With Valentine's Day just a week away, I've been thinking more about my wife. Actually, I've been thinking about how little I think of my wife compared to how much I think of myself. Some familiar verses came to mind as I meditated on this:
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. ~ Eph. 5:28-29
Familiar verses, I know. But this time two words specifically jumped out at me. The two words are “nourish” and “cherish.” Notice that the verse says that we nourish and cherish our own bodies. In other words, we naturally take care of ourselves. No one has to tell us to eat. No one has to tell us to go to sleep when we feel tired. We show love for our bodies in all kinds of ways and Paul tells us that we should treat our wives the same way just as Christ loves us.
The word “nourish” means to provide food, or to bring up to maturity. The same word in the Greek is used a few verses later in Ephesians 6:4 when God commands fathers to “bring their children up” in the instruction of the Lord. So this is not the kind of nourishing that shoves the truth down our wives’ throats. We should not preach to our wives. We should not answer her before we’ve first understood her. Rather we should lead her by being tender and gentle similar to how we patiently lead our children to maturity.
I picture us as shepherds who gently lead our wives beside green pastures and still waters. We tenderly look for ways to lead our wives to the spiritual food and water of God’s Word. And we do it so they can be mature in Christ. In other words, we are a means of changing them to become more like Christ.
RC Sproul once shared this piece of advice to married men, “When a man comes to me and complains that his wife has changed since they got married, I immediately respond, “Who do you suppose changed her?” In a sense, the wife a man has is the wife he has produced. If he has a monster, maybe he ought to examine his own nature.”
So from this passage it is clear that we are responsible for the spiritual well being of our wives. If we neglect this we are not only hurting our wives, we are hurting ourselves. Becoming one in marriage means that whatever affects my wife affects me. So as I nourish my wife I am also nourishing myself. As I bring joy to my wife I’m going to be bringing joy to myself!
So we ought to nourish our wives….The second word is cherish. What does it mean to cherish our wives? The word “cherish” means to warm or soften. This word was used to describe a bird sitting on a nest. So to cherish our wives means that we provide a warm, safe and secure environment for them. Practically it means providing for their physical needs but more importantly it means providing for them emotionally and spiritually.
Most men know how to cherish things. For example, some men cherish their cars. They spend hours cleaning the inside and outside of their shiny sports cars paying special attention to every detail. They make sure the car is taken care of and placed in a safe and secure environment where it won't be exposed to the outside elements. Nothing against treating your car with this kind of care and concern. The question is whether or not we cherish our wives more than our cars--taking care of them and holding them close to us with utmost love and affection.
So we must nourish and cherish our wives. But what does this look like in real life?
It means being an example for my wife. It means praying for my wife. It means reading God's Word with my wife. It means taking initiative and pursuing my wife. And it means seeking to understand and care for my wife. In doing so, by God's grace, I can take steps (and so can you) toward nourishing my wife and cherishing my wife like Christ.