As Long As We Both Shall Live - Part IIb (One by Intention)
"The Jewish Bride" by Rembrandt
Our family lives on 110 acres of beautiful southern Indiana farmland. We are not farmers, though, and, to Tim’s frustration, his time and attention must go elsewhere most of the time. Over time, as fields are ignored (i.e. not bush hogged and fertilized), weeds grow up, especially around the edges. Slowly, but inevitably, scrub brush moves in, finally, after many decades, turning useful pastures back into forests. Neglect is all that is required for productive farmland to become an ugly eyesore. (Fortunately, we do have help from others to keep our tillable acreage and hay fields in decent shape.) With our marriages also, neglect will transform what is beautiful and fruitful into a wasteland.
I’ve already written about some of the “bush hogging” work that we do in our marriages, rooting out sin instead of letting that pernicious ironweed and scrub oak take over. (See Part I.) But to keep our marital fields rich and productive, we also need to improve the soil with good husbandry. Our tenant farmer takes care to rotate his crops and to add soil amendments when he sees they are needed. We can enrich our marriages as well by paying attention to one another and consciously working to grow together.
Making time to spend with the love of our lives is one way we put flesh on our vows. When we first marry, even though we usually consider ourselves busy, we still have much time together. As our lives become more and more full with children, church, school, and careers, all these responsibilities (and joys) make it more difficult to find time to connect properly, to grow in our knowledge of and love for our beloved, to, using the English of King James, cleave to one another.
Tim and I often find it hard to be alone in our home which currently is down to eight people. I can’t tell you how many important conversations we’ve had while Tim takes an after work shower! At other times we’ll slip out to the front porch, the guest room, or even the downstairs bath for a few minutes of private consultation. We also stay connected via phone throughout the day. A few minutes at lunch or another time helps us know what is going on with the other’s day. Maybe you’d prefer to send a text to your husband letting him know you are thinking of him. And then there is that sweetest of all times of the day – the quiet moments before we fall asleep.
However and whenever you do it in your home, you need to carve out time daily to be with and talk with your spouse. You need to know what is going on in his workplace, his mind, and his heart. Make sure that you talk about more than the children. Don’t put off all your conversations until your children are in bed. They need to see that Mom and Dad time is important. Anyway, as they grow, you can’t put them to bed at 8 PM any longer!
Besides making time for one another daily, don’t forget to have fun with each other! What types of common interests pulled you together before you were married? Revisit those or develop new ones if you have let duty fill all your hours. Tim and I like to spend time together outdoors. He prefers water sports (canoe and kayak) while I am crazy about biking. We do each of those things from time to time, but our greatest common outdoor interest is hiking. Hiking works well because we can include our kids or go sans children as a date. (Wilderness adventures can be extra fun after dark!)
Serving together makes another great way of growing in unity. Hospitality is a natural vehicle for this as both a husband and a wife have important roles in opening their home to others. Try teaching a Sunday school class together or take on some other ministry jointly. Working in yoke with your husband will help you learn to pull together and bond you in deeper ways.
Touch provide a sweet means to let your husband know you care about him. Don’t be shy and save all your physical affection for private times, either. Your children need to see that Mom and Dad still feel mushy about each other. While they may giggle, it will actually make them feel secure, knowing that their parents are crazy about each other. Without being over the top, even in a crowd, a simple touch lets your husband know you are there, thinking of him.
In a related vein, keep sex fresh and frequent! I Corinthians 7:3,4 gives wives a tremendous power over their husbands’ bodies. (And likewise, husbands over their wives' bodies.) But far too often wives misuse this authority, withholding intimacy as a power tool or punishing a husband they are angry with. Sex is one of the sweet glues of a strong marriage, and what joy there can and should be in the marriage bed, a joy which only increases as you truly know one another over decades. (See Proverbs 5:15-19) Hear what Puritan pastor Richard Baxter had to say about this:
Keep up your conjugal love in a constant heat and vigor. Love will suppress wrath; you cannot have a bitter mind upon small provocations, against those that you dearly love; much less can you proceed to reviling words, or to averseness and estrangedness, or any abuse of one another. Or if a breach and wound be unhappily made, the balsamic quality of love will heal it. But when love once cooleth, small matters exasperate and breed distaste.
– Richard Baxter, Directives for Avoiding Dissension in the Home
As you tend your marriage, your children will see the love and affection between the two of you, and this will be a great strength for them. So never think that you are taking away from your children when you make time for your husband alone. No! Instead you will be giving your children the security of knowing that their parents’ marriage is strong and sound, and you will also be equipping them to have happy, healthy marriages of their own one day.
Good marriages don't happen by accident. Like a well-tended garden or farm, they require much time and intentionality. When the demands of a busy household fill our moments and days, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of loving our husbands in real, tangible ways. But the rewards are oh, so sweet when we do as we allow the Lord to build in us the rich, fertile soil of a strong, happy, and enduring home that will be a blessing to our own family and beyond.
Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.(Psalm 127:1)