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Four years and a week or so ago, I stood sweating profusely across from my bride, as we took our vows together and covenanted with each other, that we would love each other, that we would serve one another and endure all things together. When you take a vow like that, I doubt anyone really understands the depths of what it truly means. No one understands it really, until you stand on the other side of it, having gone through all those things you promised to do together. Yet the weight of it is not something you take on begrudgingly, but out of love—not the world’s twisted idea of love that has an expiration date, and a limit to how much it will do, but the love that God has shown to us, most clearly in the person of Jesus.
When I promised Jessica that I would be by her side through all things, that I would be there to serve her in her most difficult, frustrating, agonizing times, as well as to celebrate with her all the joys and successes and good gifts of God, this passage that Mr. Spurgeon preached on so many years ago was most definitely on my mind:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.—Ephesians 5:22-33
The first part of this passage has been roundly abused throughout the years, and today it is simply scoffed at by many. And it’s understandable: men have thought of that call to wives to “submit” and thought, “Oh, that means that I’m the one in charge, I’m calling the shots!” But that misses Paul’s point completely. If you haven’t listened to it yet, go back and listen to the Jonathan Edwards sermon that Ryan read on heaven, on what it looks like to hold a greater rank in the kingdom of heaven. It is not a realm of people sitting back being served hors d’oeuvres by people below them. The more authority you hold in the kingdom of God, the greater the servant you are.
And that’s why as we stood there taking that vows, that passage was most definitely on my mind, not because of my desire to lord authority over Jess, but because of my realizing that I was taking on an incredible responsibility: I was to become like Christ to my wife, in that I was to give myself up for her. What does that mean? What does that look like? The answer to that question is many-faceted, like a beautiful jewel, and I am still turning it slowly from side to side, seeing how it gleams and glistens as we find a new trial together, or as I seek to bring new joy to her life, or as we seek after Jesus. My desire in all the things I do, including this podcast, is to serve my wife, and to lay before her the absolute beauty and worth of Jesus Christ, and to see her heart become his more and more every day. That desire brings upon myself a feeling of deep inadequacy, yet it is an inadequacy which drives me to prayer, and to the church, that in communion with God and with His people I may find that which I do not possess to better love and serve my wife.
And I pray for the day when all work is done, all striving is completely finished and rest, real rest, is here, in Jesus. I pray every day that she will look at my conduct, at my heart for her, at the way I fight, and grow in affection for Jesus because of that, and I try to cut out the things that get in the way of that. I am so far from the line, but because Jesus is perfect and because his is the perfect, finished work that I do mine upon, I can rest even in the most frustrating, heart-rending times, and know that Jesus is enough.
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