I glance over the kitchen island at my husband. Pressed shirt, slacks, and sports coat. Immaculate. Not a hair out of place. My eyes take in my own once-pink pajamas, soiled with eight-week-old baby spit-up. The germs of a very sick two-year-old cling, and my hair hasn’t been combed in at least two days. I hastily gulp down instant coffee (ugh!) and salvage half a bag of granola from toddler hands—the other half ends up on the floor. I watch my husband make a protein shake, thinking, I will be lucky to get a piece of peanut butter toast down this morning. A shower is out of the question.
My ensemble is a far cry from the business-suit-wearing days of yesteryear, but there is a more piercing contrast this particular morning. You see, my husband was the beneficiary of a full night’s sleep. Again. While I had traipsed up and down our stairs all night, arbitraging time between a flu + pneumonia ridden two-year-old and an infant, he’d been sleeping soundly. With a good dose of self-pity, Ephesians 5:28 comes to mind. I’m sure you know the verse I sought to use as a spiritual battle-axe: Husbands love your wife “as your own body” (ESV). Well, my body was looking considerably worse than my husband’s! (To be fair, he needed to be up early for work the next morning.) Yet, despite my self-pity, the Lord brought the rest of the Ephesians passage to mind: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV).
Even if there is more my generally wonderful husband could do to love me (as surely as there is more that I could do to love him), Jesus loved me so much that he gave himself up for me. He gave up his place in heaven to pay the penalty for my sins. Not just any birth, but birth into poverty and speculation as the son of an unmarried woman. And not just any death, but death on the cursed cross that was the Roman form of ultimate torture and humiliation. He endured separation and punishment. Not just any separation, but separation from his Father God. And not just any punishment, but the entire punishment for each and every sin I have and will commit. He bore in full.
He. Gave. Himself. Up. For. Me.
Tears of self-pity and bitterness turn to tears of disbelief. To be loved so much. To be loved so well.
The Ephesians passage continues to say that Christ gave himself up so that he might sanctify and wash me that he might present the church—including me—to himself, “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that [we] might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27, ESV). Splendor. Without spot or blemish. And let’s be honest, I had plenty of ugly spots and soul wrinkles long before becoming a wife or mom. Yet, soul wrinkles, soiled pajamas, and all, Jesus nourishes and cherishes me as his own body.
For the joy set before him—the joy of seeing you and me brought into relationship with God the Father—Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2, ESV). We are members of his holy and precious body, joined with him through his death and saving resurrection, adopted as sons and daughters. Thank you, Jesus, for your incomprehensible, unearned, and freely given love. Thank you that whether our spots are on the outside of our pajamas or on the inside of our hearts (or both in my case) you gave yourself up for us.
And, thank you that the gift of marriage foreshadows and works out this great love that you have for us. Marriage is the place ordained for two to become one, for relationship most intimate, where we love because he first loved us. Never perfectly, but always with his grace. Where, together, we work out the Lord’s calling, much stronger as a cord of three strands, than we’d ever be alone—even on days when one of us is spit-up clad and the other immaculate.