Perhaps one of the most over used metaphors for the Christian journey towards holiness is marriage. And I hated when the pastor of any-given church would stand up and announce to us single people that Jesus wants our relationship with him to be like a marriage. Well “plah-ese.” That was my attitude. How many times can I hear the same old record?
All I can say is, wow. I never understood why that was such a powerful metaphor because I had no idea, NO IDEA, how much holiness there is to be found in being a spouse. When we don’t know about something we are often blind to the truth that people are trying to tell us. This past weekend, Nicholas and I had a huge fight. Wow, it was a big one. Yelling, cussing, I think things were thrown, I think there was a small child crying somewhere because of the noise. You get the picture. Regardless of the content of our fight, it reminded me of the passage in Ephesians 5.
While I know that this passage is really controversial and used to talk about male/female equality, I am confident that this passage is not about equality. Sure we can use it that way, but when Nicholas and I were fighting, I kept thinking, “That passage is about being made holy.” I’ll quote it for you here so we’re on the same page:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 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. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
The challenge that I can see in our marriage is how Nicholas can be Jesus to me and give up himself. This I believe will be the transforming movement in our marriage as Paul says. How does he sacrifice himself for me in our marriage? And don’t get me wrong, he does make a lot of sacrifice. What does it mean to model Jesus to the church on the daily? What does it look like to give up a man’s pride and put his wife’s sanctity first?
We are all a product of our past experiences and the growth that we’ve already made in Jesus. When I grew up, we fought dirty, we threw things and slapped each other, even name-calling was common. I am not proud of this and I am trying to be transformed in this area of my life. I am trying to respect my husband as Paul charges me to do. Nick giving his life up for me in this area looks more challenging. He must, before we even start an argument, look at himself and see how he hurt me. Whether or not he meant to, or even knows what he did. What a ego killer. What a way to be made holy. This doesn’t always happen. But thats the slow process of being transformed.
This kind of transformation reminds me of river rocks. Purifying water must wash over a flat land for a long time to make boulders. It must wash over boulders a long time to make stones. Stones into rocks. And for those rocks to be made smooth it takes even more time. But this is the way our lives following Jesus work. We must be washed and purified over and over again. We fall and get back up. Eventually, through the transformation of the Spirit in our lives and the blood of Jesus making us clean, we will be made holy. We will look like our Savior. We will have all of our rough edges worn down until we are smooth, like those river walks.