Our society is doing a very poor job in teaching boys to be men, and teaching men to be husbands. We elevate rugged individuals, loners who will do whatever it takes to get the job done for the sake of a job or to win a game. Relationally, the message seems to always be “make yourself happy.” Find someone who will love you for you, who won’t try and change you. Advertisements abound for products that will make you “irresistible,” removing the possibility you will have to work for a fulfilling romance. Media continues to show a very narrow range of male characters, few of them have any redeeming qualities. Husbands and fathers are almost always portrayed as buffoons with eye rolling, long-suffering wives. Where are images of men sacrificing? Of men serving? Of men loving in any real, tangible, Godly way? We are given this picture very clearly in Ephesians 5:25, 28-29:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...
In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does the church,
Are we are loving our wives like that? Jesus’ work was completely for the church. In our own lives, and in respect to our marriages that is not always possible. Yes, we work to support our families but is all our work to the betterment of our wives, all for the building up of our unions? Probably not. This is not wrong in and of itself, but if we are placing work above our spouse on our priority list, there is a problem. Men who constantly feel they need to work at the expense of their marriage need to examine their priorities, and question what is really important. Our households, our families, our wives must come before work. We vowed to love, honor and cherish our spouses. We made no such vows to bosses, businesses or career goals. This same point holds true for other things; ministry and missions, volunteer service, hobbies and other interests are a problem if we are neglecting our wives to pursue them.
There will be times when what we have to do for the health of our marriages will be uncomfortable, or unpleasant. There are times fulfilling those vows will be painful, where they will exact a high cost. We must do them anyway. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus was faced with a defining moment in his ministry. Knowing that he must go to suffer and die, he prayed fervently, sweating blood and asking that God find another way. Throwing himself to the ground he cried out (in Matthew 26:39)
Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me
It is one of the most human moments in the entire story of Christ’s time on Earth, but as an illustration that he was no ordinary man, he continues:
yet not what I want but what you want.
Jesus accepts God’s will, and does what is necessary to carry out God’s plan. He has faith that plan is perfect, even though it will cost him everything. He goes forth with dignity, willingly paying the utmost price. Jesus gave his life for his bride. Would you do the same? Are you choosing - daily - to lay down your life for the woman you chose to marry?
Jesus loved the church by giving his all for it. He led his bride by always putting her needs before his own, even when faced with the ultimate cost. We as husbands are called to do no less for our wives. Her needs, and the welfare of our marriages must come first, must take priority over work, over service, over hobbies, over family, friends or any other earthly relationship. God must take first place in our lives, but our wives are next. (And of course it is only through the first relationship that we are able to honor the second.)
The second part of the verse calls us to love our wives like we love ourselves. “No one hates their own body,” we are told, “but nourishes and tenderly cares for it.” In the context of marriage this makes perfect sense. Two individuals become one flesh. What we do to our spouse, we do to ourselves. Are you nourishing and tenderly caring for your wife? Are you building her up and encouraging her? Or are you breaking her down? Insulting her? Criticizing, demeaning or mocking her? Are you sarcastic, belittling or condescending in how you talk to her? If so, you need to stop. Now.
You need to ask her forgiveness, search your heart, and remember the vows you made. You need to recommit yourself to fulfill them. Here is a simple litmus test:
If your wife does not say that you are the best thing that ever happened to her, you are failing as a husband and a man. Humble yourself before her, and vow to try harder. Starting today. And don’t worry about how long it’s been since you were on the right track. Don’t ever think that it’s too late to start over, to love your wife the way you are called to and have the marriage you both long for. Take comfort in God’s word spoken through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:12, 25)
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten