to tackle the world together. Our home would be a base where we would commission one another for Kingdom work with a kiss goodbye each morning and recap our mission-oriented day when we returned from our respective vocational callings.
Except I was sorely disappointed.
I realized very early on that marriage is incredibly difficult. Never in my life had I experienced the kind of loneliness I felt when my husband just could not understand me. Never had I felt such fear when I looked at my husband and felt as though he was a complete and utter stranger. I think David put it perfectly when he said, “Honey, becoming one is really hard.”
There were a lot of reasons why “becoming one” was difficult for us, but a major issue was that the way we each expressed love was so different. As a woman who feels loved and energized when people use words to affirm her, I married a man who couldn't say the words "I love you" without looking as though he were in physical pain. To me, saying “I love you” and showering others with encouragement came so easily; I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t do it, too. It made me think, "Gosh, if it's that difficult for him to say it, then maybe he doesn’t actually care about me at all."
It only made matters worse that my words of affirmation made him uncomfortable and feel more unloved, especially when I was having a lazy week with housework. David would say, "You love me? Okay, then could you please clean out the fridge like you said you would?" Or "I'm glad you think I look good today, but - for the 50th time - could you please wipe down the sink?"
For him, saying the words was cheap. The more difficult thing to do was to take out the trash, clean the toilets, do the dishes, put gas in my car, pay the bills – things that took him real time and energy to do — so that I wouldn't have to do it. To me, they were just chores; to him, it was sacrifice.
It was a classic tragedy: My verbal declarations of care and respect fell on David's deaf ears. His loving actions towards me went unnoticed by my blind eyes.
Fast forward to the month before the Sunday's message.
We were coming out of a particularly difficult season in our marriage. We were both incredibly discouraged and emotionally drained.
I'm not completely sure what happened, but as we found ourselves fighting one night - the same fight for the umpteenth time - a look of determination came over David's face, and he announced that he was not giving up on us.
Now let me be clear, it wasn't as dramatic and "The Notebook"-esque as I made it sound. It was almost angry like, "Whatever, Eunice. I don't care. You can do whatever you want, but I'm not giving up."
David told me later that he had prayed a short prayer that night: “Please help me, God. I don’t know what to do.” It was subtle and desperate, but that moment was pure grace and mercy from God.
The next day, David bought a small notebook from Target so he could fill my need for words of affirmation with daily notes – thank you notes, love notes, inside jokes, apologies, cartoons, reminders of truth.
It's embarrassing how quickly my demeanor changed. My heart softened almost as soon as David showed me what he intended to do. I felt wooed, pursued, and valuable.
Although I felt giddy about David’s change, my pride would not allow me to admit that maybe I needed to change too. I fought it, but the more I saw David make these small steps towards understanding and loving me, it became more and more difficult to shush the voice that kept nagging at me to examine my own heart as a wife.
It only took a little bit of digging to excavate the reason why I was not willing to do domestic chores for my husband. "This is the 21st century, God,” I thought. “I'm not David's slave, and I'm not going to promote misogynistic views of marriage."
I believed that serving my husband by doing chores would be making the wrong kind of statement, not only about my value as a woman but also about womankind. There was a voice in my head scaring me into thinking that if I agreed to submit to the needs of my husband by loving him in a way that looked anything like the 1950s, my status as a wife would be reduced to nothing more than a housemaid.
And then came the message at church that God did extraordinary things through the mundane. God appointed Apostle John the oh-so-ordinary task of looking after Jesus's mother, and it was anything but ordinary.
Something clicked; my heart was stirred. The day we had said our vows, I beheld David as the husband God gave to me. If it is God who appointed me to love and serve David, then what have I to fear?
Greater than my fear of being treated like a maid – greater than my fear of becoming a doormat – is the truth that God will never see me that way. My service to David is my service to God, and God has already declared through his works AND his Word that He loves me more than I deserve.
For the first time in our 2.5 years of marriage, I was willing to see mundane chores like meal prepping, doing laundry, and sweeping up my ever-shedding hair off the floor as opportunities to love my husband. I can put him first by literally doing the dishes before I Netflix binge.
I can choose to engage in the very tedious mental exercise of serving my husband without feeling like a servant. Most importantly, David and I can trust that our striving to live with one another in love, day by ordinary day, is a good endeavor that IS kingdom oriented.
So no, David and I may not be living "radically" or serving like crazy as I had first envisioned almost 3 years ago. And yes, marriage is still really difficult at times. But whatever. I don't care. I'm going to learn how to do the mundane faithfully and obediently. I’m not giving up.
Eunice is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She lives in Diamond Bar with her husband David.