Biblical marriage. It is a much-discussed topic that, like getting in shape or losing weight, can be a lot easier to talk about than actually achieve. This is a pretty personal, perhaps slightly cheesy post for me, but I wanted to share what was on my heart this morning and some reflections I am having on love and marriage.
Today, my husband and I celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. It sure has been one crazy ride, mostly due to the fact that we began our matrimony in a 10X10 cabin with no electricity or indoor plumbing and find ourselves, five years later, after five moves through three towns living happily with two small children born 19 months apart.
Five years ago, I married the man of my dreams and the love of my life. I never met a man I wanted to follow, to let lead me, to protect me and cover me, until I met my husband. He’s the most clever, determined, authentic and quick-witted person I know, and I am constantly challenged by and learning from him. Our story is romantic but our marriage has been real, and through being his wife I have grown so close to the Father as I learn to agape someone rather than simply love them. For him I feel all three forms of Biblical love, that of affection, friendship and that third kind of love, the life-changing selfless love that Biblical marriage needs that only comes through Christ.
Being married, like having children, has tried and tested my ability to love like nothing else, and has made me the person I am today. That is someone who is radically different than who I was five years ago. I change more every day in Christ but I’d be lying if I said the last five years have been easy. But what they have been is better than all the other years of my life put together. They have been challenging, rewarding, formative and full of love, experience, faithfulness, and most of all Christ. Even if that just means I have learned what it truly means to commune with Him in the process.
There is no room for selfishness in marriage, and I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of self, and still have lots more to go. But there truly is nothing more rewarding. God presents us with a very great goal, in marriage and in our walks in general: to love one another as we love ourselves. I think anyone who’s ever been in a romantic relationship knows how difficult it can be to love an imperfect person, but the thing is, to love someone when you are so acutely aware of their imperfections enriches your love so much more...with the right attitude. The more time I spend trying to be a better wife, the more I realize what a wonderful husband and man my husband is, and the more I realize how much I am governed by my own selfish wants and desires. But at the end of the day, I have learned it is a privilege to be his wife and helpmeet, and he has made me a better, smarter and significantly more faithful person over the years.
Neither of us are anywhere near perfect, myself especially. Whenever we do have conflict it never really resolves itself without forcing me to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize I was as wrong as I thought he was, even if that means I was simply incapable of forgiving and respecting him. Wanting to pursue the path of a godly wife and actually being one are two entirely different things. Proverbs 31 is the ubiquitous Old Testament illustration of what a good wife should be, but I hear the model of Hosea discussed less. It is the story of a man who was told to marry a harlot, and to forgive her, continue to love her even to the point of purchasing her back after she left him for another man. This of course mirrors the Lord’s love for us and the ransom Christ paid for us at the Cross. This is the love that husbands need to have for their wives. It’s a pretty tall order and it can be easy to feel like our mortal husbands fall short. But in this day and age especially, forsaking worldly lusts and independence for a life dedicated to providing and caring for one woman and the offspring you create is quite a selfless act. We wives tend to pat ourselves on the back for making the choice to submit to a man and make him the leader of our homes, but it takes just as much humility and courage to make the choice to enter into a Biblical marriage covenant and make yourself accountable for another person, to be a spiritual covering for her.
My husband made that choice when he married me, and he has never repented on it. He is determined to make it work, for my sake, his sake and the sake of our children, and I’ve realized over five years that that is what it truly takes to make marriage work. Hosea was the model of true love because he loved a seemingly unlovable woman, and he loved her because the Lord told him to. Marriage is a commission, covenant we make not just to each other but to our Heavenly Father, and it is Him we serve when we serve one another. Especially when we serve one another when we might not deserve it. And my husband has certainly remained loyal to me and forgiven me when I may not have deserved it. I’m not sure if I’m the perfect Proverbs 31 wife, but my husband is definitely a constantly forgiving, in-it-till-the-end, Hosea husband.
He is completely faithful, loyal, hard-working, endlessly affectionate and entirely devoted to his wife and family. He is stable, reliable, and always wants to spend his free time us. He always shares new things he’s learned or realized or internet debates he’s won with me, he thinks aloud with me about questions he has pertaining to Scripture or doctrine, he prays with me, motivates me to exercise more and eat better, and inspires me with his own physical discipline and determination to always try harder and be better. He makes good choices for our family and is always ready to help me with a project or give me good suggestions for how to do it myself. He may not be perfect but I thank God for the man that He gave me, the man who shared the Gospel with me, coached me through the birth of my first son and delivered my second, who always keeps the love in tough love, and who I love now more than ever as I look forward to the next five years.
Before my husband and I got involved romantically, we grew to be good friends and bonded over long intellectual conversations about government corruption, world events, philosophy and faith. I was not a Christian but he was, and I know God hand-picked him to witness to me. One evening when I was discussing what I thought love was, he pulled out a Bible and read 1 Corinthians 13 to me. I had never heard such beautiful explanation of love, and that chapter has of course guided my marriage and my entire walk since. The meaning of the words grow deeper and deeper as I learn to love more, and more importantly, as I am loved more.