Husbands, when was the last time you stared into the face of a task that you thought you could tackle, only to find out it was basically impossible? It might have been when you confidently opened up the box hoping to assemble that new two-in-one double bike trailer and jogger for your child. Or when you tried to fold the fitted sheet for your wife. Maybe it was when you started taking the squirrel problem in your attic personally and set out to get rid of your pesky and persistent nemesis. What about when you came face to face with the reality that you, in and of yourself, are nowhere close to being the husband you are called to be?
My wife and I got married six months ago. I am a rookie . . . at the end of the bench. When my wife and I were walking through premarital counseling, we both had a real sense that our first year would have its challenges. How would we, with our different personalities, deal with conflict? How would we handle our finances? What would happen when a decision had to be made and we have different opinions? You can never be completely ready for a transition like this. But what was I the most unprepared for? Ephesians 5:25.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Look to Christ, the Standard
These fifteen words sound the heartbeat of a husband’s ministry in marriage. They’re the vows we performed on our wedding day. “Husbands, love your wives.” It may not seem impossible at first. Your love for your wife may be demonstrated daily, communicated passionately, and felt deeply, even through the ups and downs of a maturing marriage. But did you see the standard we’re up against in this love? Read these words again.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” We aren’t to love our wives as our fathers loved our mothers or in the way our culture defines “love.” We aren’t called to compare ourselves with our boys at the gym or with our coworkers. We certainly don’t take our cues from how husbands are depicted on cable television. Marriages like that aren’t all that impossible.
No, our example, illustration, and standard in loving our wives is Jesus’s love for his bride, the church. How does the weight of that benchpress sit on your chest? Do you feel the impossibility of that? It’s one thing to love our wives. It is an entirely different thing to love her like Christ loves us.
I remember the morning when I read this verse again. It might have been after a fight. It might have been when I was wrestling with the selfishness in my heart. It could have been just a time when I simply didn’t understand my wife. I sat back and said to myself, I can’t do this. I can’t love her like Christ loved the church. This is impossible. I’m too selfish. I want what I want too much.
Have you gotten there yet in your own heart? Have you reached the end of your rope as a husband and found yourself incredibly lacking in the light of Christ’s sacrificial love for the church? If you have, it is a beautiful place to find yourself. If you haven’t felt that yet, the sooner you get there, the better. We must come to the end of ourselves and realize that in and of ourselves we cannot be what the Lord is commanding us to be.
Look to Christ, the Manual
What do we do when we’re faced with the impossible? On the one hand, we see the high standard and even feel a deep sense of calling to love our wives well. On the other hand, if we know ourselves well, we know we can’t be like Christ in our marriages.
John Owens writes, “One of the greatest privileges and advancements of believers, both in this world and unto eternity” — and in marriage — “consists in their beholding the glory of Christ.” May God grant us eyes to see the greatness of this privilege. How do we grow and advance as husbands? By “beholding the glory of Christ.” We become what we behold. Second Corinthians 3:18 reads, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
By beholding the glory of Christ we become like Christ. That’s the key to overcoming the impossibility of a husband’s calling. As the Spirit gives us eyes to see the multifaceted glory of Christ through the Word, we are changed into that image. The manual of how to love your wife as Christ loved the church is Christ himself. He is the greatest marriage manual ever. Do not be stubborn and try to put this marriage together on your own. Behold the stunning glory of Christ’s love for the church and, in beholding, you will become like your Savior.