As a follower of Christ and a husband, I’m learning what it means to truly love my wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). That oft-quoted marriage passage is chock full of depth. Most days I find it’s charge unbearable. I’m a man… a human man. I sin and I have selfish tendencies. How can I possibly love my bride as Christ loves us? How can I possibly be to her what Christ has been to me? I can’t.
It’s under the weight of the Gospel that I find most relief. In fact, it’s when I am crushed by it that I am most free to love Selena the way I should. It’s as if hope is just on the other side of hopelessness, which, when reached gives way to a sweet relief that is confounding and inexplicable.
I’ll quickly explain…please bear with me.
A quick theology of the Gospel (if there is one)
If we see the Gospel as a list of to-dos that help us live a life worthy of salvation, we are overwhelmed. If you’re not overwhelmed by the requirements of “being good enough”, your view is distorted: either you view God as less holy than He is, or you see sin as less putrid than it is. When we see God as the perfect, Holy God he actually is (and not just a divine genie we ask for things and circumstances we prefer) the chasm between him and us grows uncrossable.
This realization, this hopelessness in myself, is exactly where the power of the Gospel transforms my heart. My good works are forever inadequate to satisfy the requirements of salvation (Isaiah 64:6). So I must rest in Christ and his work, not my own. It’s my only option.
Finally, I receive the Gift.
It’s at that point of helplessness when we truly put our weight in the person and work of Christ, and we hope he is strong enough to hold us. We finally realize our utter need and desperation for Christ to be true, for his work to be enough, and for his love to save us.
And that is the Gospel: Christ is true, his work is enough, and his love has saved us!
Ok, so how does understanding the true Gospel help me love Selena well? In every way.
A man’s pursuit
When I remember that Christ is good enough, loving enough, and powerful enough to save me, my identity is sure and my every need is met in him (2 Peter 1:3-4). Christ becomes my ultimate pursuit. I no longer look to Selena to satisfy me completely. (Related: My Wife Doesn’t Complete Me)
I do find joy and satisfaction in her, don’t get me wrong. And I love it when she gives love to me in ways I enjoy! However, I don’t require that from her for my peace, identity, and personal completion. Weird? A little. Counter-intuitive? Absolutely. Good news? For her and for me.
So, full in Christ, I’m free to love and pursue Selena as I should: as Christ loves his church and gave himself up for her. I can now do this, not from a place of obligation or duty, but from a place of joy and abundance that comes only from knowing and being known by Jesus.
3 ways I’m learning to pursue my wife
We’ve spent a good bit of time discussing concepts, so let’s get practical.
A man in love is in constant pursuit. His every action is directed toward what – or whom – he loves most. If you watch a man’s pursuit, you’ll see what he really loves.
As a husband, I have vowed to pursue my bride above all else (other than Jesus).
How can I possibly do that? I’m far from perfect, but here are a few ways I’m learning to love Selena well.
1) Give her my time.
For Selena, quality time is her top love language, so I must become fluent in speaking it. Whenever possible, I try to carve out extra time for us to be together. This means some other things I want to do get axed, but the reward is well worth it.
2) Give her my attention
It’s one thing to be in the same room, it’s another to be present together. I’m learning to engage with her and our little girls emotionally…mentally. There’s no substitute for the focused attention a husband/father can give is family, and only I can give it to them.
3) Give her my affection.
Too much time passes between hugs and “I love yous” if I don’t make a conscious effort. I’m learning to tell her I love her as much as I think it, and I’m learning to give her physical affection that she enjoys (not just the kind that leads to sex): tender touches, thoughtfully grabbing her hand when in public, and hugging casually without pretense or expectation.
Love that gives, multiplies
Notice how every one of these ways starts with the word “give”. That’s love. Love is generously giving of yourself to another without demanding anything in return. Do I receive love back from Selena? Of course! But love doesn’t demand it.
That’s exactly the love Christ gives us: free of strings and beyond measure.
Finally, that’s the beauty of a marriage centered around the Gospel: both husband and wife are always learning what it means to be full in Christ and how to give generously to each other as a result. It’s a perpetual cycle of giving and receiving that multiplies love in a way that only the Gospel can.
May your marriage be one marked by constant pursuit: of Christ first, and each other next. If so, I’m confident you’ll find all joy, satisfaction, and meaning that can be had by living your life and marriage in full light of the Gospel.