“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus tells us here that the most important things that we are called to do as believers is to love the Lord our God and to love others. That is pretty incredible to me. In my struggle to balance faith with works, love often gets lost in the shuffle. So many times I find myself trying to muster up more faith or perform greater deeds to find security in my walk with the Lord. Yet, Jesus does not even mention the words faith and deeds when telling His followers the greatest commandments of all. He summed them up in a single word; love. Does that mean that the rest of the Law and the Prophets are null and void if we simply gush love? No. I believe what Jesus is telling us is that if we love the Lord our God with all that we are and allow that love to flow into the lives of all those around us then the faith and deeds required by the Law will be by-products. Love is the fuel that empowers us to walk out what we believe.
We talked in the love chapter about the fact that love is not merely a feeling, but also a tangible demonstration of the verb to love. Taking special care to nurture the relationships in our lives provides a fertile soil where love can flourish. The relationship we have with our Lord Jesus Christ is the most important relationship in our lives. Next, is the relationship we maintain with our husbands. There is a need to nurture these relationships so that love may abound in each of them.
The format for this chapter will be a bit different. I would like to look at these two primary relationships in a woman’s life (the Lord and her husband) and talk about ways to nurture each one individually. There will be separate “Real World” sections, as different daily applications will be needed for each relationship.
Nurturing our relationship with Jesus…
We have talked much about our walks with the Lord and how to maintain a healthy one. I would like to take a slightly different approach, as we discuss not how to maintain our walks but rather how to nurture our relationships with the person of Jesus Christ. According to Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, in Matthew 22:38 the Greek word for first means foremost (in time, place, order of importance). The word for greatest indicates the magnitude of this importance. The Lord Jesus is trying to convey to us the unchallenged first place that He must maintain in a believer’s heart. He must be foremost in our time and in our importance.
Luke 14:25,26 provides us with a firmer glimpse into the relationship that Jesus is describing. “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” Upon first glance this seems like an unthinkable request. How is it possible to be faithful to the Lord and hate our husbands and children? It is not. Jesus is emphasizing the fact that each of these earthly relationships must pale in light of the intimacy and love that we have with him. Our love and devotion to the Lord should overwhelm our earthly devotions. Even the love that we have for our husbands and children should be overflowing out of the love that we have for Jesus. If His love is the basis for all our other loves, then those loves will not be a rival to Jesus but instead a product of Jesus.
The Real World…
We have discussed how to maintain our walks with Jesus, but now let us talk about some practical ways to nurture our relationships with the Lord. Fertile soil must be cultivated, and there are things that we can do to cultivate the soil of our hearts so that love can flourish.
Always turn to Jesus first. Jesus should always be the first place we turn whether we are excited, sad, troubled, or angry. If in a moment of crisis our immediate reaction is to crumble into the arms of our husbands or to rush to a close friend, we are negating the foremost position that Jesus tells us He is to inhabit. Yes, we can use the avenues of our husbands and our friends. Jesus blesses us with those earthly relationships, but He wants to be our first thought. Jesus wants to share in all of our life.
Prioritize your time. I imagine that most of you, like me, cherish quality time alone with your husband. You must guard it and work hard for it. We need to have the same sense of desire and energy when it comes to prioritizing time for the Lord. Here in the latter stages of pregnancy, it is often difficult to rise early in the morning for my devotional time. However, if I still manage to stay up late and watch a baseball game with Lee, then somehow he has taken priority over Jesus. I realize that sounds harsh, but our time and our money do not lie. Where they are spent is where our hearts are. Jesus needs to be foremost in our time. When we begin to schedule or plan a day our initial thoughts should be on our time with Him.
Be in love with Jesus. Such a simple word. But often in the world today we get so caught up in doing and performing that we forget to simply love. I understand that Jesus is invisible to us, but we are created in His image. He has emotions and desires just as we do. We need to remember to take time to love on Jesus. Although He is invisible, if we are faithful to seek Him there will be times in your life when He can be tangible. Nurture your relationship with Jesus by having special times of worship in your private prayer closet. Take a day off from intercession and supplication and overflow with adoration. Love the Lord.
Be grateful. There is nothing that nurtures a relationship like a thankful heart. Take time to thank the Lord every day for all of the blessings you have. Be grateful in every moment (notice I said IN every moment and not necessarily for every moment) for His presence in your life.
Nurturing your relationship with your husband…
Lee and I stated in our vows that we would hold the Lord Jesus always first and each other always second in our hearts and our lives. The biggest challenge for me personally to this vow has been my children. It is difficult for me to always remember that Lee must be second and my children must come third. For other women, other things vie for that number two spot, but regardless of what the rival may be, we must keep our husbands there.
Nurturing our relationships with our husbands takes a bit more time, energy and creativity. Often we feel that all of the tasks that we spoke of in the previous chapter should fulfill our obligations. Or, often after those tasks are completed our time, energy and creativity have all been spent. Our husbands need us to nurture them and the relationships that we have with them. I believe that is why the Bible explicitly states that a man should leave his mother and father and be united to his wife and not the other way around. A man must leave the provision and leadership of his father so that he may now fill that role in his own home. He must leave the nurturing and caring of his mother so that his wife will be free to fill that void in his life.
That does not mean that we have to be “Mommies” to our husbands, but it does indicate that there is a void in your husband’s life once he leaves the care of his mother to cleave unto you. We need to nurture and love them. We need to especially take time to nurture our relationships with them. Couples who begin to take one another for granted or lose their friendship are couples that fail to nurture their relationship with one another. When we vowed to love, honor and cherish, we vowed to nurture. Think of items that you cherish, a special necklace, a favorite book, or an old teddy bear. You take extra care of these items and do so lovingly. You nurture those items because you cherish them. How much more precious to us should our husbands be than any possessions!
The Real World…
I trust that each of us as wives can asses the quality of the relationship that we have with our spouses and discover how vital it is to make a conscious effort to nurture them. Here are just a few ideas to get your brain rolling, but allow your creativity to flow. Take the time and energy to come up with your own unique ideas.
Cherish your husband. To cherish means, “to hold dear”. Just as with those precious material possessions, your cherishment is what motivates you to nurture. Because you hold those items so dearly you are willing to expend extra time and money to care for them. See your husband in the same light. Allow him to always be precious to you. Never forget the reasons you married him. Value his companionship and presence in your life.
Make moments. Most women want the fairy tale happily ever after. Magical moments and spontaneous romance are the standard for our relationships with our husbands. Those are wonderful things, but honestly they are not practical. We have to make moments happen. There will be times when spontaneity is possible, but the majority of the time, moments have to be planned if they are going to happen. Plan a special dinner, arrange for someone to watch the kids, light the candles and run some bath water, and be willing to bear some of the weight of the romantic responsibility in your marriage.
Have regular dates. This is a must. You have to have regular times where you can get away from your children, home and responsibilities and simply enjoy being a couple. Without this you will lose the joy of companionship with one another. Sit down with your schedules, budget some date money, hire a babysitter, and go!
Talk. This one is not about communication. In order to nurture your relationship with you husband you have to able to just talk. Talk about the sports, the weather, what the Lord is teaching you, or whatever. Have nights where you lay in each other’s arms until after midnight dreaming out loud. Take long road trips and don’t turn on the radio, just talk with each other. Stay connected!
Take care of your husband. When your husband in sick, let him stay in bed and make him homemade soup. Let him lie with his head in your lap and hold a cool cloth on his forehead as you watch a game on television. When he comes home from a long day’s work, greet him with a kiss and a cold glass of water. Offer him back rubs and hot baths. Nurture and take care of your husband.
As I stated earlier, these are simply a few ideas to get you set in motion. Evaluate your own marriage and husband and find ways to bless him by nurturing your relationship. Remember that the best way to nurture your relationship with your husband is to keep the Lord Jesus always first and him always second. If you try to keep it the other way around, you will find your well of love dry often. However, when the Lord is foremost in every area of life, then His love pours through us and keeps us overflowing and sincere.