As Christ Loved the Church

On December 29th, 2012 I shared vows with my soulmate—to love in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until we both shall meet Jesus. I want you to marinate on those words for just a minute. The commitment, the covenant we make as those who know God and allow him to have space in this perfect love triangle is to marry a person for life. I made those vows when I was 22 and I intend to keep them until I meet Jesus…praying for at least the next 58 years plus-hoping I get 80 years+ on this gorgeous planet with my man. I hope we get the wrinkles that 50 years of laughing at each other’s bad jokes, making love and occasional disagreements make on the human face. Before I get too far into this story you should know a few things. One, I fully believe that no couple is perfect. I believe that we create a perfect marriage by being 100% committed to loving your spouse—regardless of how they have loved you that particular day. And two, I believe that without asking God into your marriage you miss a vital life giving piece of what this trinity relationship was created for. But what does the Bible say about marriage? And why do we care about that? What does it look like to “love your wife as Christ loved the church” and to “respect your husband”? I can’t promise that this will be a full assessment as I only have the last 5.7 years of marital experience. But I am hoping that this blog leaves you excited and empowered to love your spouse without hesitation. That a piece of this vibrant love I am privileged to share with Ben inspires you to love differently. To love deeply and breathe easy—knowing that God intends marriage to be a beautiful relationship with rich fruit.

In Ephesians Chapter 5, verses 25-30- it states:  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] 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.

After we welcomed my son into the world—I felt my body was powerful, incredible to be able to bring life into the world. Yet, I also felt very full of blemish. I had not gained the “recommended” weight, my belly was still full and my body was exhausted from carrying a baby for nine months and his miracle delivery resulting in C-section stitches. As a woman, in that moment I didn’t feel I was without wrinkle. Yet, I remember Ben looking at me, his eyes full of excitement, love and hope. I remember him gifting me with new face wash and earrings. He lavished his love for me.  All of my fears washed away. I no longer focused on the scars and pain that brought our miracle boy into the world—I began to see myself like Ben saw me…radiant.

When I think of Jesus and how he loved the church—I often consider how he loved those that were less than desirable. Jesus was fond of loving those the world left behind. He welcomed conversation with the woman at the well. A prostitute the world looked down on and wouldn’t bare to give a fresh start. Jesus freely offered a new life, without blemish. Presenting her as radiant, holy and blameless; to him she was worthy of newness. What would it look like if all husbands offered their wives a chance to start fresh—if each husband looked at their wife as perfect, new… radiant? As a wife, as a woman, I can tell you that option to start new—to not look at my scars and see a constant imperfection empowers me to look at the world around me as if it also can be new. When I begin to believe that truth about myself, I begin to believe that any imperfection is redeemable with Jesus. I am empowered to believe more for the world I live in, for those I brush shoulders with at the grocery store and those pumping gas in the lane next to me. When a husband loves and supports a wife in this way and looks upon her as radiant—she is empowered to love others more deeply.

When we first got married I wasn’t really a fan of making the bed every day. In college I had developed this habit of not making the bed because I really was just going to get back in it and sleep anyway, then I lived by myself so who really saw that bed? Once we were newlyweds, Ben started this habit of making the bed—even if I was still asleep in it, making it neat and tidy with the pillows gorgeously aligned and this sweet little two layer fold at the tops of the quilt as he left for work. He quietly showed me (without complaining) something that made him smile, made him feel tidy each day. Around year three I finally caught on.  Today, I happily make my bed in the morning, with an extra fold on the coverlet. Sometimes in marriage we lead each other to love by humble example better than we lead in bitter words. Ben was never screaming and shouting over my messiness—he just gently showed me a better option and I gradually learned to respect it. But isn’t that a lot like Jesus. He doesn’t come in screaming and raging brimstone. He guides us gently back to him in parable, allowing us to find him and realize our own wrong doing.

I don’t want you to read this and imagine that our married life is perfect. We both are two completely human beings. We get grumpy, we occasionally don’t agree on how we should spend our paychecks, or (gasp) how we should raise our children. But when we do come to spaces where we don’t entirely sync—we also don’t drown the other person out.

In this passage Paul exhorts that “no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body “and if we go on in scripture we see that “two shall become one” so truly from Biblical standing we are “one body” if you want to imagine it in this image. It is common in US weddings to do a unity ceremony, sometimes represented with the creation of sand art to provide a visual representation of two becoming one. The bride is given a color of sand and the groom a different color of sand—they each gradually pour the sand together in a jar, using both colors in separate or combined layers to contrast and complement each other creating a unique work of art. Imagine though if you were tasked to separate those grains of sand from each other—thousands of tiny grains of sand in to two separate vials again. It would be nearly impossible; it could be done but it would take many painstaking hours. The two sand colors create one unique yet gorgeously unified statement due to their contrast. We are not bound and required to agree on each decision we make throughout our lives as a married couple. In fact our unique gifts, skills and talents can create a stronger union if we allow them the chance to thrive. If the bride and groom in this example poured their unique sand color into a gallon plastic bag and mixed it with the other until it was evenly mixed throughout, we would miss those striking lines of contrasting colors that make the sand art unity ceremony so vivid. The two colors of sand would drown each other out—creating instead a different color. This different color is wonderful and adds a third unique color to the art form—but if it were only this color the piece of art would be a tad boring.

When we fail as a spouse to hear the unique opinion or different point of view our spouse has, we drown out their voice—and overpower that unique color they create. When we both work together and create a new solution, we blend together a new color and offer fresh revelation to a problem. Some scenarios one spouse “wins” or the other spouse “wins” and some scenarios we both “win”.  If we look at each solution as a win, and begin to believe the greater revelation that any time spouses have healthy conflict and come to a solution as a win—we stop keeping tabs and instead begin to continue creating gorgeous works of art. As a wife, feeling loved is the greatest gift my husband gives me. As a husband, the respect a wife shows grows a deeper love. When we balance these two pieces in the way God intended, we create a perfect unity—a covenant that may not be broken by things of this world.

Emma Shetterly
Flip 180 Pastor
NCWC

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