Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church –
a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands
ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor – since they're
already "one" in marriage. ~ Ephesians 5:25-28 (The Message)
“I just want to be loved and cherished,” Jill said.
It’s humbling to be reminded of this vow, but I’m glad for repeated opportunities to learn to do it better. Requests for thoughtful tenderness have helped me learn to love. When she’s not feeling it I can look at it as her problem, my problem, or OUR problem. Viewing it as our problem is what we find most helpful because then we can share in the identification and application of a solution.
Learning to love seems to be a journey that lasts a lifetime. I don’t know if any of us ever arrive, but it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?
It is mathematically impossible for two people to be more polar opposite in temperament than Jill and me. I’m wired to aggressively solve problems, to tackle challenges, and to enjoy multiple relationships while multi-tasking. She’s wired to move slowly and methodically through one task at a time to get it done right and to have a few deep relationships. There’s more, but that’s the basics. Our differences mean we have different strengths that make us a great team, but the differences are a hotbed for conflict.
I’d just stepped off the collegiate gridiron and out of a fraternity when we married. Rough and tumble was I. My world had been competitive 24/7 for the previous three years. Some sensitivity training would have been in order to prepare me for life with my woman. Early on she mustered all five feet and 100 pounds of her Irish ire to lovingly remind me of who she was. “I’m not one of the guys, and I’m not the enemy.” Note to self: She’s not a problem to be solved. This is a partnership, and it’s going to require me slowing down and being sensitive.
Temperament understanding has been huge for us. It has helped me to understand that as much as my motor revs to get things done yesterday, her motor quietly purrs to do things well, no matter how long it takes. As much as I thrive on having many people in my life, she is content to relate deeply to a few. Armed with understanding of our hardwiring, Jill says, “I used to wonder why he was acting the way he was because it hurt me, but now I know that it’s just the way he’s wired, and he doesn’t mean to upset me.” And I’m able to say, “She isn’t dragging her feet or moving slowly to frustrate me. It’s the way she’s wired. Her need for a slower pace and to do things meticulously is as important to her as my needs are to me.”
The cherish portion of this vow sounds more active to me than the love portion. Webster defines cherishing as active nurturing: to keep or to cultivate with care and affection. Cherishing is much more active than simple passive respect of her needs. To cherish means active nurturing of her needs; and proactive watchfulness for opportunities to facilitate circumstances and opportunities for her to be the best she can be!
It helps me to view my bride as a flower; beautiful, fragile; apt to wilt or blossom depending on the conditions in which it is situated. A balance of water, nutrients, and sunshine is required for actualization of its potential. If I’m going to do well cherishing Jill then I need to understand the balance of ingredients and conditions that will help her to blossom. What do you need from me, honey?
Lord, as you actively cultivate your life in us, one day at a time, so we can give to our partners in ways that help them to be their best. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for guiding us with discernment and sensitivity to the actions and words that are nurturing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.