The Discipline of Marriage
We now come to chapter 3 and Hughes continues to challenge us to our core. As a preface, even if you are not married, you can still glean insight out of the chapter. It is far better to learn how to be a good husband before you get married. Your future wife will be thankful you did! We can all learn much from this chapter.
The chapter begins with a touching story about Dr. Robertson McQuilkin who resigned his position as president of Columbia Bible College to care for his wife who suffered from Alzheimer’s. The challenge is to take our vows so seriously that we would give up all of our own dreams and desires to follow them. Vows are vows, not vague maybes. The foundation of our commitment is that it illustrates the union between Christ and the church. Praise God He keeps His vows to us!
In Eph 5:21-22 Paul writes that marriage is the bonding and becoming one of two people. Hughes says that marriage “ideally produces two people who are as much the same person as two people can be!” Amen! Men, our actions and discipline is one of the deciding factors in whether our marriages move toward that goal.
Hughes then begins to unfold three disciplines of love that God instructs us to have in our marriages.
1. Sacrificial Love
The first discipline of love he mentions is rooted in Eph 5:25. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” We think of this as a call to be willing to die for our wives if needed. However, Hughes makes a powerful point that this is also a call to die daily for her! It is a call to die to self and holding anything back from her, to our rights, to our time. It is “giving over not only all you have, but all you are.” This is a high calling that brings great joy to marriage.
Men struggle with dying in this way because we think we deserve those things, or we will not be real men if we give up those things. However, isn’t holding on to such self-centered things really an attribute of boyhood? Let’s be men and be willing to die . . . to SELF!
Hughes then goes on to discuss how sacrificial love also takes on her sufferings as your own. We are not helping our wives when we declare them as emotional and unable to see things as they are. Our wives need our understanding and partnership through the highs and the lows. Convince her that you care through every part of life and you will move towards oneness.
I am convicted by this because my thoughts run straight to times when I haven’t been understanding or I’ve tried to “fix” the problem. That approach hasn’t worked yet and somehow I don’t think another 25 years of marriage will change that. I’ll never forget her words to me during a trial we were both going through. She told me that she didn’t need me to be the strong one, but to know I was hurting with her. Wow! When I suffer with her, or share in her joy, then I’ve loved in a godly, sacrificial way.
The next part of giving ourselves to our wives is to intercede in prayer for them. Hughes’ words are true and convicting.
“Men, do you pray for your wives with something more than, “Bless good old Margaret in all she does”? If not, you are sinning against her and God. Most Christian men who claim to love their wives never offer more than a perfunctory nod to their wives’ needs before God. Men, you ought to have a list of her needs, spoken and unspoken, which you passionately hold up to God out of love for her. Praying is the marital work of a Christian husband!”
Time to get to work!
2. Sanctifying Love
Hughes goes on to discuss sanctifying love as the second discipline of love in marriage. The first paragraph talks about something we all should know. We are selfish by nature! Marriage exposes self-centeredness and God uses it to refine us and sanctify us. However, the point in Eph 5:26-27 is that we each have a responsibility to be a sanctifying agent in our wife’s life! This includes our own sanctification, but involves so much more. It’s not just about me, but rather what can I do to help my wife grow.
The questions at the end of this section are hard, but valuable to ask. “Is my wife more like Christ because she is married to me? Or is she like Christ in spite of me? Has she shrunk from His likeness because of me? Do I sanctify her or hold her back? Is she a better woman because she is married to me? Is she a better friend? A better mother?” Pray for each other that we will be actively seeking to help our wives grow and be sanctified and that we will be the kind of men able to pastor our families.
3. Self Love
In this section, Hughes expands Eph 5:28 ” In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” We love ourselves by loving our wives. Rather than being self-seeking, we find the most fulfillment when we love her like we would our self. May we seek to meet our wives needs as much and more than we find ourselves wanting to meet our own needs.
Are you Committed?
So how do we do this? Hughes gives several disciplines that are key to loving our wives as God instructs us. The first is commitment. As he said earlier, vows are a covenant to be kept at all cost. It takes that level of commitment to keep those “wild promises” we vowed in the ceremony.
The next discipline is fidelity. Hughes words it well when he says, “Men, our wives must be able to rest in the fact of our fidelity. Everything about us: our eyes . . . our language . . . our schedules . . . our passion must say to her, “I am, and will always be, faithful to you.” Give that gift to your wife!
How do you Talk To your Wife?
The next discipline is the work of communication. We must not excuse our lack of communication as just something we are not good at. Work at becoming good at it. Hughes challenges us to set aside regular times to talk with our wives and that we talk about more than facts. That may be hard for us as we live in a world of facts. Communicate more with your wife. Understand her, listen to her, tell her how you feel. She will draw close to you as you do.
Who is #1 and Would you Rather…?
The next two disciplines mentioned are elevation and deference. These both work together to build up our wives and help them know they are important to us. When was the last time you genuinely complimented your wife? Do it today! Act on the challenge.
The Farmer, The Wife and The Tornado!
The final challenge given to us is to spend time with our wives and romance them. We need to continue to pursue and court our wives. Never stop! This is the one we expect to hear as we think about the discipline of marriage. Why do we keep hearing it? I suspect it is because we get so caught up in life that we struggle to actually do it. We know we should pursue our wives, but our actions don’t match that often. Let’s all work to be disciplined in our marriages.
There is so much to take in and be reminded of in this chapter. I encourage you to post and sharpen each other in the discipline of marriage.
- What challenged you in this chapter? One of the questions at the end of the chapter would be particularly helpful to hear from each other about.
- What are you doing to help your wife draw closer to Christ?
- List some specific things you can do in the next two weeks to help her grow spiritually.
Men, let’s go to the gym and train to be godly husbands.
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