Have you noticed yet that the paradise of Eden still remains in your heart? Have you recognized where the Eden in your heart has affected your relationship with your spouse and your expectations in your marriage?
Let me explain.
In the beginning, God created man “in his own image . . . male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Then after all of Creation was finished, the passage continues by saying, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (v. 31).
The first man and first woman were created in God’s image, as all of us still are even today. But where we differ from Adam and Eve, whom God declared as created “very good,” is that they were placed in paradise as two unfallen, or perfect, human beings.
In my book Before You Hit Send, I quote a woman who said, “You know that little thing in the back of your brain that tells you not to say something before you say it? Well, I don’t have that little thing.“
I suppose all of us wonder occasionally if we lack that little thing in the back of our brains. We know that we are to think before we speak, but we end up saying something that we should not say.
The good news is that we all have that little thing in the back of our brain, but we just need to remember to ask ourselves four questions before we communicate. And by communicate I mean not just by emails, texts, or social media, but by over-the-phone talking and face-to-face discussions.
These four questions serve as a checklist. And after going through the entire checklist, if we can answer all four in the affirmative, then it is okay to speak up.
But if we cannot answer all four of them with a confident and resounding “yes,” we need to refrain from communicating at this time.
We read in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is from this verse that we get the well-known saying that a husband “leaves and cleaves.”
But for the husband who interprets this scriptural command to “leave and cleave” and become “one flesh” as purely sexual, I have some disappointing news to share with them. For most wives, cleaving does indeed mean a face-to-face closeness, but not in a sexual way. For her, this face-to-face closeness entails talking about the things that matter to her.
When she gives her daily report to her husband, she feels a rapport with him. She feels a heart-to-heart connection.
For her, cleaving is not sexual per se but emotional and spiritual.
However, do not despair, men!
Meaningful closeness between you and your wife can (and most often will) arouse her sexually. Heart-to-heart intimacy, for your wife, is the foundation of sexual intimacy. Generally, without that sense of heartfelt connection, the act of sex to her is less than meaningful.
When I became a believer as a young man, I came across certain scriptures that shaped my thinking.
Not only have these verses instilled in me an excitement that the God of the universe has not remained silent but instead has spoken loud and clear, but it has also been affirmed for me that the Scriptures are not the mere words of men that I may pick and choose what I want to believe and follow.
May I ask you if any scriptures have developed in you the same worldview?
For example, Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” What does this mean? God is there and He is not silent on matters that matter to Him.
That God has spoken is no mere passing comment. It should be central to our lives. The writer of Hebrews tells us in his first two sentences in Hebrews 1:1–2, that “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.”
In your experience, have you found that any of the following approaches have worked to influence, motivate, and energize your spouse?
Keeping track of the other’s wrongs with resentment, nagging and criticizing without seeing any good, judging and shaming from a spirit of self-righteousness, getting angry to the point of showing hostility and contempt, manipulating to achieve a selfish or worthy agenda, blaming without any acknowledgment of one’s own faults, and fighting for control, not for win-win.
I believe that we would all admit knowing that these do not work long term to influence the heart of a spouse. But here is what fascinates me. I have had some people tell me that they know these things do not work but they keep doing them anyway. Why?
What they realize and then confess to me is that they don’t want a close relationship with their spouse and they know these methods will sabotage intimacy.
Would it surprise you to hear me say that there is no better method for a husband to use to better energize, motivate, and influence his wife than to simply love her unconditionally?
When a wife recognizes that her husband has decided to be a man who authentically and consistently loves her no matter her response, she comes under conviction about her disrespectful reactions to him.
When a wife discerns that her husband is not loving her based on her performance, but for the woman she is deep in her heart and for who God made her to be, this convicts and softens her.
Interestingly, not only does she feel badly about her disrespectful reactions, she finds new motivation to put on a respectful attitude.
Few things affect the heart of a wife like a husband’s decision to be a loving man regardless of the conditions.
Husbands, I know that you love your wife, cherish her beyond measure, and wish every day (and tenfold on Valentine’s Day!) that you could figure out how to better express that to her and in return feel her love and respect for you in all new ways as well.
Though we should not dismiss in the least the importance of showing your love to your Valentine through acts like bringing home flowers, surprising her with dinner out, cleaning the house for her, and other ways that express to her that you’re thinking of her and you want to serve her, gaining your wife’s long-term admiration and awe for you is actually much less complicated than finding the perfect combination of small acts of love and service: let her see you become vulnerable and depending completely on Jesus.
It is simple. As she observes you sincerely depend on Jesus Christ, especially when your back is up against the wall, she will honor you. Something triggers in the Christ-following woman that results in the kind of admiration and respect that this wife who wrote me has for her husband:
The Bible truly is the marriage book to base all marriage books on. All the answers for every husband and every wife and every single marital argument or issue can be found within its pages, summed up perfectly in Ephesians 5:33: “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
“What does the Bible say about how to handle going through dozens of surgeries with your spouse who suffers from debilitating conditions?”
Ephesians 5:33—Love and respect.
In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle Paul wrote, “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
As God does not command things that are unnecessary, we can then infer that a woman has a need to feel loved (which no one ever disputes); but in the same token, we must then conclude that a man has a need to feel respected. And of course, the man’s need for respect has been largely glossed over by many throughout history, including in the church.
That’s why it was extremely refreshing to hear recently from a pastor who was beginning to connect the dots between scripture’s command to respect the husband and the God in whose image all men are created:
How do I ask my husband if he prays for me? Or should I not ask and hope he does?
When a wife asks her husband, “Did you pray for me?” often times she does so in such a way that her husband hears a potential “gotcha” behind this question. Many are leery of why she asks, since he knows he prays less than she does; and he is also very aware of how often he forgets to pray at all, let alone pray for his wife specifically.
But if he remains silent to his wife’s inquiry, he anticipates hearing, “If you did not pray for me, and I don’t think you did, which is why I am asking, this just proves how little you think of me or care about my concerns.”
So now that you know what is going through your husband’s mind when you ask him about if he prays for you, what can you do? You don’t want to be the nagging wife, but you certainly also have a right to expect that he as the spiritual leader of the family is advocating for you through prayer to our heavenly Father.
Can you relate at all with the following scenario?
A husband says to himself early in the marriage, “I’ll pray with her and we can be in a Bible study together with other couples.”
As the months pass, he experiences something that de-energizes him: Immediately after one of their regular prayer times together, his wife comments, “You forgot to pray for my mother who isn’t feeling well.” After another prayer time a short time later, she accused him, “You didn’t pray for me. Do you ever pray for me?” Then a couple weeks later, after their couples Bible study one night she says to her husband, “I can’t believe you said what you did to Mary about her son swinging from the rafters at church and needing a time-out. She is struggling as a mother. That was insensitive.”
It doesn’t take long for the husband to pull back from his wife spiritually. As a result, he stops offering to pray with her and grows quiet at the Bible study.
One night as Sarah and I were driving home from a small group Bible study, Sarah expressed some strong feelings that had been building up in her over several weeks.
“You were boring in our Bible study tonight,” she said, almost angrily. “You intimidate people with your silence. And when you do talk, you sometimes say something insensitive. What you said to the new couple came across poorly.”
I was taken aback but tried to defend myself. “What are you talking about? I was trying to listen to people and understand what they were saying.”
Sarah’s answer went up several more decibels. “You need to make people feel more relaxed and comfortable.” (The decibels rose some more.) “You need to draw them out.” (Now Sarah was almost shouting.) “Don’t be so into yourself!”
You will find no better story or example than in the below e-mail to illustrate better the marriage-saving, life-impacting power of learning to love and respect each other according to God’s Word.
Stories like these is what motivates us at Love and Respect Ministries to continue plowing forward teaching and sharing God’s not-so-secret “secret” to marriage found in Ephesians 5:33:
As I think of how I should start this e-mail, goose bumps and chills are creeping up and down my chin and neck. I pray that God will give me the words to convey just the right message that is in my heart. Over ten years ago, I was a young, broken wife; in pain and distraught. I was guilty of contemptuous and hateful feelings toward my husband, the man that I claimed to commit to honor and respect for life. (There are those chills again . . .) However, I didn’t really know what respect or honor looked like or what that really was. I found myself searching for God more than ever; I wanted to save my marriage and even myself, but didn’t have the tools or the resources to even begin.
The Bible commands us to give thanks as a sacrifice of praise.
The writer of Hebrews penned, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name . . . for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15–16).
When our prayers are answered, when healing comes, when financial blessings rain down upon us, most of us are liberal to give thanks and praise to God (as we certainly should). But that is not what is meant by a “sacrifice of praise.” Hopefully, it is not much of a sacrifice to give praise for the great things in your life.
But how do we respond when our prayers are not answered as we had hoped, when healing does not come, and when we are let go from yet another job? When we give thanks in the face of things we do not understand, we affect God’s heart.
“God is pleased,” as Hebrews says.
“This book saved my marriage,” a man recently wrote me.
He went on:
I read your book Love and Respect, and I felt the need to reach out and say thank you. I’m a thirty-year-old man who has gone in and out of several addictions. Sex, porn, drugs—legal and illegal—and alcohol. I’ve totally burned my wife’s trust and for several years now we have been on the brink of divorce. This book opened my eyes for why I do what I do, what I’m looking for, and most importantly, what I need to be giving.
As much as I loved to hear this man’s testimony, and certainly was flattered by his statement concerning the effect of my book on his marriage, the truth is, his “180-degree turnaround” as he would later put it himself was not a result of my book but rather of the Book. More specifically, he is referring to what I call the “secret” hidden in Ephesians 5:33.