Loving the Wife of My Youth

Proverbs 5:18 wisely counsels, “Let your fountain [marriage] be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

Today is Cheryl’s birthday, my wife of over 28 years. Today, I will especially rejoice and give thanks to my Lord because I still have her with me (which we were both acutely aware when we woke this morning), that I could have very well be weeping today – without her. Well, ‘nough of that – on to rejoicing.

4 ways I will rejoice in my wife:

1. By giving God thanks for her extended life.

2. By believing that God has entrusted her to me, to lead her with sacrificial love.

3. By praying with her, talking with her, listening to her, enjoying a good movie with her, and kissing her (Prov. 5:19).

4. By taking her sins upon me, just as Christ loved the church. This is a hard saying, so let me explain.

When Jesus died for his bride, he who knew no sin became sin for us, i.e., he who was innocent chose to become guilty so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). If I am to love Cheryl, taking my cue from the way Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:23ff), then I am to take upon myself her broken life and own it as mine. If Cheryl does not become godly in Christ then it is partly my fault. Why? Because my sacrificial love changes her – this is God’s design just as it is for your groom, Jesus Christ; his love changes you as he takes upon himself your broken life. This does not mean that I am making an atonement for her sin, nor does it mean that she is not accountable for her own sins, but since “no man ever hated his own flesh,” my Christ-like love for her will, little-by-little, “cleanse her with the washing of the Word.” Husbands, this is impossible for us given the propensity of our own hearts to be “right” and to be acknowledged and affirmed as innocent when we believe we are. We are so sensitive to being disrespected that we cannot get going with love until we get a genuflex from our wives. But good and right things like “respect” make bad gods.

When I began to think this way about my own marriage several years ago, reflecting upon how Christ loves me each day like this, I was mystified. I can easily see how Christ must own my sin for my present and future good, but I simply could not see how I could possibly mimic that kind of love to Cheryl. And then – “POP”! I saw it. My thirst for acquittal in her presence is already satisfied in Christ. Christ is my Perfection and Righteousness. In other words, my desire to be seen as innocent is not based upon my distancing myself from Cheryl’s sin, but rather it based upon my nearness to Christ. Since Christ is my righteous mediator, then I am guiltless before God – No Matter WHAT kind of association I have with sinners here below, in the godly kind of association of course.

This is the false charge that Jesus lived with: “He can’t be righteous given that he not only rubs shoulders with the prostitutes, the tax-collectors, the thieves, the drunkards, and the lepers – but because he assumes their trespass as his own.” So how did Jesus do this? He knew who he was in relation to his Father in Heaven – that’s how (John 17:25-26).

Husbands if you will, by God’s grace suffer the indignity of not fighting for your rights (like Christ did for you), you will see how God uses your love to change your wife . . . and here’s the catch: You Will Change from being an angry, self-centered, prideful, harsh, verbally abusive and fearful man to a Christ-like man. You change . . . she changes . . . Christ is glorious over your marriage.

Of course none of this means that you can’t speak to your wife about real grievances, things that are hurtful and sinful. But look what this great truth does to your approach as you speak to your wife – it tempers you with humility so that your words will be gracious, seasoned with salt. As you enter into a dialogue with your wife where you wish to express your hurt over her actions and words, you know where your righteous standing is and in whom – Christ. But you will not get far in this if you do not learn how to own her sinful brokenness as your own.

Now the danger will be this: when you own a fight as your fault, for instance, and you say, “I’m sorry – please forgive me for being impatient and angry with you,” you might come across as patronizing, as a condescending goody-two-shoe. And you will, IF, you do not immediately move toward her with affection and enjoyment of her. In other words, if you attempt to sacrifice your life by taking upon yourself her brokenness and own in part, her sin . . . and then you huff and puff and pout in silence, then your attempt at this will be seen as patronizing her – because it would be indeed. But consider how Christ took your sin upon himself and then moved toward you, to enjoy your company and fellowship – is this not amazing? It is absolutely heavenly, full of steadfast love and mercy.

And now – I’ve got to get to the store. It’s a good day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice in the wife of my youth.

Ivan

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