Love and Respect
Neither Jody nor I like to read instructions. We both prefer to eyeball something, put it together as we think makes sense and then criticize the manufacturers when it doesn’t work out. Now on expensive items, we will eventually read those instructions before drilling new holes, redesigning or buying new hardware. I believe Jody feels as an engineer he can come up better plans and that’s why he doesn’t read the directions and I simply don’t like to be told what to do. Sadly, the same was true on our approach to marriage. We “read” one book and discussed its contents. I put read in quotations because I do not remember if we read every chapter, or just the ones about sex. In preparation for marriage, we also had sixty minutes of pre-marital counselling from my minister who married us and received a few pieces of sage advice from our parents; so pretty much, no instructions. We were on our own. The smart guy and the rebellious wife! 😊 Thankfully, God, the creator of our souls, knew that marriage was going to be a challenge and included instructions for us in the Bible. God gives insight and instruction into marriage in Genesis as Moses writes about Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:24) and then God ends with John recording his vision in a beautiful illustration of the church as the bride in Revelations (Revelations 19:7). The topic of husband and wife roles are also in a couple of books in the New Testament (Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1-7) and in Ephesians He first used Paul to pen a unique set of instructions for husbands and for wives. I’m confident that God did this because, as our creator, He knew we were inherently different. I am going to look at the basics of these instructions and try to explain how to walk it out in your marriage today. My hope is to encourage you to pursue the benefits of living out your marriage as God intended and designed. No need to get out the drill, God’s instructions are on point, once again!
The fifth chapter of Ephesians is a great starting point. It instructs husbands and wives in detail, but for my purpose today, I am going to limit my focus to the last three verses. Ephesians 5:31-33 states:
For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.
God knew that inside each man and woman there would live a struggle. This struggle would revolve around issues inside a man’s heart and in a women’s mind. God knew men would have little difficulty loving themselves and that women would desire to rule over their husband. I do not for a minute believe that either struggle was shocking to God. He created Adam and Eve and fellowshipped with them as they lived in the Garden of Eden. Nothing surprises God (Job 38). I believe when He witnessed Eve’s deception and Adams fall, God already knew man would need a Savior. His plans are without fault and are always for our good. He designed marriage to be just the right tool to assist Him in the sanctification process, specifically to grow us up spiritually. If we don’t fight this design, and simply follow His instructions, faith, hope and love will exist (1 Cor. 13:13). But it will take both husband and wife submitting to God and then to each other (Ephesians 5:21).
So how do we do it? How do we walk in love and respect in the midst of our crazy, busy lives in a fallen world? The answer is through ACTIONS with the help of the Holy Spirit. God would never give us a command without the necessary tools to accomplish it, or in this case His Spirit to assist you. Both roles, love and respect, are verbs in a Christian marriage and require our obedience.
Husbands, love your wife well. Put her needs and interests above yours. Now the actions may look a little different for each marriage, but in general, the answer is staring you in the face, or more probably, ringing in your ears! Listen to her requests. Women aren’t as mysterious as you might think. Sometimes you may not understand the significance of what your wife wants, but trust her and act. She wants you to show her how much you love her by doing! That thing that she talks about all the time is important to her. Instead of seeing these requests as nags, see them as a map to her heart. Show her your love by doing that thing she desires. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Your wife will gush and shower you with love in response. And there is also a spiritual benefit to loving your wife in this selfless way. God promises to be faithful to your requests (1 Peter 3: 7) as he implies in this verse that without this type of selfless love your prayers may be “hindered.” This is God’s plan for your role as a husband. Keep reading, friend, and don’t feel overwhelmed. You, with God’s help, have this!
Consider my story. When we lived in south Alabama many years ago, I remember asking my husband, Jody, to clean our garage. We were living in a small house with three children and the garage seemed to be the graveyard for unwanted or near worthless things. I thought it was a reasonable request, but he was very busy with work, graduate school and scouts with our two sons, and so it was left undone. The cluttered garage drove me crazy. For months, each time I drove up to our house and pulled into the garage, I would see the mess and get uncomfortable, my stomach would churn and I would get anxious. I am a neat freak, and keep a tidy house, but this was not the kind of mess I could clean. The stuff in the garage was dusty, dirty, greasy, HEAVY stuff, covered in spider webs and roach poop, so I didn’t feel comfortable tackling this job. I needed Jody! It wasn’t a job he looked forward to, I’m sure. Who could blame him. Then one rare Saturday when he had some free time it happened. I was busy in the kitchen and I heard noises coming from the garage and looked out to see him covered in dust and spiders, cleaning our garage, on his day off! Not playing golf, relaxing with a book or watching an old war movie on TV. It was better than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates. OK, better than roses! This action told me that Jody loved me! He had denied his leisure and comfort and braved the garage, and the spiders for me! It spoke volumes to me and thrilled my soul. Each day as I drove home, pulled into the garage, I was reminded of his love and care. It inspired me to love him in special ways too! Love wants to be returned. I bragged on his garage cleaning job to everyone. It was pivotal to our relationship and my positive response put him on the journey to more purposeful practices of “love your wife more than yourself”. Jody realized what love looked like at that moment and chose to do it, deny himself and love me more. If truth be known, Jody who is typically very neat, thinks a garage (like his truck) are meant to be a messy. But for me, he now compromises and keeps our garage clean - still to this day. Now before every husband runs out to the garage and starts cleaning to show his wife how much he loves her, stop. That was my specific request and probably means nothing to your wife. Instead, I want you to think of the thing she asks of you again and again to do, then DO IT! Her request could be for you to handle bath time for the little ones in your house, fix the coffee each morning, tank up her car with gas, take the kids to breakfast on Saturday morning to give her one morning to sleep in, fix the upstairs toilet that is always running, or give her 30 minutes to call her own each evening as you father your children, joyfully! Whatever her request is, it should be your number one goal. Your love shines most brightly when you are busy loving her through your actions. The Holy Spirit will faithfully provide you with the joy and energy and inspiration to meet this need and it will be worth it, I promise it. Jody loves me well. He is very quick to hear my requests and meet them. Because of this, my part, RESPECT, comes automatically. When a woman is loved well, submission, honor, respect, whatever term makes you feel comfortable, will flow naturally! husbands, get busy. Don’t feel condemned if this has not been your go to move before. There is no time like the present. Start today. And when done - your love will be rekindled! And God’s blessings will fall on your marriage and your entire family.
Now wives, no one likes a back-seat driver. It is hard enough leading in a relationship, much less trying to lead someone who flatly refuses to follow. Please respect your husband for the things he is, do not be frustrated by the things he is not. Look at the qualities God put in your man and admire them – often and loudly and in front of people, preferably his peeps: his children, his friends and his parents. Admiration and genuine respect are powerful tools and will build your husband’s confidence to lead your family. Now I have always loved the quote in Pollyanna’s locket in the 1960 Disney movie named after her. “When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you will not be disappointed.” Whatever I look for in a person I will find. Marriage is no exception. If I look for the good in Jody’s leadership, I will not be disappointed. As I entrust him with my future, I encourage him to submit even more fully to God so that he can lead our family well. One of the things I frequently hear from wives is, “I want my husband to lead our family, but I don’t think it will ever happen.” But with each snide remark or criticism, she is literally cutting the legs out from under him. Respect is a decision. Now when Jody and I first married, I had been a Christian for more than a decade - longer than Jody had. I was well trained in the Word of God and had a deep, intimate relationship with God. It would have been very easy to lead the way spiritually, so to speak. But I knew that was not the kind of marriage I wanted, and that was not the kind of man Jody was. He was a natural leader. I am sure I stumbled often and hurt his feelings on many occasions. If you have been reading my blog, remember - THE UGLY YEARS. The decisive wrong in that story was my independent behavior as I quit my job without even a “howdy do” to Jody. During that tough year, I was convicted of my error and prayed for God to give me the spiritual leader I desired. So instead of criticizing, which was the nature of my fast wit and sharp tongue, I looked for ways to encourage him in his pursuit of Christ. In the beginning, he was more reserved than I was, but when we had people in our home for Bible Study I purposely kept quiet, well quieter than my norm. Rome wasn’t built in a day 😊! As he led the study, I was amazed how well he did and I made sure I told him so. He grew in confidence and truly is the Bible scholar in our house today. As He would start to feel God’s leading on an issue, I would support him and thank him for being a great spiritual leader. If he would miss the mark, I’d hold his hand and encourage him to never stop swinging for the fence. The more I looked for the good in him, the more I found it and the stronger the bonds of our marriage became. The more I loved and respected him, the more he would put my needs above his own. And once again, our marriage would be strengthened and our faith would grow! Through the years, we have learned to submit to each other as we pursue God. We have learned each other’s strengths. I lean on Jody for his faithful interpretation of God’s word and see him as my spiritual leader. Jody leans on my spiritual discernment and sensitivity to the hurts and needs of God’s people, and follows my lead in these areas. Jody makes it a point to put me first, and I respond by putting him first with respect and love. We make service to each other a priority, second only to our pursuit of Christ.
God knew what He was doing when He created marriage and when he made us husband and wife. God has a great plan for your marriage too! Just take the first step. It doesn’t matter who starts first. Love or Respect. Just get busy with the ACTIONS of love. Make pleasing your spouse, through the help of the Holy Spirit, a priority! And keep reading, friend! More to come next Wednesday!
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which, he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
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 of water with 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: 21-27