I was recently up in Canada on a backpacking/canoe trip with my good bros from Pilgrimage. And one of the highlights of my week was our solo day, where we break off from our group, find a place in the woods, hunker down, and get with God.
I found a gorgeous spot on the shore of our lake, the sun was coming up, and my view was majestic. Warm mocha heated on my mini stove. Perfect place to chat with God and listen to God.
Laboring through Ephesians 5
Among other things, I was working through Ephesians 5 and how Jesus desires me to relate to my wife. And I read yet again Paul’s admonition to me:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)
I have always stumbled through that phase of “one flesh” and what that specifically means for me. How do I live that out each day? Is it mostly referring to our physical relationship or is there more to it?
And to be honest, I have struggled through some of the other statements of Paul:
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:28-30)
What does it mean to love my wife as my own body? And how does nourishing and cherishing my own flesh relate to what love for my wife should look like? I have heard it said that as I give attention to myself, that same type of attention should be given to my marriage.
I get that. Not being selfish. Not wrapped up in my own agenda. The effort I give to myself I should also give to my marriage. But I sensed there was more and that I was just not getting the fuller picture. What was I missing?
As I mentioned in a prior post about pursuing my wife, God has answered a prayer for me in some unique ways that I am finding refreshing for my marriage. As God is giving me new eyes in viewing my wife, my attention on her and for her has increased. She is more in the crosshairs of my day than she has been in the past.
And why is this? It is simply a God thing. I asked God to change my desires because I could not change them myself.
I want to encourage you as married dudes. We can try so hard with our wives to perform, to do, be better, stop doing, start doing that we miss the point of what Paul is telling us here in this passage.
Change comes when our affections are changed
One of the miracles of the gospel is that God changes my affections. Do you realize how utterly impossible that is to do on your own? To change a desire? What Paul commends to us in verses 28-31 is not some sort of “Alright guys, you give a lot of time to yourself nourishing your own body through exercise or hobbies. Now suck it up and start giving attention to your wife in the same way! Love your wife with the same effort that you show love to your body!”
No, verses 28-31 speak one work do me. D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-Y.
And as I sat on the shore of Trout Lake that morning, I began to uncover more of what this one flesh relationship is about. Paul gives a simile to us as guys – we are to love our wives as Jesus loves His church. He is active with us as His bride. He gives, sanctifies, cleanses, washes, and presents. We are members of His body.
In the same way, when Jesus changes my desires and gives me His affections for my wife, one flesh comes alive. Stefanie’s desires are now my desires. Her goals are now my goals. What is important to her is now important to me. And similarly, hurting her is now hurting me.
Removing the pain
If one of my fingers was hurting me, it would be foolish to just cut it off, thinking that by getting rid of it, I am getting rid of the problem. But yet we do that in our marriages all the time. The problem with that mentality is that in hurting a member of my own body, I am actually hurting myself. In the same way, to disengage or be unloving to my wife is hurting me.
One flesh. We are one. To love her is to love me. To hurt her is to hurt me. I am so in tune with my wife and listening to her heart that we become one. There is no other earthly relationship like this. Marriage is a picture like none other.
And in God changing me, I am finding true joy in meeting her needs. Her happiness is my happiness. I am looking more for her goals and desires to be met and how I can be a part of that. And conversely, to mistreat her is like mistreating myself. Disengaging from her is disengaging from me. Why? Because we are one. What I do to her I do to me. “He who loves his wife loves himself.”
One flesh goes way beyond the sexual relationship. Ask me how many marriages I have seen have major issues when the couple made the one flesh sexual relationship predominant before marriage. Answer? A lot. And the reason is because one flesh as defined by God can only happen when a husband and wife are serving each other for the joy of each other and not primarily to have their own needs met.
The morning on the shore of the lake really was a game changer for me. My dude-ly friends, how are you doing with your own wife in this area of one flesh? Are you living as if she is one with you, part of you? Are you living a biblical view of “one flesh”?