Ephesians 5:25-32 - The Love and Respect Cycle
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Starting out: "The Honeymoon Years"
Every traditional wedding ceremony ends with a prayer of blessing before the long-awaited kiss of the new couple and the joyful announcement of the new Mr. and Mrs! Many Christian couples start out their marriages building on the habits of their courtship of desiring quality time. They seem to connect on a daily basis physically, emotionally, and even spiritually with joy and focus. Distractions are minimal, and once they leave work, they rush home to be with each other. They take the time to pray together, share their hearts with one another, and many even are able to have time of reading the Bible or completing a Bible study together.
Time passes - too quickly as they years go by - and the husband and wife start getting busier and busier. Outside commitments begin and couples start running around just to keep up. The blessing of children expands their family and now man and wife become dad and mom. Over the top of an infant's downy head mom catches dad's eye; he gives her a kiss and a hug as he leaves for the carpool. Laundry,dishes, work, schedules, budgeting, and problem solving take lots of time and energy. As they fall into bed each night exhausted, they exhale a prayer of thankfulness for God blessing them and helping them get through that day together.
The Third Stage: The Twilight Years
The kids have moved out, perhaps husband and wife have retired, and now they have the time to be together and pursue passions and interests that have been put aside for the "future" all those years. The old routines are set aside and they have all the time they desire to finally be together and travel, take up hobbies, and wake up each morning without a set plan in place. As they continue to age, one spouse usually starts to take on a caretaker role as their health declines. Hand in wrinkled hand, they can sit in the quiet and know what the other is thinking.
In sharing my thoughts on these three stages of marriage, I just wanted to set the stage for the rest of what I want to share with you in this article. Each marriage is unique and not all of them will follow this pattern exactly; mine has not! A little over 11 years ago, Randy and I started our marriage with a little one in our midst: my three year old daughter from my previous marriage. Her little sister followed before our second anniversary, and, by the time we celebrated our fifth anniversary, the girls had a little brother. It has been a wonderful whirlwind of blessings and the years have really gone by too fast. We are thick in the midst of the second stage right now. Randy works full-time and I am a full time homemaker and homeschooling momma. I know what it's like to feel like you can't get it all done and keep those priorities straight all the time.
I was was sharing my heart with a friend a few days ago. I wanted her to pray for me as I wanted to bring something up with my husband but I needed to walk the fine line between sharing my heart and making him feel like he was failing me. (For the record: my husband is a hard-working, loving, moral, and self-sacrificing husband and father who strives to be our spiritual leader and guide.) My heart was just missing the days when we were able to connect spiritually on a more regular basis. I wanted to carve out this quality time with him again, but I didn't want to be his conviction or use manipulation to win him over to doing this with me. I desired to be honest and respectful. So, what is a wife to do? This is what I did to share my heart with my husband - - and I share it with you, praying someone reading this can find it to be helpful:
- Come before God and pray for the right words to say, the right time to talk, and the right attitude to cover both of you at that time.
- Keep in mind that the #1 need of your husband, no matter the stage of marriage, his level of spiritual maturity, or his current focus is for him to know that you RESPECT him as a man, husband, and father.
- If you can honestly let him know what you need (quality time, for him to pray for you, to share what God is doing in his life), keep in mind that your tone of voice speaks volumes. Focus on taking a team approach with the topic; let him know that you want to feel closer to him and that this is something he can do to bless you.
I highlighted the verses from Ephesians 5 in starting out this article - and I hope you notice that in those verses, God reminds us of the #1 needs of the husband and wife: he desires respect and she needs to feel loved. When this need is met in the husband, he reacts with love; when the wife is cherished, she has no problem respecting her husband's leadership. It is truly a beautiful picture of mutual surrendering to each other, under God. No matter where you find yourself in your relationship with your husband, once you set out to meet these basic desires in one another, your marriage will flourish. You can't and shouldn't wait for him to invest in you before you invest in him; you can start the cycle of blessings by choosing to start today, loving and respecting your husband in word and deed as unto the Lord. I pray for you as you read this today; may God use the concept of the Love and Respect Cycle in your marriage to give you opportunities to bless each other daily.