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June 16, 2017

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.
Ephesians 5:25-27

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.”

…What?!

“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.”

MELT.

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.

2 responses to “How to Love Your Wife as Christ Loved the Church”

  1. Joanna says:

    JoEllen, this was such a lovely post to read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It really opened my eyes to what Paul meant. I think before, I’d always figured this passage meant husbands should be willing to die for their wives, and that was it. I never thought about what it might mean for day-to-day living. Thank you for the insights, and I’m glad you have such a supportive husband! 🙂

    • joellen says:

      Hi Joanna! Wow, thanks so much for your super encouraging comment! I am really glad this sharing could give anyone a helpful perspective on the Word! <3

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