In the voice of Everywoman…
I love you. You know that, right? I think I’ve always made it clear.
I respect you, too. I know what the Word has to say on the subject, and I gladly comply. You’re the greatest man I’ve ever known; human in every way and yet utterly godly. I have no trouble giving you the respect you need, crave, want, deserve.
I know you love me, too. Unfortunately, you don’t love me enough.
But don’t take my word for it…
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.
I don’t think you love me like that.
Oh, you sacrifice for me and the kids. You work late into the night de-vomiting the stairs and depilating the couch of dog hair just so I can sleep a solid 6 hours. You stood up to those guys who were loudly cursing and sexual innuendo-ing at the tops of their lungs at the Olive Garden last month, your greatest moment of testosterone-fueled shaky-voiced bravado since you wedged yourself between me and that angry momma cow when we country-walked among the daisies on our honeymoon. You skip lunch to save money to feed my scrapbook habit and took the bus to work in the snow and rain and wind for 2 years, tolerating too much jostling, too much wasted time, too much body odor just so I could have the car to toodle around town during the day.
In short, like Christ you give yourself for me. You just don’t do it for the right reasons.
At least, not as I read Ephesians 5: 26-27.
You give yourself to make me happy and comfortable, but Christ never did. The verse doesn’t say, “Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, caffeinating her with pumpkin spice lattes and doling out backrubs.” If Christ set His sights primarily on my happiness instead of my holiness, I never would have tearfully darkened the doors of the Baptist student union at the precise moment that you tripped over your amp cord while riffing passionately on that cheap guitar, falling off the platform and onto the snack-and-coffee table. If my happiness apart from my holiness were His highest concern, I’d still enjoy gossiping and drinking too much.
Christ sacrificed primarily for the church’s holiness and perfection. Jesus faced criticism from those He loved and yet He persisted in the pursuit of their eventual purity. He unflinchingly asked hard questions and gave out impossible answers to the queries of others in order to realize the church’s perfection. He knew His teachings would hurt feelings and cause confusion among those who would form a spotless and wrinkle-free congregation. The Son of Man did it all out of love and for the sake of love. Out of love, He gave Himself for the church with an ultimate goal of the church’s holiness. He left behind the glories of heaven and voluntarily emptied Himself so as to be human, all for the holiness of His Bride.
I’ve never seen you love me like that, with an eye on my holiness above all.
I don’t make it easier, I know. When I struggled to forgive my mother for that scene at Thanksgiving, you gently encouraged me to read Peter’s question about how many times we have to forgive people. My rather epic response, as I recall, involved overcoming my stunned inability to speak by throwing a pancake at you. With syrup. And whipped cream.
Unlike Christ, though, you backed off and shut up. “Smart move, pal!” I opined as I loaded another pancake. I’ll bet your buddies said your original sin was speaking up in the first place. As I look back, I realize your initial assistance expressed more love than your later retreat to the garage. I didn’t think that at the time, though. When I stood at the kitchen sink and stared at the backyard, all I thought was, “Why didn’t he take my side? Why didn’t he love me?” I see now, though, that you were trying to love me the way Paul commanded: treasuring my perfection and my holiness above all else.
My sins are mine, I know. I own them and admit to them. I’m not requesting that you take on the responsibility for making sure I never mess up. As well, I’m an adult and don’t need a father-figure Holy Spirit stand-in to tell me where to kneel and what to pray.
Even so, I need your sacrifices. The ladies’ Bible study on Thursday mornings is great, but we walk on eggshells and try not to offend anyone. We have both lost and saved attendees, and we can’t be too blunt. Sunday worship is wonderful, but the pastor doesn’t preach to my needs nor skewer my personal sacred cows. You’re the only person in my life who knows me well enough to poke holes in my pet theories and shrug off the wool I place over everyone’s eyes, including my own.
Help me see my mistakes. Pray for my holiness. Put notes in my tea stash and send me emails with devotional thoughts. Share an interesting verse you read. Look for a spiritual retreat I can attend and pay for me to go. Invest in my holiness.
Please – just love me.