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Just as God made the role of a diligent dad clear, He has also made His intentions known regarding the role of a godly wife.
On October 22, 1971, while sitting in a car looking over the sea at a place called “Manly” in Brisbane, Australia, I asked Mally to marry me. (Can you imagine getting engaged at “Manly”?!) At the moment she said those beautiful words “I will!” neither of us had any idea of where the Lord would lead us. Many years later I realized how God had been preparing each of us for the special ministry we were to be called into, for 15 years later, in 1986, Mally and I made an important decision that would change our lives dramatically.
After visiting the United States on speaking tours, I realized that most of the churches in America did not understand the importance of the Book of Genesis, and that many had compromised with the issues of evolution and the age of the earth. I also recognized that America was the greatest Christian nation on earth, and the center of the economic world. The Lord had burdened us with the desire to see the relevance of the creation message proclaimed around the world. It was obvious that, if the creation ministry we had begun in Australia was to have a worldwide impact, we had to be active in the United States. After much prayer and seeking counsel and wisdom from others, we were convinced we had to leave Australia and begin ministry in the United States full time.
The decision was not easy. It meant leaving our family roots and saying goodbye to our homeland. It meant we would face many cultural differences and much spiritual opposition. We knew that the move would be particularly demanding and costly for Mally. Gone would be her support structure and the stability of life in familiar circumstances. Mally is considerably shy, but as we faced the decision, her strength, commitment, and devotion showed strong. She was first and foremost committed to God, willing to make great sacrifices for His kingdom. Secondly, she showed remarkable willingness to support me in the ministry I believed God was calling me to. God matched her faithfulness with His provision and a special confirmation that we were on the right track.
Toward the end of that year, we attended the wedding of one of our friends. The pastor was the father of the groom. As part of his address during the ceremony, he turned to his soon to be daughter-in-law and read from Ruth 1:8–18:
Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!” At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, but Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (emphasis added).
At the time, we were making the decision to move to the United States. We were also in the process of being admitted into membership in a new church. The church we had attended moved farther out into the suburbs, so a number of members were being transferred to a different church of the same denomination.
At this new church, the pastor had a particular way of admitting new members. He would call the people out to the front and then interview them and ask them to give a short testimony about why they were joining the church.
Now Mally is a very quiet, shy person. She is not a public speaker. In fact, she is sometimes intimidated by just meeting people—she would be terrified if she had to speak to a group of people. We had been talking about this and what would happen when we were to be admitted into membership at this new church. During the wedding, when the pastor was reading from Ruth, Mally turned to me and said, “You know, I’m like Ruth. Where you go, I go. Your God is my God. I support you totally because that is what God has called me to do. How about I just say that at the church when the pastor asks for my testimony?”
A couple of weeks later, we were at our new church and the pastor called all the people being admitted into membership to come forward. Because of the unique situation of people being transferred from the other church, there were a large number of people standing at the front.
As the pastor approached people, instead of asking them for a testimony (as was his normal way of doing things), he decided he would say something about each person. He was aware of the decision Mally and I had made to move to the United States, but he knew nothing about what Mally had decided to say, and he really didn’t know about the emotional struggle we were going through in regard to this decision.
When he came to Mally, he looked at her and said, “Mally, I’ve watched you and have known Ken’s family for many years. I see how supportive you are of Ken’s ministry. In thinking about you, it came to me that you reminded me of Ruth. Where Ken goes, you go. His God is your God. You support him totally in the ministry God has called him into.”
Wow. To us this was a special seal from the Lord that we were making the right decision. There was such a peace in our hearts as we began the process of packing up to move to a different country. Yes, the Lord had called us to share our “inheritance” with more of the world.
Just as God made the role of a diligent dad clear, He has also made His intentions known regarding the role of a godly wife. Like so many other essential doctrines, the role of the woman is first established in Genesis:
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. . . . Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” . . . So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. . . . For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:15–25).
In the midst of our fallen world, it is important to remember that this was God’s good and original design. We would do well to reclaim as much of it in Christ as we can. God fashioned a woman to complete what was lacking in Adam, that she might become his helper, that the two of them would truly become one.
Many other passages from God’s Word reveal the role that God has designed for wives and mothers. One of the more pointed and all encompassing is found in Proverbs 31:10–31. (This was one of my father’s favorite Scripture passages. I used to hear him quote it often in relation to his thankfulness for the gift of his wife, my mother.) The verses paint a beautiful picture of the woman God designed mothers to be. Here are some excerpts:
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her. . . . She does him good and not evil. . . . She rises while it is still night And gives food to her household. . . . She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. . . . She extends her hand to the poor. . . . Strength and dignity are her clothing. . . . She opens her mouth in wisdom.
These passages reveal many virtues of a woman
committed to building a godly legacy for her family.
She is encouraged to be a woman of character, integrity, and action. The passages even endorse her role as a respected businesswoman in the marketplace. Certainly mothers should also be involved in teaching their children spiritual truths.
I praise the Lord for my godly mother who prayed with us when we were small, and continues to pray daily for us today, standing as my father did on the authority of God’s Word. There was no doubt that Dad was the spiritual head and that our mother supported him in this role 100 percent. Whether it was cooking for visitors, supporting school functions, waiting up for Dad to return from school and church meetings—I never had any inkling that they didn’t do everything together as one.
Mum also balanced out Dad in important ways. Steve remembers it this way:
I can recall one fairly intimate chat that I had with Mum concerning our father’s demeanor. She had told me of some of the many talks she had with him when he was in the process of defending God’s Word. Often she would be behind the scenes persuading him and reminding him to be gentle and gracious in his approach. Sometimes Dad was about as subtle as a brickhammer (and sometimes needed to be); yet the gentle, guiding persuasion of a godly wife was always in his ear, reminding him of his responsibility to use his words carefully and constructively. Dad had his share of faults and shortcomings, and while he allowed Mum to compensate for them in many ways, I’ve often felt that he could have tried a little harder to take our mother’s advice. My father did definitely listen to Mum, but an even greater application of her gentle reminders would have sharpened his message.
I praise God that He has also given me a wife like this—a wife who loves so much that she is willing to be honest enough to help me correct my faults in a way that will enhance and strengthen our partnership in ministry. Not only should husbands listen sincerely to their wives, but we should be seeking their input and hastening their comment. Apart from Christ, they know us better than anyone in this world!
Fathers are to be the overall spiritual head. Whenever and wherever possible, the father’s leadership should be as obvious to the children as it is to the wife. The task of raising godly children in an ungodly world takes teamwork. My wife and I do this together when I am home, and Mally covers for me when I’m on the road ministering. Overall, our children know and observe that I take on the headship role and Mally takes on the helpmate role.
That is the way we were created to function, but in the modern world we often see the opposite; where the mother is leading and the dad is following. This is even reinforced by most Christian children’s books I have seen where mention of spiritual leadership is made. Many of these books will picture a mother with the Bible open reading it to her children, or they will instruct the children to tell their mother something, or ask for her advice. Look closely at the books you have for your children and I am sure you will see that this is a characteristic of many children’s materials available for the Christian market today.
On top of this, more women are becoming increasingly domineering as they take over the position as head of the home. The more I travel and meet families around the world, the more obvious it appears to me that the feminist movement has affected many women in our churches—and this affects the whole family structure.
We are growing up in a world that emphasizes everyone has a right to their own opinions. We are indoctrinated through the public education system and the media that we have our rights. I remember one of the female teachers at a school I taught at in Australia telling the girls in her class “Remember, if you get married, or just live with a guy, you have your rights—you are an individual.” This contradicts God’s design for a husband and wife to be “one,” and this mindset can create serious confusion in the home.
Over the years I have observed a number of men in the Christian ministry who have had to give up the ministry, or greatly limit what they set out to do, because of an unsupportive spouse. I have also observed that some children of pastors and other full-time Christian workers rebel against Christianity. I know there are many and varied reasons for such situations. However, from my own observations and experience in traveling around the world, I do believe that one of the major factors relates very much to the fact that their wives could not cope with the husband being away or spending so much time in the demands of Christian work.
I’ve heard such wives question their husband’s ministry in front of the children and others. The husband and wife were certainly not “one” in this regard. The wife’s discontent was very obvious to the children. (It’s also true that some men in Christian work have greatly neglected their wives and children, forsaking their priority to be diligent dads, and that is also a problem.) Regardless, it’s important for a mom to ask: “Am I fulfilling my role as a helpmate to my husband, or am I undermining his role as the spiritual head of our home?”
The old saying is true:
“Behind every good man is a good woman.”
The Ham children are blessed in heritage to be able to say that of our mother. While so many women are burdened with a heart for the superficial and material things of life, God has given a much greater responsibility; that of supportive substance—the type of supportive substance that is also founded and grounded in His mighty Word and shines like a beacon as an example to up and coming wives everywhere. In our case, God has provided not only a good wife and mother, but a good woman who is a mentor for women. My brother Steve has had the privilege of seeing this for himself:
In these latter years I have had the distinct privilege of watching my mother come beside my sisters, my own wife, and younger women in the church in a soft and loving mentoring role. I’ve often smiled as women adopt my mother as sort of a “proxy grandma” in order to learn from her and soak in her years of experience. Mum reminds me of this passage in Titus 2:3–5:
The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed (NKJV).
There’s another thing my mother is famous for—her cooking! Roast lamb, corned beef, Yorkshire pudding, exotic Aussie desserts, and much more—our mum is a chef extraordinaire! Usually when I come back to Australia to visit Mum she has my favorite cakes (like lamingtons—YUM!) waiting for me. Now, I know that this is unusual in today’s fast-paced, microwave society. Most food today is bought in ready-to-serve packets called “TV dinners,” and cakes come in boxes to which one basically adds water and cooks. I also know that there are other virtues that are more significant than cooking, but the atmosphere she created around the dinner table was a significant element in our family legacy, and my stomach is grateful!
Consider the following from Ephesians 5:22–28:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (NIV).
Also, carefully consider Christ’s example and how Peter relates that to the roles of husbands and wives in 1 Peter 2:21–3:7:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. . . . Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (NIV; emphasis added).
Both husband and wife are called to model
their lives after Christ, and He was submissive
to the point of death on the Cross.
That is some submission! Women should “in the same way” be submissive to their husbands. Husbands are to “in the same way” love their wives. That is some sacrificial love a husband is to pour out on his wife! As it states in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
Maybe if husbands loved their wives like this (with a sacrificial love), their wives wouldn’t have a problem with godly submission. Maybe if wives were submissive to their husbands (with a sacrificial submission), they wouldn’t have problems with husbands loving them as they should.
Dad and Mum may have had disagreements at times, as all couples no doubt do, but I cannot remember them having any fights in front of us. I remember them as a couple devoted to each other. They clearly showed they loved us and they did what they should to train us up as godly offspring. What an example they were to us! I believe that such stability and obvious outworking of obedience to the Scripture by our parents had a major impact on all of us children—all who today have stable marriages where husbands and wives are totally devoted to each other. I could not even imagine what it must be like to have been brought up in a home without such stability, love, and devotion—and I can’t help but wonder what sorts of issues marriage problems cause in the next generation.
The point is this: Both husbands and wives need to be obedient to what God says, and not their opinions or feelings! That is God’s ideal design for the family, but we do live in a less-than-perfect world because of sin and the curse. We have families that have mothers and fathers that cannot (or will not) fulfill their God-given roles. We have orphans. We have foster kids. We have widows and widowers. Single parents and those dealing with broken marriages have a very complicated and difficult task before them . . . and I believe God gives a special measure of grace to men and women in these sad situations. Those of us who are aware of such families need to do whatever we can to support them and maybe even be role models for their children. These are the times when the Body is to work as a body, healing, supporting, and compensating for other parts of the body that are in need.
When Mally and I were making our decision to come to the United States, it was very difficult to consider leaving family and friends. We agonized over the decision day after day. Luke 14:26–27 says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” We knew what we needed to do, but we also knew that it would leave a big hole in our extended family, particularly with me being on the road so much.
When we moved to San Diego in January of 1987, it was hard to make friends and learn how to live in a country that has many cultural differences; but God knew what we needed. The house we purchased “just happened” to be next door to a wonderful older couple who became “Grandma Jo” and “Poppa Bill” to our children. What a blessing! God was looking after us in special ways. Poppa Bill has left this earth now, but Grandma Jo is still Grandma Jo to our kids in the United States, and they are an excellent example of how God provides for a family unit through the larger body of Christ.
Let’s be honest. We live in a fallen world and the perfect family doesn’t exist. There are many families out there that need us to help them be whole and healthy. It’s much easier to condemn and judge others for the circumstances they are in (often by their own making), but isn’t this an opportunity for us, as members of Christ’s body, to minister to others in His name? Isn’t this an opportunity for us to be vulnerable and admit that we too need the help of others around us?
Poppa Bill and Grandma Jo filled a big spot in our hearts, but the move was still very difficult on Mally. She never complained, but I knew she was still lonely and greatly missed family. We prayed about this, and the Lord answered in a way we didn’t expect. He gave us a baby daughter! What a special gift this was for all of us, particularly Mally.
As we thought about this answer to prayer and why we were in the United States, we decided to name our daughter Kristel Ruth Ham. She is a reminder to us of the seal that the Lord put on our ministry in the United States—and more than that, her name is a continual reminder to me that Mally is like Ruth, a submissive, devoted wife whom I continue to fall in love with day after day!
Mally has said to me many times that she sees her role is to support me in whatever way she can so that I can carry out the ministry God has called me to be actively involved in. This has often been demanding and taxing on her, requiring that she fill in for me when I’m gone. (I don’t know why, but it always seems that the washing machine waits to leak or the heater decides to blow when I’m away.) Usually, Mally never mentions these things to me; she doesn’t want problems at home to detract from the ministry I’m involved in.
Her attitude was obvious to our children. There is no doubt in their minds at all that their mother supports their dad 100 percent. I believe this has had a lot to do with why our children have not rebelled against my absences and the reason why they are so supportive (just like their mother) of the itinerant creation ministry I am actively a part of.
I could write an entire book about how Mally has been the best helpmate I could ever have. I love her more every day and could not even express in words how much I appreciate her and love her as a wife. She is also a wonderful mother and grandmother—always putting others first and herself last. When it comes to Answers in Genesis, Mally has made all the difference in the world—and I mean that literally: The world is different because of her. I seem to get so much of the credit, but let there be no doubt that God uses Mally and the gifts and strength He has given her in amazing ways. He has used her sacrifice and support (as well as her willingness to put up with my faults and cover for my weaknesses!) to make this ministry what it is.
I’m truly blessed by the Lord every time I see committed, godly parents—those who are living according to the roles given us in the Bible. Mally also rejoices in parents who are totally committed to the truth of Scripture and display this to their children. When parents choose to obey God and fulfill their God-given roles as described in Scripture, God’s grace and blessings abound to all around and He is glorified.
As Steve and I look back at the legacy left by our father, there is no doubt that Mum’s presence was a definitive factor in the inheritance he was able to leave. The godly leadership of my father was evident in the way my mother loved and supported him in return, as well as in the way she endlessly cared for us children. Since Dad’s passing, she has also had her fair share of health issues, including cancer. I have witnessed my brothers and sisters rally together in assisting Mum to sell her home, move her into a granny flat built on Steve’s house, and constantly care for her needs. I interpret this as the gratitude we all have for the biblical heritage Mum and Dad have striven so hard over the years to supply. In fact, we see it as a true privilege and service not only to our mother, but our Sovereign Lord.
These words will undoubtedly make Mum uncomfortable. She will be the first to point out that any good in her comes not from herself, but from the work of God in her and through her. Like the rest of us, she is made of sinful flesh; but she has also chosen to submit to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. His truth and His presence in her have accomplished holy things. She has been and continues to be a supportive substance, a gentle but strong balancing presence, a defender of truth, a godly trainer of her children, and a powerful mentor of women in the Lord.
Mum may also have difficulty with these words because she has never been one to seek out or expect recognition or praise. But sorry, Mum! It is only fitting. At the end of the description of an excellent wife in Proverbs 31, it says:
Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised (Prov. 31:28–30).
Let God’s Word be proven true again!
In the last four chapters we have presented the three essential components for building a godly legacy: 1) a compelling conviction that leads us to prioritize training up a godly generation; 2) your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ; and 3) a clear understanding of your roles and responsibilities.
Each of these components is necessary. If you try to build the legacy without even one of them, it will not last. None of these components will lead to a godly inheritance for your children unless you actually commit to acting on them . . . and that can be difficult to do if you feel like you must implement these components on your own. Thankfully, that is not the case. Consider these two passages:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:4–5).
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:16 (NKJV)).
The three components are essential, and the commitment must be yours, but your real challenge is to be dependent on Him to fulfill the very things He commands you to do. Understanding this will give you strength when times are tough, and ensure that He gets the glory for all the blessings.
If you and your spouse are “one” in the matters we have written about in the preceding chapters, we would invite you to come together and make the following prayer of commitment as husband and wife. If you are a single parent or you must build a legacy without the support of your mate, we invite you to make this commitment as well, knowing that God himself will be your partner as you endeavor to raise godly children in this ungodly world.
Our God and our Creator,
We come to You now with empty hands, recognizing that all we are, and all we have is a gift from You. You have made all things, and nothing has come into being that You have not made. We praise You for the children You have entrusted to us, and we deeply desire to build a godly legacy that will be a blessed inheritance to them, to their children, and to the generations to follow.
It is clear that Your Word, and only Your Word, can be the foundation for this legacy. The empty opinions of man and the fallible wisdom of the world can never be a substitute for Your perfect and living Word. Give us the willingness to search the Scriptures to discover the principles and commands that You have given us to obey.
Father, we humbly fear that the knowledge of You can be lost in a single generation. By the truth of Your Word, and by the power of Your Spirit, we ask that You will instill in our hearts a compelling conviction that leads us to prioritize the task of training up a godly generation. Increase our love for You in our personal relationship with You through Jesus Christ, so that we might be an authentic model to our children, and that we might be empowered in our tasks by the very presence of You in our hearts. Give us a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities You have created us to fulfill.
Our sinful tendencies will try to lead us into disobedience to Your will. We know that without You, we can do nothing, but that through Jesus Christ, we can do all things. Lord, we place ourselves humbly in Your hands. Use us as You see fit to be sacrificial, submissive, and loving to each other and to our children; that we might be used to build a godly legacy and leave a rich spiritual inheritance that brings glory, honor, and dominion to You and You only.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.