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Marriage (3)

"He Who Loves His Wife Loves Himself."

Genesis 2:20-25; Ephesians 5:25-33

Jim Davis

An elderly man in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you . . . your Mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery are enough.

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer, the old man says. "We are sick of each other, and I am sick of talking about this, so you call your Sister in Chicago and tell her."

Frantic the son calls his Sister, who explodes on the phone. "There is no way they are getting divorced." She shouts. "I will take care of this."

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are not getting divorced. Do not do as single thing until I get there. I am calling my brother back, and we will both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing. Do you hear me?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up the phone and turns to his wife . . . "Okay," he says, "They are coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way. Now, what do we do for Christmas?"

God’s plan for families is intimacy. One of the greatest things we have to be thankful for is our families. Godly families provide an environment whereby we can discover intimacy with our selves as we discover ourselves through others.

Genesis 2:18-25
18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman,'
for she was taken out of man."

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. NIV

Intimacy is essential for our families for Paul says, "He who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28b). Why is it difficult for us to see that the love we show to others is the love we render to ourselves. You can't love your wife without loving yourself. You can't love your husband without loving yourself. If we would love each other in the family the way Christ loves the church each of us would get the love and respect we seek.

It's harder to live out your faith after you're married, especially as you try to live out your faith--together. But it's one of the hard ways that lead to abundant life. (Citation: Mark Galli, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 8, no. 3.)

The story about God’s love is not near as important as developing the capacity to love others as God loves us. It is important that we are capable of love, because it is perhaps the only the only glimpse we are permitted of eternity. (Citation: Helen Hayes, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 6, no. 3.)

Intimacy the Purpose of God’s Revelation of Himself

In the first eleven chapters of the Bible God reveals his sovereignty as he revealed himself as creator and ruler of the universe. He revealed his creative powers, and then he revealed his sovereign rule as he brings judgment upon an evil world.

It is in Genesis twelve, when God reveals himself to Abraham that God’s desire for intimate relationship with us begins to unfold throughout salvation history. God’s revelation of himself culminates in Christ.

God fully revealed himself through Jesus Christ in order that he might have an intimate relationship with each of us as we become members of his heavenly family. God held nothing back as he fully revealed the full force of his love through his Son. It is God’s irrevocable love for us that is the sum total of all his attributes. Try to imagine that the God of heaven desiring an intimate relationship with you. The love God reveals for us is the one sure way that God truly magnifies his glory.

Love for others generates a deeper love for ourselves; for true love will discover reciprocation. God’s capacity to love is not only revealed in his desire for intimacy with us, but I can only wonder if it is possible for his ability to love is increased through his willingness to love us; for love naturally begets and increases the depth of our love. Of course, this would present a paradox for I wouldn’t want to leave the idea that God’s love for us is anything but perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). Whether we could accept this concept or not, we do know why God commands us to love, for it is through learning the love of God through Christ that we initially learn how to love self and others.

Matthew 22:37-40
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." NIV

Christianity is the only religion that truly teaches us how to love ourselves as we seek to love others. This is the heart and core Christianity. Discovering God’s love for yourself is possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is this message that fully discloses God’s love for us. It requires a willingness to die to ourselves out of a love for God, but it is here that we discover true love. The Scriptures teaches us that love begets love; therefore we cannot love others without increasing our capacity to love.

I can only wonder if the reason many refuse Christianity is because they fear losing their own identity. If this is the case, we must realize that our true identity is wrapped up in the image of God, for we are made in his own image.

This is why Paul admonishes us to love our wives as Christ loves the church.

Ephesians 5:25-28
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. NIV

Paul instructs us "to love our wives is to love ourselves." Loving others as we love ourselves has the capacity to equip others to reciprocate the love we show to them.

Joni Eareckson Tada said, "I never got married to get my needs met. My husband does not exist to meet my needs. I exist to meet his needs. And incidentally, while I'm doing that, a couple of my needs might get met. Surprise, surprise! That is the joy, I think, of being married. It's also the joy of ministering." (Citation: Joni Eareckson Tada quoted in Leadership, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 13, no. 3.)

Counselor James H. Olthuis writes, ‘To try to keep love just for us . . . is to kill it slowly . . . . We are not made just for each other; we are called to a ministry of love to everyone we meet and in all we do. In marriage, too, Jesus' words hold true; in saving our lives we lose them, and in losing our lives in love to others, we drink of life more deeply.' "

Just yesterday I heard Paul Harvey say that it has been discovered that those who are willing to give of themselves to help others usually have a much longer life span than those who can’t give of themselves.

Intimacy the Goal of Marriage

God wants husbands and wives to enjoy intimacy with each other. Intimacy can only be had as we give ourselves to each other.

Ephesians 5:25-28
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. NIV

Intimacy within the marriage relationship can only be had through disclosing our real selves. God laid himself bare on the cross in an effort to disclose his love for us. It is this kind of disclosure of ourselves with each other in marriage that builds our love for one another.

Ephesians 5:30-33
31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. NIV

Every struggle we have that could be used as an excuse to separate or divorce is the very material God wants us to use to create intimacy in our marriage.

God put the opposites of his creation together for a reason. He knew that out of a man's and woman's differences, growth would take place. When we look at differences in this light, we feel grateful for the unique way our mates function--and we look to marriage as a place to grow. (Citation: Archibald D. Hart, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 8, no. 3.)

There are many with which we have a superficial relationship. By this I mean that what we know about each other is only superficial. In these relationships we only reveal what we feel safe revealing.

Too many marriages fail to go beyond superficial relationships. They never truly reveal their real thoughts, values and emotions. They never truly get to fully know one another. In many cases they are simply afraid of completely revealing their true thoughts and feelings. This kind of relationship is nothing more than a couple living together to keep house. They end up staying married for convenience sake.

In these marriages a couple never enters into intimacy. In superficial marriages there is no real sharing of who we really are. In these marriages there is so little self-discloser that it is impossible to have an intimate fulfilling relationship. There is no real sharing of emotional needs. The happiness these marriages manifest is only an illusion of what God meant intimacy to be.

This kind of marriage leaves us longing for a deeper relationship. We may reveal some of our emotions, but fail to communicate how we really feel about the important issues in our marriages.

We may only have a selective relationship with our mates. We may have a relationship where all we know about each other is what we want others to know. In these relationships we may be very selective about what we want others to know. We may reveal a deeper part of ourselves than we would in a superficial relationship, but we hold back.

There are many good reasons our love for each other would motivate us to hold back in our relationships. We may only want to reveal a part of ourselves that others are capable of dealing with at the moment. We may want to hold back a part of ourselves until we both are mature enough to handle it. This type of holding back is not all bad, but we must realize that the goal of intimacy is to know each other’s feelings, emotions and thoughts as fully as possible.

This type of relationship requires disclosing our secret self. There is a secret part of each of our lives known to no one. It is called the secret self. We begin entering into a healthy relationship with our spouses when we begin trusting one another with our secret self as we share our innermost thoughts and feelings. This is where are lives begin to be molded into a one-flesh relationship as we begin sharing ourselves.

This is where we begin to share ourselves without fear of being misunderstood. This is where we begin trusting who we really are to the help and keeping of another. This is where our spirits become one as we begin sharing our spiritual struggles with each other.

The ability to give to another without resentment and in turn receive from the other without embarrassment is what intimacy is all about.

It is obvious that God is the only one who will really ever completely know our deepest thoughts and secrets. It may not be advisable to reveal all we know about ourselves. Others may not be able to handle it. It may not be appropriate, but over disclosure is not usually our problem. Our problem is that we reveal so little of ourselves that it is difficult to enter into intimacy with each other.

When you think about superficial relationships, selective relationships and full disclosure in relationships, where does your marriage relationship fall?

Intimacy Requires Good Communication

You can test the intimacy of your marriage by evaluating your level of communication with your spouse. The typical U.S. married couple spends four minutes a day in "meaningful conversation" with each other. That's 0.3 percent of the hours in a day.

We Americans are great at asking, "How are you doing?" We don’t want the conversation to go any further than the person responding by saying, "I am fine, how are you?" Sometimes this is as far as communication goes in marriage. We really don’t want to hear how the person is doing.

A man accompanied his friend home for dinner and was impressed by the way he entered his house, asked his wife how her day went, and told her she looked pretty. Then, after they embraced, she served dinner. After they ate, the husband complimented his wife on the meal and thanked her for it. When the two fellows were alone, the visitor asked, "Why do you treat your wife so well?"

"Because she deserves it, and it makes our marriage happier," replied the host.

Impressed, the visitor decided to adopt the idea. Arriving home, he embraced his wife and said, "You look wonderful!" For good measure he added, "Sweetheart, I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

His wife burst into tears. Bewildered, he asked her, "What in the world's the matter?"

She wept, "What a day! Billy fought at school. The refrigerator quit and spoiled the groceries. And now you've come home drunk!" (Citation: Robert Leslie Holmes, God's Man (Kregel, 1998)

The intuitive nature of women often makes it hard for them to communicate with men. A woman may instinctively understand what is going on around her, but a man may have to be told plainly told what is happening. The wife makes a mistake to assume that her husband understands and knows what she perceives. In the Chicago Tribune, Cheryl Lavin writes about the rules guys wish girls followed. Here is a sampling:

  • If you ask a question you don't really want an answer to, expect an answer you didn't want to hear.
  • Crying is blackmail.
  • Ask for what you want. Let's be clear on this one: Subtle hints don't work. Strong hints don't work. Really obvious hints don't work. Just say it!
  • No, we don't know what day it is. We never will. Mark anniversaries on a calendar you know we check.
  • We're not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.
  • Yes and no are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
  • Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
  • If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
  • You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done, not both.
  • Our relationship is never going to be like it was the first two months we were going out.
  • If we ask what's wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you're lying, but it's just not worth the hassle. Citation: Cheryl Lavin, "Rules Guys Wish Girls Played By," Chicago Tribune (4-23-00)
  • One level of communication in marriage is where our discussions only revolve around keeping house, paying the bills, and raising the kids. We may never discuss what is going on inside of us. We just deal with the external issues that seem to keep the externals on an even keel. We may not deal with them honestly for fear of becoming emotionally involved. It is easy to get caught up in this type of communication while missing out on the possibilities of real intimacy.

    This is why many marriages fall apart when the kids grow up and leave home. The marriage has been built around rearing the kids and taking care of their needs. When the kids are gone a vacuum is left behind that a couple find hard to fill because they have not created an intimate relationship with each other through the years.

    "Flight attendants give these instructions to airline passengers: ‘For those of you traveling with small children, in the event of an oxygen failure, first place the mask on your own face and then place the mask on your child's face.’

    "In family life, parents often spend most of their time placing oxygen masks on their children's faces while the marriage relationship suffocates. The only way to have a strong family is to make sure that husband and wife keep the oxygen supply of love flowing strong between them." (Citation: Merle Mees, Topeka, Kansas)

    An old man was lying on his deathbed. He had only hours to live when he suddenly smelled chocolate chip cookies. He loved chocolate chip cookies more than anything in the world.

    With his last bit of energy he pulled himself out of bed, struggled across the floor to the stairs, and headed down the stairs into the kitchen. There his wife was baking those aromatic cookies.

    As he reached for one…SMACK! He felt a slap across the back of his hand. His wife scolded, "Leave those alone; they're for the funeral!"

    Often our communication is limited to discussing the problems of others, but we can never discuss anything revealing about ourselves. We may even be able to discuss the problems encountered by our children, but really never able to discuss our own problems. We end up only dealing with problems we are forced to face, and then all we want to know is how we can rearrange the facts to solve the problem without getting emotionally involved. We never share an emotional life with each other.

    Sometimes our communication is limited to sharing our thoughts about what is going on around us, but we never reveal our emotions about what is going on inside of us. This is a level of communication where we begin to entrust ourselves to one another. Without trust there can be no love; love is born of trust. Those you learn to trust are those you learn to love.

    Intimate communicate begins when we begin to risk revealing ourselves to one another. We may not do this often, but it is necessary to break into this type of communication to discover intimacy.

    For one who truly loves one’s spouse, truly loves himself. The reward for beginning this kind of relationship is that you can’t entrust yourself to another to be loved without coming to a better understanding of yourself, or without truly loving yourself. True love

    for self is discovered as we seek to love each other.

    Intimate communication begins when we share how we feel about the issues we face. This is where intimacy begins to develop.

    Charlie Shedd said, "We had gone together for a long time so we felt we knew each other as well as two people can. Yet when we got married, we began to withdraw from each other. ... We committed ourselves to time with each other, total honesty, and prayer. If a couple can commit themselves to a duet of prayer, they can build a good marriage." (Citation: Charlie Shedd, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 5, no. 1.)

    A Suggestion for Intimacy

    To enter into an intimate relationship we must recognize and overcome the barriers to communication. When we begin breaking down the barriers to effective communication, we will begin to discover intimacy.

    I would like to give you the best suggestion I have to begin breaking down these barriers. The first suggestion is to recognize a problem area in your marriage that you have placed in the secret part of your life. The problem itself is not a secret to either one of you, but you know that both of you have tried to keep how you feel about it secret by refusing to deal with it. Bring this problem to the surface, and begin discussing it openly and honestly. Make up your minds that both of you together are going to solve it. Decide that you are going to trust one another enough to deal with it openly. Deal with the problem until you have solved it together.

    Emotional intimacy begins with sharing as much of our innermost feelings as possible. As we begin sharing areas of our innermost self we will begin to build a solid relationship with each other that will last a life time.

    Marriage is adventure, not an achievement. (Citation: David A. Seamands, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 3.)

    After author Philip Yancey and his wife reached their 25th wedding anniversary, he reflected on their experience:

    "Before marriage, each by instinct strives to be what the other wants. The young woman desires to look sexy, and takes up interest in sports. The young man notices plants and flowers, and works at asking questions instead of just answering monosyllabically. After marriage, the process slows and somewhat reverses. Each insists on his or her rights. Each resists bending to the other's will.

    "After years, though, the process may subtly begin to reverse again. I sense a new willingness to bend back toward what the other wants—maturely, this time, not out of a desire to catch a mate but out of a desire to please a man who has shared a quarter-century of life. I grieve for those couples who give up before reaching this stage." (Citation: Philip Yancey, "A 25-Year Hike," Marriage Partnership (Winter 1999), p.68)

    The love we have in our youth is superficial compared to the love that an old man has for his old wife. (Citation: Philosopher Will Durant on his 90th Birthday, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 7, no. 2.)


    Myth: If two people are in love, their differences are unimportant.

    Reality: If differences are dismissed or evaded, each person's right to be different is never really accepted. (Citation: David Viscott, M.D., Bottom Line. Marriage Partnership, Vol. 5, no. 6.)

    God desires an intimate relationship with you. He has completely revealed his love for you through Jesus Christ. There is a great reward for entering into a relationship with God. You can’t love God without loving yourself. You can’t love others with the love of God without reaping a generous heaping of love yourself; for to love another is to love yourself.


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