One of the greatest gifts my wife and I were privileged to have during our journey towards marriage was a really godly best couple. The Allerts’ marriage had nearly everything we had been praying our marriage would boast. It was not only marked by selflessness and unquestioned obedience to the Lord and commitment to His cause, though these were the pillars on which everything else stood, but there were also everything else that would not readily be classified as spiritual.
Flowers, gifts and surprise dates still had their place in a marriage that had lasted twenty five years. Appealingly, nothing seemed mechanical or obligatory, but the same verve that had been the backdrop of these things twenty five years earlier still seemed all too present. Amy’s beauty never went long without praise. The little girl in her must have proven immortal to ageing and the dullness it plagues most marriages with.
Nothing was ever pretense. The authenticity of their joys confirmed itself with the sometimes ugly parts of their marriage they would let us into. We spectated some tensed disagreements, and flaws were never kept from us.
I have tried to apply as many good things I learned from John as possible in how I treat my wife. Of course presently I may not copy paste the Seychelles treat, but the principle nonetheless has marked my giving towards her.
I have served her in some unconventional ways and pursued her happiness before mine; with blemish of course. Marriage would become the reason I would have my first 3D movie experience; not that I wouldn’t afford one before I got married. The reason is she asked, and since getting married things that once hardly appealed suddenly took on newfound meaning as her happiness grew into one of my greater commitments.
One thing hasn’t changed
Surely my wife must find marriage a thousand times better than her life as a single woman (not single-hood). Hopefully, like my mentor John whose marriage continues to thrive solely by the grace of God, I’m able to keep up the good things I’ve been doing and grow even better at them until death.
But what’s interesting is how her greatest need hasn’t changed. The same longing she had as a single woman to whom marriage was only a pipe dream some years ago still preeminently dominates her heart even as a wife.
Her joy depends on it. The height of her joy depends on the extent to which this longing is fulfilled. Like every wife she appreciates the flowers, gifts and dates. Like every wife she doesn’t mind the moon lit dinner with her toes playfully rubbing her husband’s under the sand. Oh she would be happy with the best of life in the best of places with her man beside her.
But like every woman, none of those would come close to meeting what her need truly is. None of those would make her the most joyful woman there is on the face of the earth. These gifts, even the most thoughtful and extravagant of them, are too ephemeral to satisfy an eternal longing.
“Though marriage may feel a thousand times better, a wife’s greatest need in marriage remains the same she had during single-hood.”
If she were to have them while missing out on the real gift of life she would simply have gained the world while losing her soul – Mark 8:36. What would that profit her? What would I pride in as a husband if my wife had the best of earth and yet missed out on even the least of heaven?
I could gift my wife with many things, but she finds none more meaningful than whenever I help prepare her for that moment she’ll present herself as a gift to her Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I have found that I love her best when I encourage her towards that end.
Of course I make effort to excel at all other things. I make effort to ensure she enjoys God’s gift of sex to us. But while that may touch her soul, and gladden it for a while, it never saves it! Its mark on her soul is never lasting, and I would be a fool not to pursue something greater, more satisfying and truly lasting for her.
My concern has to be for her soul. She needs me praying for her and encouraging her in the Word through which Christ cleanses her (Ephesians 5:25-26) more than anything. Anything I do for and with her only qualifies to be termed loving if it points her to heaven. But I cannot have such concern for her soul if I am not first concerned with mine. I should never pray for her more than I pray for myself. I should never preach to her something I haven’t first believed in.
Nothing excites more
Some may wonder if such an eternal attitude won’t plunge a marriage into dullness. They might fear it is borderline being too heavenly bound to be of any relevance on earth; in this case earthly marriage. C.S Lewis addresses this very false fear in his classic work Mere Christianity when he says;
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next….. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
Marriage is not indifferent to this truth. Every time that heaven is a marriage’s goal, earthly gifts will be thrown into the deal; but every time that earthly gifts are the goal, like Lewis says, “You will get neither.” The flowers, date nights, praises and every marital gift my wife enjoys do not stop because my focus has become heavenward. They only become more meaningful, more satisfying when Christ rightfully receives all our affection.
“Great sex may touch a wife’s soul, but it never saves it!”
I have noticed that the more devoted to Christ I am, the more romantic I become towards my wife. I love her better when I love God more. Sweet words towards her have had as their source a rich heart towards Christ. Moments of devotion communing with Christ have often ushered us into sweet moments of intimacy with each other as the smile prompted by the sweet promises of God confessed during prayer grew into a kiss and more.
A man who pursues Christ, whose greatest concern for his wife targets her soul, is not a boring man. Such a man is exciting. He is a man who both conquers the affections of his wife and willingly surrenders them to her Lord. When he has been with Christ, and become more like Him, he will not only give gifts to his wife, but if it comes to it he will willingly give even his life for her. Christ loves His bride the exact same way – John 3:16, 15:13.
Such sacrificial love may seem too much to ask, but it should greatly comfort us that our Lord gained back everything He gave up for the sake of His bride; and her with it. There is no loss with sacrificial love, only gain. And there will be no loss for the man who gives generously towards his wife for in the end he’ll gain his wife. He’ll gain her loyalty, trust and love. He’s only given to himself.
How best then should a man love his wife? I believe by seeking that which is incomparably good for her; by encouraging her towards all satisfying eternal pleasures. It is how I have seen my mentor John love his wife, how I have striven to love mine, and hopefully how you will aim to love yours.