I came from a background of independence, and from a state that values independence and autonomy much more than social connections or power jobs. Therefore, the idea that men and women have different roles in marriage, although not completely new to me, was somewhat confusing a unpalatable. Some of the books I have read (including the Bible) and some of the discussions that I have participated in with the women at church have completely changed my mind.
The beautiful thing about different roles for men and women is that it is a picture (a dull representation, but there nonetheless) of the relationship of the Godhead. Although the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equally God and equally important, powerful, and containing all the qualities of God; all three fulfill a different role. Similarly, both men and women are created in the image of God. They are not more or less important because of the jobs God gives them (or because of physical appearance or strength.) How beautiful it is that I can relish my role to help, encourage, and respect because, matched with my husbands role to lead, sacrifice, and love, we can become a reflection of the love and unity in the Trinity.
And it's an odd thing that roles are not even about what our best strengths are. There might be times when I'm better at planning out a weekend's events and arranging all the relevant details. But it's my husband's place to ask me to do that. It's good for him to decide what we're going to do as a family and then to ask me to help in the particulars. (And of course, part of deciding can involve asking for my input!) But to have roles that do not necessarily reflect our own strengths is often something of a mystery to people who have been told their whole lives, "do what you're good at." But in this context, it is an opportunity to serve each other lovingly and to trust God that by helping my spouse become better at a skill I might already have, we are becoming more holy and better reflections of who God is. Our marriage should not be about my husband and me both asserting what we're best at, but rather showing God's love and character every way we can.
One of the ladies on the panel to answer questions was also newly married but had been in the workforce for a while (and still is.) When I'm tempted to think that I have a "low-profile" and "unimportant" job as a wife, I remember what she said about a week ago. She was thinking about her job outside the home and realized that if she quits now, she'll be replaced. If she quits in 2 years, she'll still be replaced, no matter how specialized her skills might be. The most difficult and powerful job in the public world could be filled by multiple people. But the job of a wife can only be filled by one person. And if she doesn't fill her role, then the job is left undone. No one else can respect and encourage a husband like a wife. No one else can free his time and thoughts to allow him to do God's work. And no one else can be so clearly an instrument of God's love and grace in his life.
When I see what a valuable job that God has given me to minister to the one person I love most, I can dive into all those "low-profile, unimportant" tasks with the concentration and determination of a brain surgeon! They are important, and they make a difference in God's kingdom, even if I cannot see the immediate results. One of my favorite verses always encourages me when I'm tempted (even in light of all this exciting truth) to wonder if my role as a wife makes any "real" difference. It's found in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."