I’ve shared some thoughts on submitting to husbands before, but today, I want to share an image of what it can look like for husbands to love their wives in a Christlike way:
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.
This passage is talking about how Jesus Christ loved the church (all the believers of the world) and gave himself up for her (to the point of dying on the cross) to make her holy and blameless so we could have a relationship with God.
On first glance, there is one key idea that stands out to me: husbands love wives the way Jesus loves the church. And what did Jesus do for the church? He did everything he could to make it possible for the church to be one with God, even to the point of dying. So, husbands, you’re supposed to do everything you possibly can to bring your wife closer to God, even to the point of dying. It’s a big job.
But what does it really look like today? There are very few instances where men have to sacrifice their lives to save their wives, and even if they did, that doesn’t necessarily make her holy and blameless. So what does it mean for a husband to give himself up for his wife, for the sake of allowing her to be more holy and blameless before God? What does that kind of love even look like in today’s world?
In an everyday sense, I think there are a lot of small things. Making time for your wife to have some rest and relaxation. Giving her space to catch up on Bible reading and prayer. Encouraging her to go spend some time in nature, or to meet up with a sister in Christ over coffee for accountability and prayer. As a father, of course all of this means taking the initiative and energy to watch the kids and give her that space to do those things. It’s not easy or intuitive to initiate such a task for yourself- “Hey hon, why don’t you go get some quiet time in this morning? Get some coffee, have some Bible or journalling or prayer time? Wouldn’t that be nice? I’ll take the kids to the park, it’ll be great, and I think it’d be great for you. Stay out til nap time!”
Wives, honestly, how OVERJOYED would you be to hear that on a Saturday morning?! Not just the idea, but the supportive attitude behind it?? I’m guessing you’re thinking: THAT SOUNDS AMAZING.
It would be.
Husbands, maybe this isn’t exactly how you want to spend your weekend, but maybe that’s what it looks like to sacrifice in such a way that allows your wife to be washed in the Word (spending time reading the Bible) and to grow in holiness and blamelessness. It’s a way of dying to your own desires and convenience in order to help her become more sanctified.
My appreciation for this concept intensified a couple months ago, when I was trying to decide whether or not to join a team at my church on a missions trip this summer. At first, I didn’t actually consider going. I just knew I really really wished I could go, because it was exactly the kind of trip I would love to join in on: the location, the work, and even the team were things I could get excited about. But 10+ days out of town? Yeah, right.
I mentioned this to Ben, and without hesitation, he simply said, “If you want to go, I can watch the kids.”
“I’d be out of town for at LEAST ten days. You’d have to take time off work,” I countered.
“Yeah, I could do that,” he replied. Straight face.
“But you hardly even have any days off, you’d want to spend it on that?”
“No, I wouldn’t want to, but I would do it if you really want to go,” he answered.
“We wouldn’t be able to go on our anniversary trip,” I reminded him.
“That’s okay. If this is something you want to do, we can skip it.”
That’s how the first conversation went. And my mind was spinning with the possibilities. I started looking into the kids’ schedules, my schedule, school schedules… the mission trip itinerary, and I began daydreaming of 16 hour long flights (woohoo! 16 hours to MYSELF!!), eating several meals in a row with just adults, and doing God’s work in another country. It was the kind of daydream that had happy music in the background and heart-shaped clouds floating in the sky.
And then I remembered my real life family, and the music came to an abrupt stop and visions of crying and cranky children appeared. An exhausted image of Ben appeared, and I dialed back on my excitement. I could hardly leave for one day without having to go through a few days of adjustment from the kids- what would ten days do?!
Anyway, to make a long story short, I went back and forth a lot. I was excited, then hesitant, then determined, then resigned to staying home. I talked about it with family, friends, and of course, Ben. Every time I brought it up with him, he affirmed that he could do it and would do it and that I shouldn’t factor him in.
I still didn’t feel great about putting him in that situation, though, and it wasn’t until he looked me in the eye and assured me, “Jo, it sounds like this trip would be really good for you. You said you would feel so refreshed and it seems like you’re a really good fit to do the work there. I think it would be a great trip for you to take a break from watching the kids, and a great way for you to serve with others. If going on this trip means you’ll be rejuvenated and refreshed with God, then I think you’ll come back a better mother and I think that’s great.”
He really said that. And the first thing that came to my mind was this: Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Wow, so THIS was what it looked like today, to give yourself up for your wife. He was going from spending a few luxurious days at a resort with me to losing that vacation completely. Not only that, but he would exchange that vacation time for staying home to do the thankless work of taking care of two young kids. On his own. For ten days. Straight. Um, 240 hours in a row watching the kids all by yourself?! Even I haven’t done that! And yet he was so quick to assure me that this was all something he wanted to do if it would be good for my spiritual life.
Guys, that’s love.
In the end, I decided not to go. I had a few reasons, but a lack of support from Ben was not one of them.
If you don’t have kids, I think there are still so many ways for you to try to support your wife in her pursuit of holiness and godliness. Marriage can be so sanctifying and there are numerous occasions every day for us to point one another back to Christ. There are many ways to give up your own conveniences and comforts for the sake of encouraging your wife toward Jesus. But if you do have kids, I think the sacrifice required to give her the gift of space and time with the Lord is an incredible way to love her and sanctify her at the same time.
I like that he knows which fork I like to eat dessert with.
I like that he knows how I like the blankets to be arranged when I nap.
I like that he urges me to shower earlier so I have time to let my hair air dry. Because he knows that’s a thing, and that sleeping with wet hair is annoying.
I don’t just like it. I love it. And I feel loved by it.
When we were dating in college, it was a delight to study my new boyfriend Ben and learn his likes and dislikes. When I found out he liked brownies with ice cream, I took the bus to Safeway and got ingredients and made it the first chance I could.
When I learned that he didn’t like corn, I decided I didn’t care much for it, either.
It was easy. It was fun. He brought me chocolate and I cooked him meat. It was bliss.
Our first year of marriage was a similar school of learning and joy, finding ways to delight one another and show love with our study of one another’s habits and preferences. Somehow, though, over the last decade, the novelty of studying my husband has become less thrilling. I figure we’ve been together for over ten years… I probably know him better than he knows himself, right?
Ten years ago, Ben and I attended a marriage conference as newlyweds, and there was one piece of advice that has stuck with us both after all these years: Don’t go 50/50. It’s marriage advice we’ve revisited again and again- for ourselves, with our small group for newlyweds, and with anybody else who wants to hear anything we have to say about our marriage relationship.
Going 50/50 is just what it sounds like: you do your half, I do mine. Let’s keep it fair, right? I cooked dinner, so you do the dishes. I do the laundry, you take out the trash. But there are a couple problems with the 50/50 mentality. For one, it gives you a reason to hold back. You cleaned the shower last time- now it’s his turn, right? Or, it’s his job to take out the trash, so I’ll leave it, even though it’s overflowing with garbage. There are things you could do to pitch in, but well, it wouldn’t feel even. And no one likes that feeling.
Another problem with this 50/50 mentality is that it encourages you to keep tabs. And we all know that whenever you’re keeping track of stuff like this, it’s going to feel unbalanced. I think this is because we are mostly only aware of what we’re doing. I am aware of it each time I change the toilet paper roll, put away the dishes, or vacuum the floor. When Ben does those things, I rarely take note, and it doesn’t really get accounted for in my mental balance sheet of Let’s Keep Things Even.
So what’s the alternative? Instead of a 50/50 mentality, we should have a 100/100 mentality: I will always give my 100%! Sounds a little cheesy, but the perspective change makes a huge difference! Instead of keeping track or feeling disgruntled at how he’s not pulling his weight, you take the opportunities to do what you can to take care of things. Sure, it’s still fine (and probably wise) to have some sort of division of labor. We do, too. But the difference is that when I cook, I make an extra effort to clean up as I go in the kitchen because I know it will result in less work for Ben after dinner. When Ben sees the basket of unfolded laundry sitting in the corner, he puts it away because he knows it will make me happy! We help each other out because we’re not busy thinking about how the other person isn’t doing their part or pulling their weight- we’re thinking about how we can give 100% of ourselves to love them. And it doesn’t have to be even. That’s not the point. We just keep giving.
It might sound a little crazy or radical, but the best example of love that I know is one of crazy, radical, self-sacrificial love. And Jesus definitely isn’t keeping tabs or trying to make sure things are even between us- if He did, then there is no hope for us. He just gave all of himself for us, and marriage is a great place to practice mirroring that kind of self-giving, self-sacrificial, unconditional love.
This mentality has made a lot of difference for me, as someone who has a tendency to keep tabs and try to keep things even in a relationship. I can imagine a version of myself that would get annoyed about mundane things like filling up on gas, changing the baby’s diaper, or even bringing in the mail. But after years of seeing Ben give and give and give 100% of himself to make our marriage thrive and keep our household running well, it only seems natural to try to do the same.
I’m definitely not perfect, and I still get huffy about things sometimes, but I am often humbled by his humble and servant-hearted response to me that reflects a 100% attitude. It reminds me that it’s not about proving that I do more or work harder- it’s about how we’re both going in 100/100 in our home and marriage! It’s an attitude I really hope to adopt in every relationship, but marriage is a great place to start!
I’ve heard myself talking about this book so much in the last two months that it’s time I talked about it with you. It’s called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan:
There are plenty of great reviews of the book online, so I’ll let you peruse those here. A major theme in the reviews is that this is not a typical book full of advice to improve your marriage. It’s a book about getting your perspective on life and focus on God straight. A byproduct of that is an improved marriage. For example, if you really lived life with eternity in mind, you probably wouldn’t get as caught up in the petty, selfish details that can run rampant in a marriage.
Really, he says it A LOT better. Because he’s Francis. It’s in the intro. I recommend reading at least that much!
Instead of a general review, I want to talk about one point in particular that stuck with me: humility. As a Christian, I try to be like Jesus. I try to think and do and love like He does. I fail all the time. I mean, Jesus was everything good (and nothing bad). The expectation isn’t that I’ll ever be 100% like Jesus, but that I keep trying. Still, it’s overwhelming. Where do you even start in an effort to love perfectly? In chapter 3, Francis says:
Both Lisa and I believe that more than any other attribute of Jesus, His humility is the key to a healthy marriage. If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, everything else will take care of itself. It really is that simple. Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ. It is easy to get blinded in the heat of disagreements. Soon, all we want is to win, even if victory requires sin. The one who wins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ.
“Can we talk about this tomorrow?” he’d say, not even lifting his head off his pillow to face me.
“…Sure,” I’d say, dejected as I flopped my face away from him.
“You really want to talk about this now?”
“It’s fine. Let’s talk.”
I hear him turn his head slightly.
“No. I don’t want to. Night.”
“Are you sure?”
OF COURSE NOT! But I’m not going to be all needy now. Humph.
“Yes. Good night.”
He snores. I simmer and sigh and feel my “love tank” approaching empty.
Well, it’s not like he cares. He’s sleeping.
It’s a lie, I know, but when it’s late at night, those are easy for me to dwell on. This is probably because late at night is not really the best time for anything except sleeping, even for night owls like me.
A couple months after our youngest was born, my mom offered to watch the kids so we could have a date night.
…COOL! DATE NIGHT!
It seemed like a nice idea, so we decided to do it.
Wednesday night found us in the car: baby in the backseat, baggy-eyed parents in the front.
“So I thought we could go on a dessert tour,” Ben began, as he took off his glasses to rub his tired eyes.
That was nice of him. Because I like desserts. He thought of me. Sweet. But I could read his body language loud and clear.
“We don’t have to do this. You should sleep,” I said.
“No, no, it’s okay… it’s DATE NIGHT!” he said, forcing a smile. He had caught a cold and was still recovering, yet was determined to make this happen.
“Really, it’s okay,” I yawned.
“No, let’s go!” he said, squeezing excitement into his voice. So we went.
“How did you know that he was The One?”
I was 20 when I got engaged, and got this question from my college peers on a regular basis. Few people my age had marriage on the mind, and yet here I was, finishing up my senior year with a ring on it, a thesis to write, and a wedding to plan by the end of the school year.
I was never planning or hoping to be one of those ultra conservative, marry-young types. But when the right guy came along and asked the right question at the right time, it just made complete sense. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
When he first asked me to date him, I didn’t see it coming. Friends who knew us well didn’t see it coming. I don’t think he even saw it coming until it was there. Sometimes, that’s just how it is when you walk by faith. But when it was here, it was right, and we were both certain of it.
I’m not sure how he knew I was the one. He’s a man of faith and prayer, and I know the Lord just revealed it to him and made it clear in a way that only Ben could really understand. My journey was a little more complicated, but it came down to one thing in the end: respect.
Our friendship had started long before our romance ever did. He was my brother’s friend from camp; a senior I had often heard other girls giggling about in the cabins, memorably referred to as “eye candy.” So when my older brother introduced me to his cabin mate- this cute, older guy who exuded kpop coolness, it was all I could do to act like I had never heard of him before. That was when I was 13.
“The couple that plays together stays together.”
This quote conjures images of smiling, happy, sunglassed couples hiking green mountains together, biking together, and having adventures together out in nature. I picture my elderly neighbors down the street, who often work out in the front yard gardening together. It’s so cute. I think about my engineer friends with their gamer wives that team up together and regularly play Starcraft or WoW together. (Nerd points for anyone who knows what WoW is!). This quote probably even applies to the couch potatoes who have a routine of vegging together after work, watching Netflix or Hulu or whatever you call TV these days.
Ben and I do few of those things. He enjoys programming. I cannot. I enjoy baking. He… eats baked stuff. He enjoys biking. I love team sports. I enjoy going out, but he’s one of the biggest (extroverted) homebodies I know.
Do your best.
It was a mantra repeated to me again and again throughout my upbringing. Before piano recitals and exams (and I had many), my mom would smile encouragingly and say, “Just do your best!”
I remember asking my mom one time, “What would happen if I got a B on my report card?” I peered over at her with wide eyes, trying to gauge her reaction.
“As long as you did your best, that’s fine,” she said matter of factly.
“Really?! What if I got… a C?!”
“As long as you did your best, that’s fine.”
“So, if I came home with a D, you wouldn’t be mad?” I pushed.
“If you really did your best, then no. But I also know what you’re capable of and it’s usually better than a D, so if that happened then maybe you didn’t do your best.”
I sat, pondering this silently.
I can’t say I’ve always lived it out. By high school, I was the do-what-you-need-to-get-the-A student, and that oftentimes took a lot less than my best. When it came to things I really cared about, though–a basketball game, preparing a presentation in front of peers, leading a club–I gave it my all, my 100%. It was like I didn’t know how to slack off or tone it down when it came to these things, and I often pushed myself long and hard into the night to make sure everything was done in excellence.
I made him cards. They were creative and thoughtful and full of mushy sentiment. I spent a lot of time perfecting the details, and couldn’t wait to hear the love in his voice when he received it.
He hugged me. Fierce and tight, to the point where I had to push him away sometimes, “UUF… too tight!! Whyyy why do you hug me so tightly?!” I said, half-jokingly… half-annoyed.
I planned dates for us. Outings where we could spend time together and make memories and just be together.
He took my car for an oil change and filled the car up with gas.
Although I appreciated the sentiment behind the hugs and the conveniences with the car, I still had complaints. The kind of complaints I kept to myself, because voicing them would make any ensuing response seem less special: Why doesn’t he write me mushy cards? Why doesn’t he plan romantic dates?
Now, nearly a decade later, I know that his methods were “not wrong– just different,” to quote Mr. Eggerichs (whose DVD series on marriage, btw, is FANTASTIC). Ben’s way of communicating love and care to me involved hugs and acts of service, while my sentiments came in the form of encouraging words and quality time. On the surface, these may seem like stereotypical gender differences (which they aren’t), but there’s a lot more to unpack about each one.