Last month my wife and I celebrated our 45th Anniversary on Lake Hayden in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with every one of our immediate family members – our three children, their spouses, and kids. We rented a magnificent four floor “cabin” which more than accommodated all sixteen of us. It was a fantastic four-day weekend complete with a kids (and “big kids”) game room, family theater, awesome sleeping quarters for the adults and kids, a beautifully furnished/equipped family living area/kitchen, and one of the most gorgeous master suites Valerie and I have ever enjoyed – topped off with our own private dock on the lake. What a magical time together. It was fabulous!
The trip was our (mostly mom’s) gift to our family. And it was four and half decades in coming. It was the current culmination of years of love, joy, sacrifice, and hard work. It was a once-in-a-life-time celebration. But, as I mentioned, it was not without its deep commitment to our marriage and family over many, many years – especially on the part of the matriarch of our family – Valerie Grace Ledford-Clubb.
Valerie married me with her eyes wide-shut. She got much more than she bargained for as a pastor’s wife. She thought she was marrying a future missionary (her faith in Jesus Christ runs deep and she loves to travel). But what she got was a man who needed some deep emotional and spiritual refining. Through all my foibles, flaws and faults – she loved me tirelessly, tenderly and toughly. Through all the years of our marriage she was the “goodwife” of our home – the mistress of our household. My “goodwife” has made me into a better man.
And that brings me to the purpose of this particular blog.
There’s an old expression sometimes used in golf, usually when a putt falls just short of the hole: “faint heart never won fair lady’s hand.” The same can be said of how a man approaches his relationship with his wife. Being meek and reticent will not help you achieve success in marriage. In order to love your wife you need a strong and courageous heart.
In Ephesians chapter 5, the apostle Paul wrote some powerfully convicting words to us men about having a strong and courageous heart in our marriage. And while he makes it clear that marriage is a two-way street, I want to focus on just one side of that street: the side married men walk on. Paul does not mince words. He states his case bluntly:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself…” (Eph. 5:25-31).
In my book, Every Man Jack, I take an entire chapter to unpack these verses. Space limits me from doing the same here. So, I’ll just highlight it for you. You can love your “goodwife” by learning to “sanctify” her and “glorify” her. You also love your wife by “nourishing” and “cherishing” her.
A husband sanctifies his wife by giving up his life for her so she can be a fulfilled woman. So she can fulfill her purpose to complete you as a man. Let her become your counselor. Let her help you express your emotions. Let her help you see your blind spots. Let help you where you’re limited. Let her complete your life. That’s the first way you can love your wife – sanctify her by enabling her to fulfill her purpose, which is helping you and completing you.
You glorify your wife by finding ways to honor her. And that involves the ways you think about her and behave around her. Give her words of tenderness. Show her you love her through your acts of politeness. Love her by being patient with her moods, by generously sharing your resources (aka “money”) with her, and by refraining from making snide remarks about her in public. Love her by practicing honesty and trustworthiness in your relationship.
To sanctify and to glorify your wife is the first way you can love her “… as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her …”
There’s another way this passage tells us husbands how we ought to love our wives. It’s found in verses 28-29: “He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…”
Women in general—and our wives in particular—have four basic areas of need.
First, your wife has a need to be affirmed. So affirm your wife as a woman. Affirm your wife as a mother. And affirm your wife as a person.
The second need your wife has is to be given status in her role as a homemaker. As a private chef, housemaid, child-care provider, and personal driver – she’s worth big bucks! And if she works outside the home she’s worth even more. Treat her like that’s true. Every day. All the time. Consistently. Sincerely.
The third need your wife has is to be reminded that you care. There’s something known as the law of diminishing returns, and every man needs to be on guard against the subtle ways it can eat away at the civility of his marriage. Love has a short memory; it needs continual reminders.
The fourth need your wife has is to be provided for. Among other ways, a husband does that by protecting his wife both physically and spiritually. You are your wife’s primary source of spiritual and physical protection. You can do that by encouraging her personal and spiritual development and by praying with her and for her.
This passage in Ephesians 5 ends with these words: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself…” (Eph. 5:31–33)
Good marriages are not an end in themselves. They’re a physical means to a spiritual end. Christ is the groom and we—His Church—are His betrothed Bride. We’re betrothed (promised) to Christ, and our marriage to Him is going to be consummated in heaven one day. That will happen when Jesus sweeps us off our feet and carries us across heaven’s threshold into His Father’s house forever. That’s the real message of a Christian marriage.
Tim Keller, best-selling author and founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, put it best when he said, “Men, you’ll never be a good groom to your wife unless you’re first a good bride to Jesus.”
So, men, do yourself a huge favor and love your wife.
Read more about A Man and His Wife in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.