I had the privilege, along with Melanie, to lead The Art of Marriage conference at our church (Central Baptist Church – Henderson, NC) last weekend. I really believe, by any standards, we had a “good” marriage. If you asked Melanie, our kids, or our friends, I think they would agree. But, we don’t want a “good” marriage. We want a “great, growing, God-honoring” marriage. We were excited, then, about getting to host the conference, knowing God would use it to grow us as well. He did.
My primary take-away from the weekend was I needed to grow in being proactive in loving and serving my wife. I would always be available to love and care for her when she got down or discouraged. But, God really burdened my heart about being far more proactive so that, whenever possible, she wouldn’t get that way in the first place. Two illustrations became my pursuit: 1) seeing her life as a bucket that was always overflowing (rather than me trying to encourage her just before it ran dry); and, 2) seeing her life as sails on a boat that were always full of fresh air.
In trying to put what God showed me into action, I started to look for ways to “fill her bucket” or to “blow fresh wind into her sails.” As the calendar would have it, I had to leave for a Pastor’s Conference on the Monday after the conference weekend. So, I immediately sat down and wrote her notes to read each morning while I was away (you might have seen a photo of them on Melanie’s FB page). I wanted her bucket/sails to stay full, even while I was away. I was so blessed to see the growing joy in her life. However, it would be short-lived.
As I was driving back from what had been an awesome Pastor’s Conference, the phone call came. I would need to take Caleb, after church that night, to a local store to find a suit for Homecoming the following week. Immediately, the selfishness and sinfulness of my heart sprang into action. “Why could that not have been done last night so I could just come home and be with the family. I have been driving all day, have to go straight to pick up Caleb from soccer, take him straight to church, and NOW take him straight from church to the store.” Though I never said any of that out loud, it obviously showed all over my attitude, particularly in that, when I saw Melanie for the first time after arriving back, rather than greeting her with a smile and a kiss, I gave her a short – out the car window – “I’m taking Caleb to the store,” and left.
How could such a turn-around happen in so short a period of time? How could it go from glorious to grouchy so quickly? There are two ways. First, as Jeremiah says, my heart is exceedingly wicked, when left to myself (Jeremiah 17:9). But, in my sin, I’m not left to myself. Our adversary will gladly throw his gasoline on the fire of our selfishness if we will let him, as he seeks to tear down, steal, kill, and destroy.
After confessing my attitude to God and Melanie, I sent her the following text: “It’s hard to be a good, bucket-filling, sail-blowing husband all the time…in fact, impossible, apart from the Holy Spirit’s work.” And so it is. But, we are not alone. For those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit lives within us. We have the promise of Scripture that tells us if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). God has given us life through Christ. As we walk daily with Him, in the power of His Spirit, God is transforming us into the image of Christ – the one who loved His bride, the Church, and laid down His life for her (Ephesians 5:25). So, I have to decide which husband I am going to be – the one who surrenders daily to the Lordship of Christ and the leadership of His Spirit, or the one who walks according to his own selfish, fleshly desires.
There are at least three reasons why I MUST choose the former in my marriage:
1) For Melanie’s good – Besides simply being a blessing to her life, if she is seeking to “walk in loving submission” to me as her husband, it will be a whole lot easier for her to do so if I am honoring her, serving her, and loving her like Christ loved the church.
2) For my good – My joy is always greater when I am walking in obedience to God and following the direction of His Spirit. I can also tell you that every other aspect of my relationship with Melanie is better when I selflessly love and serve her in this way.
3) Most importantly, for God’s glory – Paul says in Ephesians 5 that God intends marriage to be a visible demonstration to a watching world of His relationship with His people (Ephesians 5:32). When I love Melanie as God intends, I am practically showing the world around me a visible expression of the power of the Gospel. God has taken a selfish man who would naturally want his own way and his own desires met and given him new life and the ability to love his wife in the sacrificial way that God loves us.
Christian husbands, walk in the Spirit, love your wives sacrificially as Christ loved His church, and keep her bucket full and her sails full of fresh air – for her good, for your good, and for God’s glory!
(Photo courtesy of Tim Green on Flickr)