This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:32-33
Many of the letters received by Rejoice Marriage Ministries have an underlying question; “What brought Bob home?” For many years, we have attempted to answer by teaching about unconditional love or love that overlooks faults and actions. We have taught about forgiveness and about how to handle the rejection, fear, disappointment and the other hurts. Charlyne and I have shared with standers from the depths of our hearts, yet I have never heard my wife express precisely what she feels caused my sinful heart to be softened.
Early one Monday morning while watching a sermon on television, the Holy Spirit spoke a word to my heart that I knew immediately was what my wife had for me when we were divorced and when she was standing with God and praying for a marriage restored by God.
That word was admiration. To best be able to explain admiration for you, I went to the dictionary. I discovered that admiration means, “A delighted contemplation of something worthy or beautiful; esteem; respect.” That’s what my wife had for me!
Once God spoke to her, Charlyne never stopped “admiring” me, as she contemplated something worthy, namely a marriage touched and healed by Jesus Christ.
There is a God-given need for admiration by our spouse built into each of us. I can write an article, and a hundred standers can email to say thanks and to express how much the piece touched them, but even that tremendous response does not come near my wife’s words of praise and her smile when she first reads my work, typos and all. Standers may have appreciated my efforts, but my wife admired me for what I had done.
Many standers get into trouble when they attempt to force emotions that are not there. You can attempt to demonstrate unconditional love to an unlovable mate all day, but sooner or later, something will happen, or words will be exchanged, that are just too much and the unconditional love evaporates in an instant.
Charlyne had admiration for me, even when I was leading a sinful life, not because of what I was, but because of her “delighted contemplation of something worthy,” namely our restored marriage.
You may have been standing since yesterday or for a dozen years, but here is the hard question; “Do you admire your prodigal spouse right now?” Can you “contemplate something worthy” in them? Do you have “esteem” and “respect” for your beloved, without adding, “Yes, if they would only …”
While we slept last night, people on the other side of the world who were experiencing their bad day will be emailing us. Our staff will help us to read all the messages, pray for you and to make notes on members’ records.
Most of these will include a few details about their marriage situation. The majority will explain how a prodigal spouse has wronged the person writing. A few will explain the soundness of their stand for a marriage healed by God.
Only a handful will express “A delighted contemplation of something worthy or beautiful; esteem; respect,” in or for their prodigal. In effect, most of the dozens of people who feel led to tell us their story today will be looking at things as the world does. Only a limited few will be seeing the potential of what God wants to do in their spouse’s life. This small minority will have captured God’s view of their situation and their spouse. As a result, their actions and their reactions to a prodigal spouse will be like Jesus. Which homes do you suspect the miracle of marriage restoration by God will come to first?
The world’s way of dealing with marriage problems is not designed to have a wounded spouse “contemplate something worthy” about their spouse. The world’s way is to get mad, get even, get over and get on with life when a marriage crisis strikes.
If you were to outline your marriage situation to a stranger today, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who, after hearing what your spouse has done, suggest that you admire or “contemplate something worthy,” about the offender. Yet, that is what Jesus tells us to do.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
Throughout the Bible, God’s people are taught to strive for the character of Christ, and to seek those same qualities in the people we love.
In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 1 Timothy 3:11
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2
What brought me home? The admiration of a wife, freely given at a time when I did not deserve to be admired. Charlyne was able to look beyond my sin, and with eyes like Jesus, to “contemplate something worthy” in me.
My prayer for you is that today, and tomorrow, and all the days after, you will also be able to admire, or to “contemplate something worthy” in your prodigal spouse. Thinking like that transfers into actions and prayers that can change a hardened heart. I know, because it happened to me.
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