Lisa Herman was one of the first people I met at Heritage… in the bathroom line before church. In our short interchange that Sunday morning, I can recall how she struck me to be a genuinely kind and unapologetically straightforward person. This impression was confirmed months later, when her and her husband invited Sam and I over for dinner. Over a delicious meal of steak and veggies, I developed a glimpse into this godly woman’s history- and into her humble heart… Now I get to give you a glimpse as well!
Vintage Wisdom is a series of interviews with women in our church who are graciously willing to share what they have learned throughout their decades worth of walking with God. They met my list of thirty-three, real-life questions with raw, unshielded responses filled with personal successes, failures, and a conviction in their voice that can only come from a life in love with their Savior. My only regret is that you could not all sit in and hear the uncondensed form of these ladies’ wisdom that I was able to extract over a cup of coffee.
Interview with Lisa Herman by Randi Peck
*The following conversation was edited for length and clarity
Lisa grew up attending- and even involved- in the church but had no understanding or acceptance of the gospel until she was 29 years old.
Randi: Why should women study the Bible?
Lisa: How are you going to know who the Lord is if you don’t read His Word?… Now being in the Word without the power of the Holy Spirit for discernment is, to me, not fruitful.
What do you think the Bible means when it refers to women as “weaker vessels” (1 Peter 3:7)?
I know that women are weaker, physically. I know that some interpret that to mean that Eve was the one that was deceived in the garden. And truly, for me in my relationship with John, I believe that his discernment often goes beyond my own- that he is an anchor. Because as a woman, and me in particular, I can be emotional. I can allow my feelings to make judgments for me and my husband is practical. He shoots straight from the hip. So trusting his judgment has become even easier as he takes the headship and I become his helpmate.
So, do I feel like I’m spiritually weaker? No. In some areas, perhaps- I wouldn’t say “weaker”, I would call that more knowledge. I am the weaker vessel, physically. I can’t carry the heavy load John does- I would say, even spiritually.
Lisa has been married to her husband, John, for 40 years. They both came to know Christ after they married- and were actually separated when God interrupted Lisa’s path. She gives full credit for the redemption of their marriage to the Lord.
Often, the church spends their time stepping on eggshells, explaining what submission is not. Biblically, what would you say that submission should look like?
I use to laugh and say, “I submit to my husband… my opinions, my ideas.” Which actually I think are very important because your husband needs to know who you are. The Word even says, a husband’s prayers will be hindered if he does not understand his wife [1 Pet 3:7]. So I feel like I’m an integral part of John’s decisions, of his headship, of his family. The Lord calls me to come alongside- but not in an authoritative way. It’s in a helping, encouraging way. It’s in an affirming way.
What about when you believe your husband is making an unwise decision?
In that situation, it always comes down to trusting the Lord, that He is the bigger umbrella. That if there are holes in the umbrella of your husband, the Lord has you covered. But trusting that is not always an easy thing to do.
How has the way you view your role as a wife changed over the years?
Because my mother was the leader in the home, that’s what I thought I was going to be. And because of my past and ungodly relationships and being, more or less, used (not that I didn’t allow it…) I determined that no one was going to rule over me- so John wasn’t going to either. But praise God, John had a strong backbone, even though it wasn’t spiritual at the time. But I see how God used that to push me to my place over and over again.
What are some practical ways women can strive for a more gospel-centered marriage?
Receiving and giving grace and forgiveness… Understanding the grace God has for me makes a huge difference in the grace that I give to others.
It is important to be transparent with other women about our marriages, to receive godly counsel and support- and yet, often, we cross that line of “TMI” or disrespecting our spouses. Where is the line of what to share and what not to share?
To me, the line is whatever you would not say in front of your husband you should not say to someone else. So, often when I open up my marriage to a consideration of other people, I clarify, “I would say this in front of John” or “John would tell you the same thing.”
If you tell things that will cause your friends to be against your husband and not for your marriage that is not godly, that’s not helpful, that’s not building your relationship. You don’t want people on your bandwagon, you want people on your marriage’s bandwagon.
To use a popular phrase, what are some ways women can “re-fall in love” with their spouse?
I think mulling over how much John has loved me… Counting all the positives instead of all the negatives. To even- and this might sound strange- to think of what a catch my husband would be for someone else… Someone else would love to be married to my husband because he’s a good man.
Lisa has two daughters, now grown, and seven beautiful grandchildren.
Our time and walk with the Lord obviously looks different when babies and small children are in the house. What are some ways you found to still put God first?
That was a hard one for me, because your time is so consumed by your children…
There’s a Scripture [that] says “He will gently lead those with young” [Isaiah 40:11]. You can pray while you’re changing a baby’s diaper. It’s not the same intimacy as sitting there alone with the Lord, but I believe the Lord understands that and He will walk you through those busy, busy times.
Young women are often pressured to keep their houses clean and orderly. And yet, we’re also advised to “not sweat the small stuff” and that “the laundry will be there when the kids are grown”. How should women balance the importance of order with the burden of perfectionism?
I had the burden of perfectionism…You know, I wish I had done it differently. I watch my daughter, and her children are definitely first before housekeeping and I applaud her for that. My house could burn down tomorrow, but what I pour into my children is everlasting. Who they are and who they become is way more important.
I remember my mom always had a clean bathroom and the beds were made every day. I would rather have my children remember me, that I sat down and played with them and talked about the Lord, we laughed, we listened to music together.
I almost feel like if you can keep some semblance of order in the part of the house where the guests come over… Who cares if the kids room’s are messy? They’re kids! Not that you don’t teach them to clean and do those things, but it cannot become consuming. And it consumed me.
Every young mommy knows how easy it is to get sucked into the comparisons and condemnations of the strong parenting opinions bombarding us in our conversations and on social media. How do Christian women rise above the “Mommy Wars” constantly waging around them?
Well, whose opinion is the most important? The Lord’s. Does he care whether your child wears cloth diapers or Pampers? If you can breastfeed, yay! And if you don’t, I don’t think that you should lament the rest of your life, “Oh my goodness, my child was so deprived because I didn’t breastfeed them.” God is able to overcome all of those things.
When we allow the world to dictate who we are as a mother- not that we shouldn’t listen perhaps for wisdom in certain areas- I do believe that. But you need to be able to filter through that and not feel inadequate as a mom. I believe that the Lord gives you particular intuition and understanding of your own children and what is right for your family.
How do we take care of ourselves, honoring God and our husbands with our outward appearance, while not finding our identity in our looks and pursuing the world’s definition of beauty?
I think there’s a point when it’s over the top. Each person will know for themselves when they are spending more time on their looks than they are on their heart… I think it’s truly individual, as the Lord convicts you. If you are draining your monetary with beauty aids and clothes, we got a problem.
God made us to age, and I’ve watched myself age. And it’s scary… I’m not 18 anymore, and I’m not even 40. That’s the way of the world and we have to understand that we live in a fallen world and we keep trying to live in a not-fallen world. We’re looking everywhere to perfection that is only temporary. So reminding myself as well that this is only temporary- I’m not made for here.
I think [what effort we put into beauty is] individual, and I certainly think it’s something to be prayed about… Let’s put it this way: what example are you going to set for your daughter? “This isn’t right, so I’m going to fix it”… You are speaking volumes to her about what you do: “This isn’t good enough, God didn’t make me good enough so I’ve got to fix it.”… It’s never enough.
What would you say to a single woman who ultimately wants to be a wife and mother? Is it wise or wrong to be investing time and energy into a career and education?
Yes, if she has the godly perspective on that. I believe that it’s wise to continue your education and career- or working. When you say “career”, it doesn’t have to be a career you’ve attained through college… Everything he does in your life prepares you for what is ahead, negatively or positively. I don’t think you should be sitting at home at your parent’s home doing nothing, waiting for Mr. Right to come and ring the doorbell. Because what if what you want is to be married and have children, but that isn’t what God has for you?
I just think you need to be understanding, if you’re going to college and having a career- if you get married, are you going to be able and willing to give up those things if that’s what your spouse wants for you? Are you going to be a mom? I understand working mothers who have to work. Maybe this will be offensive to some, but if you only work to have a higher standard of living so that you can have what you want on this earth- and your children pay the price for that because you’re not their mom… I can’t throw my chip in the hat for that.
Each woman only has the capacity to let so many relationships into her life. How do we know who to let into our lives?
The ones you pursue I believe are the ones God brings into your life and you know God has a purpose for. And the ones you’ve established of course you intentionally keep going because we are a strength and a comfort and an encouragement to one another. I have a few close friends. I would rather have a few very close friends than a bunch of acquaintances… And then I believe your husband totally has discernment about that. If you take on more than you should, your husband will go, “Wait a minute, I think you need to pull back a little bit from here.”
Because women are often “burned” in their friendships, guards often go up and women decide not to “waste their time” in opening up to other women… Why is it important that we push past this tendency?
I don’t think you can be in any intimate relationship where you’re not going to get hurt. But I guess [whether or not you stay in the friendship] it would depend on the motivation of the other person. Is the intention of the other person meant to throw you down, throw you under the bus, to expose you? That’s a relationship I’d definitely tread lightly with…. [But] some people are there just to take and maybe the Lord just wants you just to give.