The other night, as O and I stood at our sinks brushing our teeth I was listening to my Bible. As the app switched to Proverbs 21, I was wiping toothpaste from the corners of my mouth when I heard “it is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome…”
Friends. My pride. Oh my poor pride. Will it never learn? I actually smirked when he said “quarrelsome.” The corners of my mouth crept up like the Grinch because I used to be that woman. I was a quarrelsome girlfriend. I was a quarrelsome fiancée. But I worked hard and dug into the Word and asked the Lord to help me not to be a quarrelsome wife. That quarrelsome wife in Proverbs haunted me. Her husband would rather live on the corner of the roof than with her! Not just sit up there until she chilled out-no, no. LIVE there. I don’t know about you, but that image got to me and lit a fire under me. I still have my moments (let the leaving-a-light-on-everywhere-he-goes thing go, Jill…) but I make a conscious effort to not be quarrelsome.
I was feelin’ pretty great listening to Mr. Bible Narrator Man in that moment. It was made even better by my husband right behind me listening to the same scripture. Maybe he’d come over and kiss me on the shoulder and say something like, “hey, thanks for working to not be a quarrelsome wife” or “Ha! Remember how quarrelsome you used to be? What a difference a few years makes!” It’d be magical. I’d say something like “glory to God” and give a knowing smile.
A girl can dream, right?
If I were to rewind a few chapters in Proverbs I could have prepared myself for what was to come next- because “pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” The verse continued on, “it is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” For some reason, after years and years of reading Proverbs, I’ve never seen or heard this verse in this way before. I actually gasped and stared wide-eyed into the mirror. Fretful?! No, friends. This simply wouldn’t do.
I am a fretful wife.
The synonyms of fretful are upset, miserable, unsettled, uneasy, antsy, uncomfortable, stressed, tense, agitated and ill at ease. The synonyms or ill at ease are awkward, uneasy, embarrassed, self-conscious, inhibited. And those could all be synonyms of Jill Atogwe.
I’ve battled anxiety my entire life. Ever since I was a little girl I can remember making myself physically ill with anxiety about anything from staying up too late (we’re talking past 9:00pm) or getting sick. I’ve had to pray out loud and recite scripture to counteract the effects of anxiety for as long as I can remember. I used to say things like “everyone has their battles” or “this is how i’ve always been” and my new favorite after learning more about the enneagram is “well, I’m a 6!” But there is no excuse for choosing and excusing sin.
I don’t want to be a fretful woman. Leviticus 13 and 14 use the word “fret” to describe leprosy. It means “to dig a pit. To eat away, consuming, bitter and painful. None of those descriptive words portray the woman God has called me to be, but I especially don’t want them to describe me as a wife or mother. The Word tells us as wives to focus on the inner beauty of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3) We’re instructed to do our husbands good, and not harm, all the days of our lives (Proverbs 31.)
No matter how much our flesh tries to control our attitude and actions, we don’t have to fall into the trap. Colossians 3:10 reminds us to put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. We are brand new! I am not who I used to be, I am not a “fearful person,” an “anxious mom” or a “fretful wife.” I am a child of God. I am a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. I’ve memorized 1 Peter 3:4 in the Amplified version since that night and I’m starting to speak the antonyms of fretful as though they were true about me right now.
I am calm, joyous, laid-back, pleased, relaxed and easy going.
Oh Lord, let it be so!