Panicked cries rang out from the kitchen. The kind that make a momma’s heart skip a beat! “I broke it! I broke it! I am so sorry! It was Maylee’s!” wailed my devastated 4 year old. She had spent the morning playing with a china tea set which had been given to her 18 year old sister on her 3rd birthday. (Experienced mother’s side note to well-intentioned gift givers—china tea sets are terrible gifts for anyone younger than 6.) Maylee is headed to college in the fall and has been purging her closet of treasures such as these, making her baby sister the delighted beneficiary.
Although I had allowed her to enjoy playing with the tea set, I had also emphasized to her how breakable it is, and the need to treat it with care because it was special to her sister. We are probably all familiar with the sense of extra-care and caution that comes when we drive a friend’s car, hold a neighbor’s baby or drink from Grandma’s crystal stemware at Thanksgiving dinner. You listen closely to any special handling instructions, not wanting any harm to come to the valuable object while it is in your care. Knowing that something is precious to someone else and has been entrusted to you affects the way you handle it.
You may not realize it, but if you are married, you have been entrusted with the heart of someone who is precious and valuable to God. Furthermore, as a husband or wife, God is using the way you love your spouse to illustrate to the world Christ’s sacrificial love for His bride, the Church. If that doesn’t feel heavy, you need to read it again because God Himself has given you a sacred trust, and that is absolutely as big a deal as it gets.
However, if we are honest we don’t view our marriages this way. On our best days we may view our marriage as a choice we made to share our life with someone we love. And on our less than best days we can view our marriage as an agreement we made with a selfish, sinful person when we did not have all of the facts.
We doubt ourselves: “Maybe I rushed into this.” “What if I would have been happier with someone else?”
We doubt our spouse: “He’s not even the same person I fell in love with.” “If I had only known then what I know now.”
From that place “till death do us part” can feel like an arbitrary mandate to try to make something work that was a bad idea to begin with.
I doubt most of us spend time thinking on God’s stake in our marriage. But what if marriage is God’s idea, designed to be a picture of the love Christ has for His bride, the Church. If His interest in your marriage is not only cherishing the heart of your spouse, which is precious to Him, but also the reputation of His Son, He may have a bigger stake in our relationship than we realize. Likewise, because our marriage is sacred to Him, He gave some instructions for it’s care.
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33
A good God, who does have all of the facts, created marriage to serve as a picture of self-sacrificing love to a selfish and sinful world, and planned to use regular ol’ sinners “whom God has joined together” to pull that off. If that perspective on our spouse, on our marriage, sinks in a bit, it changes things. The doubts, the character flaws, the “what ifs” and “why me’s” become opportunities to submit ourselves to God at work in us, and ask the Holy Spirit to love my spouse in a self-sacrificing, you-first, greater-than-human kind of way. Rather than critiquing our spouse or evaluating his worthiness, our focus can turn to “feeding and caring for [him], just as Christ cares for the church.”
Just as we might give someone instructions before caring for our child or borrowing our car, God has given us instructions for carefully and lovingly handling our spouse.
- Consider and value your spouse’s needs as you do your own.
Submit to one another. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.
- Unite yourself to your spouse. There is no longer “me” and “you.” Just “us.”
For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. Acting in the best interest of the unified team is also in the best interest of each party.
- Treasure your marriage as a sacred trust from God
This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. God using imperfect people to love one another in a manner that exceeds their own capacities as an illustration of His perfect, self-sacrificing love. A mystery indeed. A treasure He has entrusted to us.
More than a bad idea you may have had once upon a time, marriage is a God idea. And your spouse is a gift you have been entrusted to handle with love and care. Feel the weight of that responsibility. At the same time I hope you will feel overwhelmed by His grace and power which are most glorious in areas where we are messy and broken. This is bigger than you. It is bigger than your spouse. It is as big as a great God who is writing a beautiful love story and in His beautiful, mysterious, we can’t fully comprehend it way, wants to include your chapter. His love story is one of self-sacrifice, undeserved kindness, and unending forgiveness. My prayer is that I will take His instructions to heart and allow His Spirit to write such a beautiful love story in my marriage.