Updated: May 11, 2020
Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Tomorrow marks two years of marriage for my Jeffery and me. Two years is a blink of an eye but one thing is for sure…two years is just the right amount of time to speak with absolute certainty about the one to whom I’ve vowed forever.
For the past week I have been reflecting on our marriage in light of Ephesians 5:31-32. How does our marriage reflect Christ and His Church? If His goal for us is to love our spouse in a way that reflects His love to the whole world this is a question that has tremendous significance to me, especially now. Like many of you, we’ve hunkered down together in quarantine the past two months. Now, more than ever, nothing is hidden. Everything that is in our hearts is openly displayed on a daily basis.
As a counselor I have lost count of the times I have ruminated with clients over the importance of marrying the person you want to be in isolation with. In this Coronavirus crisis, recent statistics reveal skyrocketing inquiries to divorce attorneys and a dramatic upsurge in separation filings. What is my response? Am I metaphorically crossing my fingers hoping it won’t happen to us or am I actively, prayerfully pressing in to Jesus to receive all He promises to give me so I can live and love for His Glory?
Personally, I have never been more sure of the “I do” I promised to my beloved on May 12, 2018. If one thing has been revealed to me in the past two years and unequivocally confirmed in the past two months; I married a man who loves me like Jesus does. More importantly, he serves as an example for me of how I am to love others on a daily basis.
My reflections first took me back to our courtship, yes, you read that right, our courtship. We never dated. Jeff was too intentional for dating. He was never casual about me. He never played games and he never wavered from his commitment to know me, all of me. While we were still very “new” he wrote to tell me that he had cut off communication with the other women he had been getting to know. “You are very special Kerri, I want to put all of my free time and energy into us, I want to invest only in you. I don’t want to get to know anyone else, I want to know you. I choose you. I don’t expect you to do the same, I just want you to know where I stand and how I feel about you.” I remember how it rocked my world when he so fearlessly spoke these words so early in our relationship. Never had I felt more valuable, seen, desired or pursued. Never had I experienced my Heavenly Father’s pursuit of me so tangibly and two years into our marriage I feel exactly the same way. Today, Jeff’s intentionality shines best in his commitment to the verses directly preceding the passage I shared above. Ephesians 5:25-28 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Honestly? I never fully understood this passage until I experienced it in marriage. Jeff leads us to our Heavenly Father together. He regularly reads Scripture over us on the weekends so we can discuss how we can apply it to our marriage. He wakes up early to spend time with Jesus, leads us to church (even online) and often initiates watching biblical marriage series online to further strengthen our bond. He is prayerful about his decisions and careful to communicate with me so we are always operating as one in a true partnership. He doesn’t have to tell me that he doesn’t take me for granted because he shows me on a daily basis by reaching for me mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. He puts my needs before his own and prays for strength to love me like Jesus does. Jeff’s unconditional love these last two years of marriage has brought tremendous healing to my heart. This healing has allowed me to receive more of God’s heart for me and, subsequently, for us all. It’s often been said that even if you were the only human on earth God would have sent His son Jesus to die for you. Don’t let the familiarity of that statement lessen the power of it for you, that’s intentional! God’s design for marriage is to illustrate His love for us and His desire for an intimate relationship with us. Marriage gives us but a glimpse and a taste of His heart for us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to experience your love in such a tangible way this side of Heaven through your son Jesus Christ and the power of your Spirit alive in us. Thank you for coming after us with such intention. Thank you for choosing us, adopting us, calling us your own and never wavering from your promises and commitment to us…true love is INTENTIONAL.
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”
Another characteristic of Jeff’s love that came to me immediately was his consistency. Since we first started communicating over three years ago I can tell you honestly (my friends and family can confirm) that he has never, not once, said he would do something without following through as soon as humanly possible. He always means what he says. I have never had to worry or wonder what he is thinking or how he is feeling. I have never had to ask my girlfriends to help me process his words or actions to decipher where he is at emotionally or what he is experiencing. I know. He tells me, he communicates openly and honestly with me…he shows up for me each and every day mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. He is not perfect but he is absolutely perfect for me. Early in our relationship we vowed to “Sozo” each other. Sozo in the Greek not only means to save, it’s also to heal, complete or make whole. If you were sitting in front of me right now I would look you in the eye and help you understand that this man has “sozoed” me every day of our married life. How? He asks our Heavenly Father to help him love me the way He does. He is consistent in his commitment to heal my heart because he has strategically partnered with Jesus, the ultimate healer. In our first year of marriage the Lord gave me a picture of Jeff and I standing side by side. I had jagged spikes coming out of my skin which made it very difficult and painful to get close to him. He, on the other hand, had holes all over his body signifying deep wounds. As I prayed over this picture the Lord showed me His hand softly smoothing out my “skin spikes” and using that tissue to fill the deep depressions in Jeff’s flesh. As Jesus worked on us simultaneously my rough edges diminished and Jeff was restored to the fullness of his strength and power as a man of God. What a picture of healing for us both! The number one enemy of consistency in our relationships is fear. Fear makes us look at and focus on ourselves. Adversely, true agape love pulls us out of ourselves to consider the needs and desires of others. Jeff mirrors Jesus’ example to me. He illustrates that our ability to love our spouse (and others) consistently is directly linked to how deeply we are rooted into God’s love for us. He is fearless in his love. When doubts or fear cloud my mind he doesn’t pull away or seek to protect himself. He presses in and pours his love out over me confidently, steadfastly and compassionately. Jeff’s consistency so powerfully illustrates our Heavenly Father’s love that remains the same regardless of our actions.
Thank you Heavenly Father for your Agape love that is sacrificial, unconditional, altogether divine. No matter what we choose you choose to remain faithful to us. Thank you for never turning away from us in our sin. Thank you for your promise to always be with us and forever be for us. Thank you for driving the anxiety, hopelessness, pain, confusion, discontentment, exhaustion, loneliness and fear out of our lives with the power of your love for us…true love is CONSISTENT.
1 John 4:16-19 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.
After two years of marriage I find one particular attribute of Jeff’s love most overwhelming. To be honest it was only recently that I was able to fully receive it on a daily basis. Yes, his intentionality and consistency rock my world and point me straight back to the Father’s heart but there is nothing like his relentless pursuit of my heart…it leaves me speechless. Not a day goes by without him uttering a powerful statement that takes my breath away. If we’re apart he’ll call or text me, if we’re at home together (which we have been constantly for the past two months) he’ll come up behind me, wrap his arms around me and whisper, “I’ll never stop pursuing your precious, tender heart my Sweet Queen…I’m in hot pursuit!” For the first year of our marriage it made me so uncomfortable, I felt so unworthy of his constant reaching for me. I would often respond to him by saying, “Baby, you don’t have to pursue my heart, it’s already yours.” But, several months ago I found myself relaxing into his promise. Today, after three years together and two years of marriage I can tell you I fully believe and receive it. Jeff’s constant, relentless pursuit of my heart has healed me in ways I never dreamed possible. He loves me like Jesus does. He doesn’t believe in “becoming comfortable” in our marriage. He chooses to pursue my heart each day like he is still trying to win it. It’s not the grandiose gestures, gifts or dates that solidify this commitment Jeff has made to me. It’s actually the little things…the french press ready, the teapot filled and hot, the meticulous windows open/closed regimen he follows to trap the cool air in the house at my request, sneakily taking out the garbage although it’s not his chore, meticulously fussing over the couch pillows so they are put back just the way I like them…you get it. It’s the seemingly little things that add up to the big message my heart hears on loudspeaker directly from his heart through these actions: “I am thinking of you. I am here for you. I am going to keep showing up for you day after day, year after year. I don’t do these things because I want anything from you. I don’t have an agenda. I love you so much I need to show you…my love compels me to pursue you daily.”
Thank you Heavenly Father for showing me such a tangible expression of how you pursue me through my husband. Thank you for standing firm as our rock of consistency. Thank you for being our fortress and actively running after every nook and cranny of our hearts. You are always seeking after more of us. We are forever changed and eternally grateful for your pursuit of us. Thank you for actively drawing us into a relationship with you. Healing, sanctifying and chasing after us daily…true love is RELENTLESS.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7 Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.
Another powerful way I have experienced the love of God through my Jeffery is through his extreme selflessness. This man humbly leads a company of almost 5,500 people, in 16 states, and somehow, when he leaves his office and comes home to me he shows me, unequivocally, that I am his priority. Let me be clear, this man is beyond busy, his job is incredibly demanding. However, when his workday is done I never doubt that I am his focus. He wants to hear all the details of my day. He asks questions. Do I need anything? What have I heard from the Lord? Have I talked to any family members? How is my sister Kim doing? How am I feeling after my counseling sessions? He listens. A lot. Most importantly, every night when we crawl into bed he reaches for me, looks earnestly into my eyes and asks,“How is your heart my Love?” Early in our relationship I was hesitant to answer this question. I didn’t want to burden him. I imagined his plate to be too full for me to add any concern, worry or heartache to it. I was tempted to believe the lie that I needed to be “ok” to be lovable. Jeff’s love broke that deception off of my life. Not only does he not need me to “ok” he has repeatedly explained to me that when I need him it empowers him and allows him to rise up to be the man he desires to be for me. He patiently explains again and again that it makes him feel most loved when I need him, it makes him feel like a warrior. It allows him to feel like he is being the man God intended him to be for me. “You could never burden me Kerri. I need to know your heart and how to show up for you. I need you to share your burdens with me so I can take care of your precious, tender heart.” Is that a picture of God’s love for us or what? No matter what challenges, distractions or demands he faces he is never too busy for me and he always puts my needs before his own. Just like Jesus. Early in our relationship I was completely overwhelmed by his ability to love me without seeking to protect himself. His intense love actually scared me! I distinctly remember the day I went on a run to pray. Crying, I called out, “Jesus, I don’t know how to receive this man’s love. I’ve never been loved like this and I don’t know how to open my heart to trust and believe he won’t hurt me!” Without hesitation, I heard God’s Spirit in me respond to my fear, “You do know what this is, Kerri. Jeff is loving you with my love. You know how to receive it because it’s exactly how I’ve loved you your whole life!” I’m so grateful to be loved without agenda, manipulation or conditions. Thank you my love for loving me so purely with your eyes on Him.
Thank you Heavenly Father for your love that sent your only son to die for us. Thank you for buying our freedom and showing us that your love is sacrificial, unconditional, unmerited, merciful and marked by humility. Thank you for showing us how to love and empowering us to love like you do through your Holy Spirit. This I know with absolute certainty…true love is SELFLESS.
Philippians 2:1-5 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Early in our relationship I dubbed Jeff the “Kerri whisperer.” His strength and steadiness were magnified for me in his personality that is decidedly more reserved than my own. I am a forest fire and a tornado. He is a campfire and a soft summer breeze. He has had a powerful calming and quieting effect on me from our first conversation (which by the way was a 10 hour phone call). One night, several weeks after we met we were talking on the phone into the late night hours. I was extremely tired but didn’t want to end our call so I laid down on my bed and soaked in the safety of his voice. As we spoke the conversation turned to my ministry and then specifically to the topic of spiritual warfare. In my exhaustion I misunderstood a comment Jeff made and immediately I shot upright in bed. My tone shifted, my voice raised, my emotional “dukes” went up. I reverted into my default mode of protecting myself. Through the phone line Jeff immediately felt my shift. He very quietly and calmly responded to my aggressive tone with, “Kerri, come back to me.” That was it. That was all it took. Without even processing his statement I laid back down on my pillow and took a deep breath, sighing in relief. I was safe. He wasn’t attacking me. I wanted to believe this was true. I needed to believe this was true and I chose to believe. That moment was pivotal for me and I often go back to that instance as the first time I knew in my Spirit I was speaking to my husband, the man I had waited 45 years to meet! That night Jeff allowed me to experience a protection so profound it even protected me from myself! Since that night I have experienced his protection over and over again. It not only covers me from external attacks, it protects me from my wounds, my propensity to sabotage and from resorting back to old behaviors that might cause a barrier in our relationship. When I don’t respond well he doesn’t seek to protect himself and attack me in retaliation. He doesn’t get defensive. He patiently recognizes my wound and rushes to cover my heart and guard it with all the fervor of a man diving on a hand grenade to save my life. He understands that the life of our marriage depends on it. How beautifully his love illustrates Jesus’ love for us.
Thank you Jesus for your protective love that took you all the way to the cross. We were separated from your Father in our sin with no way home. We were slaves to sin, trapped in a death cycle. Thank you Jesus for sacrificing yourself to quite literally make a bridge for us back into a relationship with God. Thank you for protecting us from sin, separation and death. Thank you for restoring us and sealing us to Yourself forever through the Holy Spirit…true love is PROTECTIVE.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I pray that in this next year of our marriage I will follow Jeff’s commitment to love like Jesus does. I pray that I will be a wife that loves intentionally, consistently, relentlessly, selflessly and protectively…ultimately following Jesus’ example.
I pray for you, married man or woman. I pray you won’t compare your spouse to Jeff or your marriage to ours. Instead, I am asking the Lord to encourage you through God’s love for you and the power of His Word today. May your focus not be on your spouse as you reflect on this post, instead may you humbly ask the Lord to help you love your spouse like He does. Ask Him to help you see what He sees when He looks at him or her. When you see Jesus in your spouse it is the Holy Spirit at work empowering you to live out Ephesians 5:31-32. Ask Him to help you apply the passages I have shared above to your marriage so that, with me, you can commit to intentional, consistent, relentless, selfless and protective love. Our remaining time at home with our families is the perfect opportunity to practice these admonishments from Scripture. Instead of focusing on what you wish your partner would do for you, allow the Holy Spirit to focus all of your attention on how you can love your partner like Jesus does!
I pray for you, single man or woman. I pray you read this through to the end. I was single for 46 years and I can’t imagine how difficult this time of quarantine has been for you whether you are physically alone or not. I know the lies that come against us in singleness all too well. I know your enemy wants you to feel isolated, hopeless and afraid. May I make a suggestion to you? Will you please prayerfully consider using whatever time you have left at home to focus on becoming a man or woman that is ready for God’s very best before they arrive on the scene of your life? Use this time to give your desires, frustrations and loneliness to God. He is listening. He cares. He’s ready to meet with you and hear every last thing you need to unload.
I pray for all of us. I pray we apply Matthew 11:28-30 that promises we will find rest and peace when we give Him our burdens. May I suggest for you the following;
1) In prayer, hand Jesus whatever is weighing you down. What is making you anxious, tired, hopeless, confused, afraid? Hand it to Him, watch it disappear through the power of the Holy Spirit. You will be released from carrying the overwhelming weight of it, you will experience His sovereignty. He is still in control even though it appears our world is in chaos!
2) Meditate on the passages I have shared above. Ask Him to help you receive more of His love so you are free to pour out His agape on your friends and family while we wait for our world to open back up. Serving others is the best weapon against loneliness and discontentment, in marriage and singleness!
3) Listen to the Lord in prayer. Make a practice of hearing and receiving from Him. John 10:27 tells you that you belong to Him and you can hear His voice. Write down what you hear Him saying to you on a daily basis. Start a “Jesus Says” journal so you can meditate on His voice and His truth. As He promised, He will bring peace to your heart and mind.You cannot hear both the lies of the enemy and the voice of Jesus at the same time. You get to choose which voice you will listen to each moment of the day.
4) Reach out to friends of faith or a counselor, get the backup you need to heal from wounds of the past so you are ready for the future He has for you. Maximize this time at home by investing in yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Together, let’s commit to using this time to get ourselves ready. Ready, to live in and walk out of this quarantine into the fullness of whom He has created us to be.
May His purpose for our lives be our passion…may we love like Jesus!