How do I love my wife well?” Young husbands frequently ask this question, and it is a great one to ask. They are often faced with a laundry list of good tips: prioritize date nights, lead family prayer times, organize evening devotionals, take walks together, buy her flowers, write poetry, help around the house, etc.
I have found that these lists can be extremely helpful examples or extremely tyrannizing laws. If you anxiously try to accomplish them all, the stress could steal the joy of your marriage.
So what do we do? Is there one guiding principle that can help us navigate marriage well? I believe so. I believe we see it clearly in Genesis.
Genesis 1:2 presents a problem: “Now the earth was formless and void…” “Formless” means quite literally that it lacked form; it had no structure. “Void” means that it had no content. It was not full of anything. No form, no fullness. No structure, no content. Then God initiates. He spends the first three days of creation building structure: first air, then sea, then land. He fashions the static life-support systems necessary to sustain life.
Then in the following three days he fills these structures with content. He fills the air with birds, the sea with sea creatures, then the land with animals.
God sees formlessness and void and responds by bringing form and fullness. He creates order, but not stuffy, stifling order. It is order specifically designed to maximize the flourishing of life! This is our God. He brings structure, then content; form, then fullness; order, and then flourishing.
Foundations for Flourishing
You see a similar rhythm play out in Genesis 2. God places the man in the garden. Though the garden is truly a “delight,” it is not yet all that it could be. Thus God commands the man to “cultivate the land and keep it.” God charges the man to take the raw materials he has been given and structure the environment in such a way that promotes the flourishing of all the living things under his care. This is the role of man in the image of God!
Men are meant to create structures so that life can flourish. We create farms where the conditions can be perfectly calibrated to maximize the fruitfulness of the trees. We create ranches where animals can grow strong. We create financial structures where investments can reach their full potential. And, in the home, we create an environment where our wives and children can flourish in every area under God.
This is the mindset we are meant to take into our marriage: “How do I structure our family life so that everyone can flourish?” Certain constants will be present in every Christian home: study of the Bible, prayer, time together, time apart, etc. And yet we have the freedom to organize these constants in a way that best suits our particular spouses and children.
Crucial Questions to Ask
Therefore as husbands we wake up every day and ask ourselves, How can I best organize the time, energy, money, and relationships that the Lord has given me to allow my wife to best flourish as a woman under God? Regarding time, have I given her enough time alone, away from the kids, to meet with God devotionally? How much time does she need? How will I create that space?
Have I given her enough time to meet with other women for support and encouragement? Have I given her enough time with me? With regard to our money, have I allocated it in the best way in order to fund those things that stir her affections for the Lord? How can I make that happen? What best helps her rest well? Vacation? Hobbies? Books?
For some of you the greatest gift you can give your wife is a night to get dressed up and hit the town. Others of you could go for a cheaper date night and use those funds to buy some lumber so she can build a picnic table (don’t laugh, that’s where my wife comes alive!).
With this approach, we are not tyrannized by a list of things we are supposed to be doing, but rather we are liberated to be excellent students of our wives. We are free to consider how we can use the resources God has given us to best love them.
Just Like Jesus
In many ways that is what Jesus did for us. He gave his life in order to create an environment where we can flourish under God. What do we need to be fully alive in God? The word of God? He came and preached it. The removal of our sin? He took it away on the cross. The indwelling power of the Spirit of God? He released the Spirit into us! A community of brothers and sisters? He created the Church.
Jesus Christ gave all in order to create the ideal circumstances for us to flourish as children of God. We husbands are called to love our wives the same way. We give of our resources so that they can be all they were meant to be as the daughters of God. This pleases him and blesses them.