This article was originally published on the Great Commission Collective’s website. Check out http://www.gccollective.org.
We were sitting in a hotel conference room in the Florida Keys when I was eviscerated by a Caribbean pastor. The room was filled with the senior pastors of the Great Commission Collective during our annual Pastor’s and Wive’s Retreat. The wives had been excused as they attended a workshop pointed at issues unique to their role, and the men gathered to be challenged. Kenyata Lewis, a brother who pastors in the Turks and Caicos region of the Caribbean, stood behind the pulpit. In his easy to listen to gentle accent, he was cutting me to shreds as he talked about cherishing our wives.
I loved Courtney and took every opportunity to remind her of that as often as I could. I felt I had to because, despite all of my efforts to show otherwise, she still felt unloved. In our regular conversation I would remind her of all things I do for her: “I get up early every morning to make sure you wake up to a clean house and a fresh pot of coffee!”
“I know. Thank you.”
“I text you through the day to check in and see how you are doing.”
“Yes. Again, thank you.”
“We talk, often. I watch your shows, I rub your feet. I’m trying so hard to show you I love you.”
“Yes, you do all those things.”
“Then what’s the problem??”
“I don’t know. I just feel so lonely still.”
So when my Caribbean brother, in a gentle, sweet tone said, “You will know when you have cherished her when she feels filled up with your love,” I felt his words slice me open to my core. His words were teaching me that I don’t determine when she has been loved well. She does. And at that point in time in particular she was NOT feeling loved. Then, like a verbal samurai, he cut even deeper with “Loving her and cherishing her are NOT the same.”
Though cutting, the words were revelatory. It’s a simple statement, but the truth of it and the impact it brought were life-changing. I was loving her, but I was not cherishing her. And she felt it. This had to change and it had to change now.
That retreat was the beginning of a journey that I am still on today. I’m not there yet. I take steps ahead, get sidetracked, or flat-out trip and fall on my face. But, by God’s grace, I’m trying to still walk ahead. I have much to learn still, but one truth is inescapable: I am the biggest obstacle on the pathway to cherishing my wife. I get in the way in two key areas: self-worship and self-love.
Attitude trumps action. Why we do something is more important than what we do. It’s very easy to fool ourselves into believing we’re in the right simply because we are doing the right things. When I was loving Courtney, was I really loving her or was I loving myself? The honest answer to the question is convicting. When you are sliced to the core, the deeper parts of you are exposed. It’s painful and ugly. In my case, it revealed that the motivation for many of my actions was to be seen as a good husband. I wanted her to see it. I wanted my elders to see it. I wanted my church to see it. Once cut to the gross, ugly core, my motivation for loving my wife was revealed to be an attempt to get more adoration for myself. No wonder she never felt cherished.
That needed to be confessed and repented of. Then, a new direction needed to take its place. My love needed to be founded on my desire to obey and glorify God, as well as a genuine cherishing of this precious gift of a wife that I have been given by God.
It was painful to see that, but it wasn’t the end. The gentle yet cutting words of my Caribbean friend were used by the Holy Spirit to expose even more ugliness.
My lack of loving Courtney was directly tied to my over abundance of loving myself. Sure, I was doing a lot of things to “show” my love to her, but they were things that were very convenient for me in my own timeline. I’m a morning person, so getting up early is no problem. Straightening up the house and cleaning the kitchen before she woke up was not a great sacrifice.
What I didn’t want to do (and still struggle to do) is give up more precious “me time.” Days off have always been a battle. That was my time to do what I wanted to do. I resented her honey-do list and the household chores that needed to be done. Though I would often give in to the selection of shows we watched, I resented not being able to enjoy what I wanted. I would hold onto this resentment until it became an effective weapon. “We always watch your shows and I never get a watch mine.“ Honest evaluation of all of this showed me that, once again, in my heart I was truly more focused on myself than I ever was focused on her. How could any woman feel cherished with a husband like that?
God’s grace is amazing and my wife’s grace is far beyond what I deserve. He has forgiven me and continues to do so. My wife continues to show me patience and love as I stumble along. I’m thankful for the painful cutting that exposed a wicked heart. I’m grateful for my dear brother who was faithful to teach God’s word and be willing to slice me open. And I’m hopeful that as I journey along, my beautiful wife will feel more and more cherished by ME as I live in the cherishing, forgiving love of my God!