Derrick and I are reading through Ephesians and we came across the marriage section last night. I thought I'd share the main things that came up as we talked about it.
To start with, here's the passage:
[Wives and Husbands]
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)
Good stuff. I love how marriage is a picture of Christ's love for us. I think this gets so easily lost and forgotten among the daily routines and to-do lists of life. Somewhere along the way, this beautiful picture of God's love starts to boil down to little irritations and annoyances like dirty socks left on the floor or the toilet seat left up. Why is that? How do we forget so easily what God's plan is for marriage? I think this passage gives the answer to that question and the solution to the problem.
Now, I know Paul addresses wives first, but in his last little summary sentence, he shows that there is a natural progression. First, husbands should love their wives as they love themselves. In other words, anything they would be willing to do to make themselves comfortable, they would be willing to do for their wives. I think it's important to remember that men are the leader of the home, and with that role comes the responsibility of being the initiator. Whether they feel like it or not, (and we know that no one feels like it 24/7!) they should put their wives' needs first. And whether she is respectful and loving in return. I would think a lot of guys would see this as unfair. And I guess I kind of do, too, because both sides should love unselfishly. But, it's pretty clear here that the husband is supposed to be the one to do it first. Derrick does this all the time. He is always serving me and doing things for me, whether I'm in a good mood or not, and whether I appreciate it or not. This has struck me about him since the beginning of our relationship, and it still amazes me. How does he love me like that every DAY without getting sick of it? I believe it's because he determined in his heart to take care of me, and now that he has done it so much, it's become natural for him, like a habit. He doesn't need to make a conscious effort to be selfless now, it just flows out of him because he's practiced it so many times! And let me just say, when he does things for me, even something simple like straightening up the living room or throwing a few dishes in the dishwasher, I feel so thankful and any little things I wanted to be annoyed about or dwell on just sort of melt away.
And then, there should be a response from us. We, as the wives, should be loving, respectful, and submissive in return. The thing about submission is that people have this bad connotation associated with that word and think it means we have to walk around with our head down in humility and say, "Yes, husband." "Right away husband." "Anything you say, husband." This SO isn't true! Submission is about respecting the husband's role as leader, and trusting his judgment. We are still actively involved in decisions, and that's how it should be! But when Derrick says, "I really want you to stop cleaning the house now and rest, because you're tired." Well, should I refuse and just keep going on a cleaning rampage? No, of course not. I should just gladly oblige, sit down, and take a breather. This is submission. It's a GOOD thing. I believe that most of the time, our husbands know us way better than we know ourselves, and can see our needs much more clearly. So when they tell us to do something (or NOT to do something), it's usually a good idea to listen. If they are obeying this passage, and loving us as they love themselves, then they are automatically going to be looking out for our best interests. And listening should be easy, because we will know it's out of love and concern, not out of a desire for power or control.
Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Yeah, well my husband doesn't do that for me." I'm sure there are lots of people who feel they aren't getting the love or respect that they should be getting from their spouse, so they say, "Why should I have to be the one to do it, with nothing in return?" I'm not saying it's easy to deal with that, and I'm not going to pretend that I can relate, because I don't have that problem with my husband. But what I will say is, going back to this passage, marriage is about the picture of Christ and our relationship with Him. When we turn away, rebel, and refuse to submit, what does He do? Say, "Well, I'm not going to love them until they start earning it." Of course not! This is not the kind of God we worship! He loves us sacrificially. Jesus gave up His LIFE for us. Then He says marriage is a picture of that. And let's remember that when Jesus sacrificed Himself, He did it for people who did not love Him or desire to do anything to please Him whatsoever! But He gave up everything anyway. I think both husbands and wives can look at this as an example. Since marriage is supposed to be a picture of that, does that mean we can allow ourselves to wait until we get our needs met first? I think you already know the answer to that.
This is not easy to live out, and not just in marriage, either. This is hard to do in all types of relationships. Sometimes there are situations where we really try to show love to someone and they respond with something incredibly hurtful. It's easy to want to give up and write them off when that happens. This is when Jesus' sacrifice for us should be our example. We just need to pick up that cross, follow Him, and keep loving. Oh man, do I ever need to be reminded of this daily!! I am so weak when it comes to that. When someone wrongs me, I want to be done with them! I hate being hurt, just like anyone else does, and my response is just to put up a wall and say, "There. Now you can't hurt me anymore." But this is not what God wants us to do. We need to keep our hearts open and show His love. And I'm not necessarily talking about people who are only out to hurt you over and over and never build any type of quality relationship whatsoever. Or people who take and take constantly but never put anything in. I do think there's a point where you just have to put distance between yourself and that person, while still being kind (if you can). I've had to do that before, and it's not fun. But for the most part, we need to teach people about God's love by loving. No matter how much it hurts.
This takes me back to marriage. I'm thankful for it, and having a husband is a huge blessing. But at the end of the day, it's not about us. It's about God. It all points to Him, and that's how He intended it to be. I'm thankful to be married to someone who does remind me of that almost on a daily basis! I hope you have someone like that, too. If you don't, it's not impossible for that person to change! Don't give up hope...just keep showing them the love of Jesus. You never know what incredible things may happen!