First . . . Priority in the Life of a Christian Wife - Rev. G. VanDooren (bio)
Taken from Clarion Vol. 25, No. 23, 24, YE, (1976)
Rather gratefully and thus eagerly I respond to many requests received in the mail or by word of mouth, to put on paper the remarks I made in the afternoon meeting of the recent Ontario Canadian Reformed Women's League.
That 'eagerness' should not be seen as a proof that I think my remarks were so tremendously important. There is something else . . . Never before in my life have I, after a speech and/or discussion received so much 'praise' or enthusiastic agreement on the one hand ( and the mail keeps coming) while on the other hand, some voiced radical and total disagreement.
That makes one wonder . . .
I would like to believe that this extreme difference in reaction ( and the heat is not turned off yet) comes, anyway partially, from the fact that I was invited to speak for twenty minutes, and then in two languages (!) How long yet, ladies??) on a topic that as I expected, and I was proved right-was somewhat forgotten: it would take some digging to bring it to the surface.
I will not deny that at a certain moment I was quite heated-up, not because I was 'mad' but because I could not and cannot stomach that, first, there is such flagrant twisting of words, second, such unwillingness to bow before what the Bible says literally and clearly. Of course (I hasten to add) those who voiced their disagreement, were-and are-fully convinced that they were the faithful guardians of the Word of God (and I wholly accept their honesty in this respect).
I will put here black on white why I became "heated-up" (because it is not incidental, it is symptomatic among us, alas!). First there is a mis understanding. I tried my utmost to solve it because experience taught me that misunderstanding breeds mis- and distrust, and the latter becomes the mother of slander, twisting someone's words and other sins like this as forbidden in the 9th Commandment. Hence repeated tries to take away the misunderstanding before the end of the meeting. But No!
Now I have the proofs (in plural) that I was right in this fear I read recently: "A Church where distrust reigns has no future"-If that is true, then I am not so optimistic about the future of 'our' Churches. Proofs? The next day a colleague approached me: although he could not believe it, he was told in all seriousness. "that Rev. VanDooren had said that getting children is a result of sin and a punishment." And, of course, "sex was sin, too"-but we could already rectify that 'conclusion' during the meeting.
The reader starts wondering what all may have happened in that meeting, and why. He may even wonder whether the qood name of the Women's League is not at stake in these lines.
You may rest assured as to that good name. I myself think that some of the ladies did not listen too well when I said that I was going to limit myself to only one point, one aspect. I reduced the plural "priorities" to the singular "Priority" - and replaced 'women' by 'wife'. The fact that I stuck to my topic obviously gave occasion to some to state that I was (perhaps) "against getting children" because I did not speak about the beauty of motherhood! Or even that "sex and getting children was a result of sin . . .!!"
Others had missed something about the role of women in the Church and a new approach to that role, and so on ....
If one would talk about "priorities" (plural) in the life of Christian women, we could make up a whole list, and then discuss the order of that list: what comes first, second, and so on.
I happened to speak, only 20 minutes in two languages, on one thing, the "FIRST" as mentioned in our Form for Holy Wedlock, the "first purpose for which God has instuted it" (and all husbands and wives should know this by heart, have the words written in their hearts!):
"FIRST, that husband and wife, united by sincere love, will faithfully help and assist each other in all things that belong to this life and to the life eternal. "
That is the "first priority" in the life of a Christian wife (as well as of a husband) and I limited myself during that meeting, and now limit myself in writing, to that one and only "first."
It stands to reason that, here and there, we bring in something from the discussion.
Being a minister, I divided the topic into 'three parts':
I. How created;
II. What it became through and after the fall;
III. How redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ, the Last Adam.
Speaking to Christian women and wives, I deemed it superfluous to stress and elaborate on the fact that God is Number One in our lives, that Jesus Christ comes first, that we seek His kingdom first, etcetera. That is so clear that it goes without saying. That is "the priority" for all and everyone always. There are two men who have a scar in their side for Woman: the First Adam and the Last Adam, but only that second scar redeems from sin and restores life.
1. "Male and Female. . ."
From Dr. K. Schilder Ihave learned that for a proper understanding of the relationship between husband and wife, as well as for an answer to all questions relating to a God pleasing life, we must go back all the way to Genesis one and two (and three . . .). The reason is obvious: Jesus Christ, as the Last Adam, came to redeem and restore what His Father created in the beginning.
Thus one may say that the whole matter of "the priority in the life of the Christian wife" already has been decided in Genesis 1:27 ff. Every word here is of the utmost importance.
"So God created man as His Image ....
"male and female he created them;
"and God blessed them and said to them: (two things, a double mandate)
(a) "be fruitful and multiply . . .
(b) "and have dominion . . ." - that's what God said to "them," "male and female" together.
Both together constitute the image of God, the female no less than the male. To both the double mandate of "be fruitful" and "have dominion" is addressed. Not the one mandate to the male and the other to the female, but both to both.
(N.B. God is neither male nor female in the human sense; He compares Himself to a mother [Isaiah 49:15] as well as to a father [Psalm 103, etc.] and is greater than both!)
The obvious teaching of the Bible is here that God created male and female as e q u a l s, side by side, and as p a r t n e r s in the one and double mandate.
Genesis 2 does not teach a different lesson. Nor is it a "second creation story," dug up by Moses from who knows-where. Genesis 1 reveals the creation of male-and-female in one sentence as the crown of creation; Genesis 2 (see the heading in 2:41 reveals to us the same, but now as the beginning of history. Therefore also now the Name of the God-of-History: "the LORD God."
Thus we now hear some more details about Genesis 1:26 ff. A Garden is prepared two special trees planted; then the LORD God states that it is not good that man be alone: it is not 'good,' not suitable for the purpose of man's life. He is only 'half.' He needs a 'helper fit,' a 'partner' - perhaps the best word here is the Dutch 'wederhelft' which my dictionary renders as "better half!" Why not just "the other half"? Taken from man's side (that's the meaning of the Hebrew word: 'side,' and not just 'rib' - she was taken from where his heart throbbed: quite an operation!) - and thus, although we now know that man was created first, and that woman was created for man and not man for woman, - yet both share fully the Image of God. To both as "one flesh, male and female" has been given that double mandate of, let's say, "the family and the job"; "the home and the business."
Adam was created first, but, as Scripture makes abundantly clear, as Primus inter pares, as the first among equals. (The Woman for Wife) was placed by the Creator, not under the man, but next to him: "wederhelft," the other half - and thus they become one flesh, one being, in all senses, sexually, in their lives, and work and goals, and minds and hearts: one!
And here the ladies have their answer as to what is "the priority in the life of the Christian wife": what comes first? And what is to remain first? From the beginning of their being one flesh till the end - and all the time in-between!
What is it? To be a mother? To spend all her energy, time, attention, etc., etc., to bearing and bringing up children, while everything else has to come second or third . . .?
No!: her priority is to be "the glory of her husband" as Paul says, in being his 'partner, helper fit, wederhelft, other half' or whatever term you may prefer. Everything else comes second, or third.
That's why (and during the League-meeting some confessed that they had never realized it, - imagine!) our Form for Holy Wedlock is in complete agreement with biblical teaching, when it puts "First . . ." what has already been quoted above. Again, that's first and has to remain first. "Secondly . . ." the Marriage Form continues with the propagation of the human race. But even if it does not please the Lord to give children, the marriage is not, and is not to be empty, because "First" remains first, and can fill the lives of male and female and give them fulfilment.
In conclusion, and for clarity's sake, it should be stressed that the distinction between "First . . ." and "Second . . ." is not a separation, as though being male and female is limited only to "being one"; or as though getting children would not be part of the fulfilment of a God pleasing marriage. But we are talking about priority, singular: the first thing in Woman's life was and is to "be a helper fit for man," period.
This beautiful beginning, created by the LORD God, was ruined by the first "Woman's Liberation Movement," after which followed divine punishment.
But that's for a second article. vD
P.S. It may be good to stress: Genesis 2 explains Genesis 1, but also Genesis 1 explains Genesis 2. It should be noted that Genesis 2 states, that the man shall leave father and mother and "cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." This is a separate revelation, adding a 'new'(?) element to the 'double mandate' of Genesis 1. That mandate is not repeated in Genesis 2; all the stress is on "wederhelft," on "cleave to each other and be one flesh." This fact has consequences to which we plan to return.
"FIRST WOMEN'S LIB"
The beautiful harmony of "God's Image, male and female," as created in the beginning, was soon destroyed. Woman, created to be a "helper fit," a partner for the Man, betrayed and deceived him by listening to the serpent, by eating from the forbidden tree and then - instead of standing next to the Man in fulfilling the double mandate of "be fruitful" and "have dominion" deceived him into eating.
She should have done what Paul later wrote, "Let her ask her own husband at home"! After all, the LORD God had spoken to him (Genesis 2:17), not to her. And as soon as Satan tried to twist God's Word, she should have run to the Man. She, however, thought that she could manage all by herself and darkness fell.
Let's notice this first: sin started when Woman no longer obeyed the divine institution for marriage, as our Form says, "First, that husband and wife, united by sincere love, help and assist each other in all things that belong to this life and to the life eternal." Woman sinned, literally, against every word of this "First"! She sinned against Marriage.
Punishment followed right away. "To the woman the LORD God said, 'I will greatly multiply . . . " (Genesis 3:16).
A careful and exact consideration and translation of this verse leads to the conclusion that this punishment came in five parts or stages.
1. "I will greatly multiply your pain" (or suffering). Most translations combine "pain" with what follows.
The next word, however, means "conception" rather than "childbearing." (Here the KJV is better than newer translations.) "Childbearing" would also be a repetition: The LORD would have said the same thing twice. In addition, one cannot say that "conception" as such involves much pain. (On the contrary! Except when a virgin is deflowered, but does one have to assume that Woman, at that moment, still was a virgin? That would lead to all kinds of "anabaptistic" conclusions, as though "sex" started after the fall, and . . . would be sin!) Thus the conclusion: the first punishment is that the life of women would, in general, become a life of suffering. Think of the ages past (and present); how many millions of women have spent their lives in suffering!
2. "I will multiply your conception." Think again of ages past and present: child after child, year after year, till hundreds of thousands of women collapsed when still young. Have you ever seen an old cemetery here in Canada, telling the story of pioneer women: "Here lies our beloved wife, mother of seven children, passed away at the age of 31, 32 . . . ," succumbed in pain and tears? Heartbreaking, to say the least.
3. "I will multiply your pain in child-bearing." That was a punishment, an abnormal thing. Think again of all those millions of births, without any alleviation. (N.B.: "Kraamvrouwenkoorts . . . .")
4. "Yet (!!) your desire shall be for your husband." Notwithstanding all that is mentioned under 2 and 3, she goes right away back to her husband who . . . (but we keep that for 5). "Desire" means, very simply and realistically, sexual desire. As we read in Proverbs 30:15. "Three, four never say, 'Enough!' " and one of them is not the "barren womb" but the "empty womb." Even though she may die from it, and even though all the pain and suffering may start all over again, she goes back into his arms. Again, I would suggest, think of the history of centuries: the results of sin in the lives of millions and millions of Eve's daughters.
5. "And he shall rule over you."
Do I really have to prove that this was part of the punishment? Do I really have to point out that this "rule" most certainly was not the same as the beautiful harmony of "God created man as His image, male and female He created them"? This is the harsh, often the cruel rule with which, in the course of history, millions of men have thrown their wives around the place, bossing over them, maltreating them more than they ever would one of their cattle. The woman is no longer the "wederhelft" (other half), but (forgive my Dutch) "slaafje en sloofje" (slave and drudge).
MISUNDERSTANDINGS. . .
At this point the misunderstandings multiplied, as I have noted in the first article.
Let me first write down what I said before the discussion, and then mention something about that discussion.
All too often the character of punishment in these words is not recognized. Even our Form for Holy Wedlock goes wrong here. (I was just told that in The Netherlands they have changed this, but that may be hearsay.) Our Form quotes Genesis 3:16, as though Christ has died in vain for the women, as though it is God's will that in a Christian marriage the relationship still is and has to be exactly as it became after the fall. As though women cannot sing Psalm 32!
I quoted here a Dutch commentary (Aalders) which I now try to translate. "Instead of a 'fit helper' woman became a subject (onderdane) of the man. She was degraded, reduced to a lower rank. The harmonious relationship was disrupted. Instead of the right relationship, in which indeed the man has the leadership (he was created first), but in which nevertheless the woman stands next to (naast) him, she now, as a punishment upon sin, comes to stand under him." Then the commentator continues: "Always the demand remains, according to the original intention (bedoeling) of the Creator, to approach the ideal (I prefer: original) relationship of the equal helper." (I would also prefer "to restore" instead of "to approach.")
Jesus Christ, as Dr. K. Schilder did not tire of repeating, has come to restore what His Father created in the beginning, reconciling us to God by taking away our sins. But that will have our attention somewhat later.
First a bit more about the discussion, the misunderstandings, even the apparent unwillingness to be convinced by Scriptural arguments.
I would like to start by stating that, of course!, God's punishment as we read about it in Genesis 3, was "mixed" with mercy. "In His wrath He remembered His mercy." One has only to look at the previous verse, Genesis 3:15, "I will put enmity . . ." etc., rightly called by our Catechism (Lord's Day 6, Question 19): "the holy gospel, which God Himself first revealed in paradise." But this gospel, if I may put it this way, was in turn also "mixed" with judgment, punishment. It is often overlooked that the LORD God foretold in this verse that there would be death on both sides: not only on the side of the serpent (head crushed) but also on the side of the Seed of the Woman: if a poisonous serpent bites you in your heel, that means death: the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. One would have to agree with Dr. Wiersinga, in order to deny that there was punishment, also in verse 15. And what about the following verses, 17, 18, 19 . . . , ' . . . you are dust, and to dust you shall return"? Punishment mixed with mercy, but also mercy mixed with punishment: it resulted in Adam and Eve being removed from paradise.
The remark was made, "But these words are spoken to the Church"! the intention being that in the Church everything should be, and remain, exactly as is written in Genesis 3:16-19. Think of the consequences! Nothing to be done to alleviate the pain of childbearing ("We deserve it . . .") nor "eating your bread in the sweat of your face." Of course, every word in Scripture is given to the Church. But at the very moment that the LORD God spoke these words, there visas no Church yet! Or I must change our Reformed Confession, which says that the Church is the gathering of believers. At that moment in history, Adam and Eve were not yet believers, just two trembling, naked sinners. Yes, soon thereafter they believed God's Word, were re-united and there started the first "house congregation." But once more: though mixed with mercy, Genesis 3:16 spells punishment for the Woman, and her daughters. I was told that some ladies, in a bus on the way back home, came to the conclusion that (according to Rev. VanDooren) "sex is sin." Yea, even a result of sin. Yea, even worse, getting children is a result of sin.
Now I ask you! Before the fall God created man male and female; for what purpose? Not only and exclusively (I hope to come back to that) "to be fruitful and multiply," but also (Genesis 2:24, 25) "the man shall cleave to his wife and they become one flesh." Please do not try to be more "spiritual" than the Bible is. What do we think of, when we read about "cleave" and "one flesh"? Sex is beautiful, and it was that (already) before the fall, right with creation, part of creation a wonderful part.
We should be careful not to slide into all kinds of "strange" ideas, such as: before the fall male and female did not have intercourse - "that was really too 'low' for their high position." From Dr. A.G. Honig we as students learned that the fall must have come pretty soon, "otherwise there would already have been children, at least one child," according to this wise professor.
Although it is difficult for us to imagine a world-without-sin, we must say: if woman had not deceived man, male and female together would have fulfilled the double mandate of "be fruitful" and "have dominion." And that all would have been beautiful, without any shadow, sex and everything included. And of course: getting children would have been among the most beautiful things.
Sin destroyed an awful lot, also, and foremost, in the relationship between the Man and his Woman. But Christ came to restore the beauty, to remove the dirt, to deliver from sin, and to present us to His Father, as husbands and wives in whose lives shall be "First . . . united by sincere love . . . help and assist each other . . . in all things that belong to this life and to the life to come." That is the "First" and also the "Last" of a Christian marriage. But, we need another article for that.
"THERE IS IN CHRIST NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE."
Jesus Christ has been sent by the Father to undo what sin had destroyed in God's beautiful creation, to bear the punishment for that sin, and to restore life. This certainly is true also of that part of life where sin had its startingpoint: marriage.
This redemption of Jesus Christ was already prepared and prefigured in the Old Dispensation. The position of the women in general and of the wife in particular among God's Covenant people differed greatly and in principle from that in the nations "outside."
For Israel it is, "Honour your father and your mother." "Honour, your mother?!" A thing unheard of among most nations. Sarai was like a queen, and the mothers of Israel's kings had a place of great honour. In the genealogy of Israel several women occupied a place of honour. Some were prophetesses, like Deborah, Mirjam, Hulda and Anna.
And most of all: a woman would become the mother of the Saviour.
Jesus Christ came to deliver woman from sin and from the punishment or results of sin. "There is in Christ neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female" (Galatians 3:28). With a view to being delivered there is no difference between man and woman, husband and wife. Both are set free from the bondage of sin. A christian marriage is a marriage set free from the bondage of sin.
What the New Testament preaches about women and wives meant no less than a total upsetting of the prevailing conditions. And no wonder, if indeed the redemption of Jesus Christ is to have any meaning for marriage and wives!
PAUL CONTRADICTING HIMSELF?
When we study the New Testament, especially Paul, about the relationship husband-wife, the result seems ambiguous, contradictory.
On the one hand he stresses the (restored) equality between husband and wife, as members of the body of Christ. Women share in the charismas or special gifts bestowed upon the Church. Acts 21:9 mentions four prophetesses, the daughters of Philip. According to I Corinthians 11:5 women pray and prophesy in public (of course in public: in the privacy of her home she would not need a veil).
In the following verses of this chapter Paul states that, indeed, woman was made for man, and not the other way around, but he continues (verse 11), "Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor (!) man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born from woman." (These words certainly express some form of equality: ' as . . . so...."
This "as . . . so . . ." receives a much stronger emphasis where Paul, in the same letter, chapter 7, preaches complete equality between husband and wife in the most-intimate relationship of marriage, i.e. sexual intercourse. Let Paul speak for himself. "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For (! ) the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does" (verses 4, 5). Each other's equals, that must be the conclusion. Put that next to Genesis 3:16, "and he shall rule over you" and you see how Jesus Christ has set the wife free from that specific "rule" as punishment of woman's sin.
We are confining ourselves to marriage-relationships, - otherwise we could dwell on the fact that the apostle granted women quite some activities in the life of the Church and propagation of the Gospel. We need only mention Romans 16, and mention the name of Priscilla as "co-worker" (!) in the Gospel; also the widows that were "enrolled" (l Timothy 5:9), - and then we wonder whether we make the same use of female talents as Paul did. But that would lead us outside the scope of our topic.
This on the one hand, restoration of equality in the marriage.
Yet - on the other hand - Paul reminds the women repeatedly of the fact that woman sinned first and misled man; therefore she shall not have a position of leadership. Women shall not teach in the Church. The New Testament does not have room for female preachers, teachers and overseers. They shall "keep silent." The wife (Ephesians 5) shall be submissive to her husband, and obey him.
Does this not contradict his teaching of equality as expressed in I Corinthians 7?
The answer is "No." Three things are to be noted here.
First, we must maintain that Christ has delivered us from the punishment of sin. The fact that the husband is the head of the family, does not mean (and certainly not in a christian marriage - and that is what we are talking about) that he shall "rule" over his wife as meant in Genesis 3:16. The wife is restored to her original position as "wederhelft" or partner.
Second, Jesus Christ, in redeeming us, most certainly does not break up the "natural" relationships in life. Paul did not even abolish slavery, but sent Onesimus back to his master Philemon. However, the latter has now to receive his runaway slave as a brother in Christ! "No longer as a slave, but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" (verse 16). We are not Anabaptists who reasoned, "because we are children of the kingdom, we no longer need obey the "worldly" authorities." Children are brothers and sisters of their parents "in the Lord," but that does not free them from honouring their parents, and so on. Equally, the freedom in Christ does not dissolve the marriage; the priority of man remains. He was created first, and woman was made for man, not the other way around. The husband remains the "primus inter pares," the first among equals. How beautifully does Paul describe that in the unsurpassed passage of Ephesians 5 (that should be the very centre of the Form for Holy Wedlock!). Husbands have to love their wives as Christ loved (past tense! i.e. He gave His life) the Church and gave Himself up for her. You hear that, don't you? The husband has "to give up his life for his wife." Again, compare that with Genesis 3:16. The husband shall nourish and cherish his wife. And then Paul quotes Genesis 2; "cleave to his wife and they become one flesh." There is, I'm convinced, not a single woman, wife in the world who would not gladly be submissive to such a husband; as gladly as the Church is submissive to Christ. The question is, whether all (christian) husbands answer this description . . . .
Third, one should keep in mind that during this dispensation the results of sin will never be completely erased. That goes for all relationships, also for the most ideal christian marriage.
From the biblical evidence we are entitled to draw, first, the conclusion that the priority in the life of a christian wife is the "First . . ." of the Form for Wedlock. She is, and she has to be, the "wederhelft," the partner, next to (and not "under") her husband. She has to be that in both parts of the (original) mandate. Together they have to be fruitful and multiply. Together they have to have dominion. Just as the Creator made it in the beginning. If that were not true, Jesus Christ would not have accomplished his Father's mandate.
This does not exclude a division of roles and tasks, as prescribed by the "natural" (I prefer "creational") difference between male and female. For the wife the bearing of children, for the husband to "make a living" for the family. Yet, not as two different jobs! A wife who does not show interest in her husband's business, and is unable, or unwilling, to discuss with him al! things that interest him, or in which he has to be interested, does not live up to her mandate. The husband who leaves his wife alone in managing the children ("none of my business") breaks the ordinance of God. Both are "together" in both parts of the mandate.
But - apart from that - it should be stressed with all strength that a wife, a marriage, is in for trouble, if the wife is "only mother," or anyway (and even) "first mother." The order of the Form should never be reversed. "First" remains first! Jay Adams says beautiful things about that in his book on Christian Family Life. A crisis is bound to come in a marriage where the wife is so wrapped up in the care for her ("her?") children, that there is hardly any time for her husband. He is and remains the first in her life, as well as she in his life. Any deviation from this priority rule endangers the marriage. By the time he comes home, she should not be running around, unorganized sloppy and untidy. She should "adorn herself for her husband" who (maybe) all day was surrounded by neatly dressed secretaries, or other ladies, who are on the lookout for an affair. Equally, the husband should "cherish" his wife, bring some flowers home every now and then; retain some flavour of the honeymoon. I even suggested in the discussion that it may be good to enjoy together a glass of sherry before supper. Some shook their head, fie, fie! what a frivolous dominee . . . . "Helemaal niet degelijk
. . . . You just try it. Would anyone make me believe that there are no dull marriages among "us"? We do not need to agree with Ann Landers who wrote recently, "I can't give you any figures on the number of couples whose marriages are hanging together with safety-pins and Elmer's glue, but I can tell you there are more poor marriages around than good ones by along shot. Especially after ten years . . . ." Okay, it may be better, much better among true believers (which is not always the same as being both members of the true church). But no one can make me, after forty years of pastoral experience and counselling, believe that there are no dull marriages among "us." Let's not be hypocritical, please!
In many cases that started already during the honeymoon, when what we heard from Paul in I Corinthians 7, was not put into practice. Here we return again to Genesis 2; "cleave together and be one flesh." I do not need to be too explicit (especially not after the letter from a young lady, writing, "my mother blushes only when I ask something about this, and my grandmother hid everything "onder de wollen deken . . . ."
Are you still "in love" with each other? You can only be, if you live up to the "First . . ." of the Wedding Form.
Talking about sex-education, the topic of today. The best sex-education is, if and when the children see that mom and dad are still in love with each other. THAT REMAINS FIRST, IN ALL MARRIAGES, ALWAYS.
We happen to know many older couples. You know what? A number of them lead dull lives. Why? Because they never practiced that "priority" that we have been talking about all along. The wife was only mother, and now the children are gone . . . and they don't know what to talk about together. Her life is so empty. The days are so long . . . . Isn't it terrible. That's what you get, ladies, if you betray the priority in your life as a christian wife. It can be beautiful and wonderful, after you have accomplished your most-important task in life: bringing up your children for the LORD, and then be together again, just the two of you, cleaving to each other, having a full life together. It may even become the most beautiful part of your life, because your love has grown and matured. But don't expect that that will be your joyful lot, if, during all the years of having your children around, your husband was not number one in your life (the same goes, of course, for the husband, but I am talking to wives).
Permit me, before the final conclusion, to trace back my steps for two remarks.
I have been told (but I can hardly believe it) that it is "preached" among us that sex-life is only meant for getting children. What kind of nonsense is that? Did such "teachers" only read Genesis 1 and not Genesis 2? (and, I would add, 1 Corinthians 7, "Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season . . . but then come together again." O boy!, that's even an apostolic command . . .) I have, for several years, adopted the role of marriage counsellor; every minister should do that. I have learned that it is high time that we step down from our (Anabaptistic, and therefore certainly not God-pleasing) stepladders, and give our young couples some sound advice in this respect. I cannot forget the remark of Dr. K. Schilder, in a sermon (of all things) that God rejoices when His children, male and female, "cleave together and be one flesh." Stretch out that honeymoon over the years, as long as you can. No, as long as you live! Stay "in love." Be each other's partners. That's the greatest blessing you can give to your children.
Second, talking to the ladies, now you realize that preparation for a God pleasing, and thus happy, marriage life, means more than being a good cook, sewing, baby-care and the like (sure: all these things are most necessary, and if our Reformed (High) Schools do not realize their calling in this respect, they are not "Reformed" the way I see it). But . . . that is not enough. You will have to be a "partner" to "hubby," esteemed ladies (or: sisters, if you insist), and therefore anything that you can pick up during your preparatory years, developing your talents the LORD has given you, will pay off with double interest, when you (and here is again your "priority") have to help and assist your husband in all things that belong to this life (and, of course, to the life eternal). If you cannot talk intelligently with "hubby" about anything that interests him, you're a failure, sorry.
Now the final word: a successful marriage life depends on your husband. The husbands were not at that League meeting. But I hope they take the trouble to read these lines. If the husband not only nourishes but also cherishes his wife, his "bride of the wedding day," and, remembering everyday, that the Lord, with His own hand, gave to him this wife; gives "honour to the wife as the weaker vessel," your wife will be all too happy to be submissive to you, because there she finds her happiness, and this will be a proof to her that she, living up to her priority as a christian wife, is "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).