By Melvin Twigg Mason
One of the greatest acts of service that a man can perform for a woman is his marriage commitment. Let me say that again. I didn’t say marriage is the most fulfilling (though it can be) or most self-satisfying (though that might occur) or most idyllic (romantic, fairytale-like) experience that a man can go through (especially if he has both eyes open)! I said the discipline of marriage is one of the greatest acts of service that a man can perform, as is explained by author R. Kent Hughes in his best-selling book, “Disciplines Of A Godly Man.” Using principles found primarily in the fifth chapter of Ephesians as his base, this author and pastor sets out to reveal a more rational and accurate portrayal of an exemplary man’s role in matrimony in his third chapter, The Discipline Of Marriage.
An exemplary marriage is not built on the preconceived and selfish notions of what I can get or what I expect from my spouse. Hughes contends that a wise and informed man will perform his husbandly duties out of dedication to bless his wife and help her reach her full potential (trusting that this is her aim towards him as well). Hughes lists three components to the discipline of marriage. They are sacrificial love, sanctifying love, and self-love.
- Sacrificial Love – the author points to Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church [so much so that He] gave Himself up for her.” I must say, as a single man, that is a staggering edict to live up to, just on its face! To love someone so much that I’d be willing to die for them?! And yet, if you’ve loved someone that deeply, it’s not so impossible to imagine. Gentlemen, this is the call for the married man. But in light of that standard, how much easier (or harder) would it be to “die to” (sacrifice) your desires and expectations to live to serve/bless her? All of a sudden, letting her use your only car for the day doesn’t seem so difficult, does it? Or taking care of the kids and household before she gets home. What is saying “Yes dear” to something you’re not too excited to do compared to losing your physical life? Hughes says marriage is about dying to selfishness, being alive, and being loved.
- Sanctifying Love – Part of the blessing you can be to your wife is as an encourager. Hughes asserts that sanctifying love is when a man says and does the things that elevate and move his woman towards who she is destined to be, spiritually, creatively, financially, mentally, etc. This is a primary part of his marital duty (Ephesians 5:26-27). And as misogynistic as that may sound to some, this is not you nagging her or brow-beating her into your mental image of “perfection.” Hughes says that sanctifying love is mutual. He says that marriage reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly of both of you that the world never sees. And it’s meant for both of you (with God’s grace and help) to lift one another into all you’re each created to be. As the author puts it, “This brings up the hard questions: Is my wife more like Christ because of me, or is she [coming into her own] despite me? Is she a better woman/mother/friend because she is married to me?”
- Self-Nourishing Love – The author turns our gaze towards verses 28-29 for this one. “Men [ought to] love their wives as their own bodies… For no man ever hated his own body, but nourishes and cherishes it.” These words remind me of the lyrics of an old song I once knew, “Love your neighbor as yourself; but you first have to love yourself.” Think of how you show love for yourself, physically, emotionally, and even socially. You feed and bathe yourself well (hopefully). You find ways to comfort yourself when stressed or embarrassed. You settle disputes, meet new people, and share concerns with friends, just as your woman does. So Hughes says husbands are to be a partner in nourishing their wives just as vigorously as they nourish themselves. She is, after all, bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh.
So fulfilling the discipline of marriage, to love your spouse, requires commitment, loyalty/faithfulness, communication, an encouraging spirit, humility, and romance. And most of all, all of this requires time! Now that I think about it, that’s probably why the marriage vows include “till death do us part.” Marriage is not a wham-bam weekend with your woman but a lifetime “call of duty.” Are you ready to spiritually sweat for your spouse?