This evening is an unexpected blessing to me. Since we talked last summer and I left the invitation with you (under no expectations) to seek me out anytime for counsel, it became my desire to have that opportunity, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the Lord answered this desire of mine through the invitation to give this charge to you on your night of blessing. What a praise! God is so good.
In order to make things memorable—especially given the euphoria of young love that renders the mind a bit numb at moments like this—I would like to hang my remarks on one peg, on a proverb. It is not a biblical proverb, but an English proverb that has helped me many times, both personally and in counseling others, and it is a proverb that I would like to share with you tonight.
An old Puritan once said, “Choose your love and love your choice” (Henry Smith).
Pretty simple, but pretty profound. Let me discuss each half separately.
First, choose your love.
When my wife and I were first dating, I took her to a pie restaurant famous for its large selection of pies. Lemon meringue. Pecan. French silk. Coconut crème. You name it and beyond, it was there, and all displayed on a large arrangement of circles hanging above the pie cabinet. I can still see this arrangement in my mind over thirty years later. And the reason I can is probably due to staring at it for half an hour as my girlfriend (my future wife) could not make up her mind what to pick. She was paralyzed!
Can you feel it? The pressure! The need to make the right choice! “I won’t get another chance, so I had better make the absolute best choice.” Can you see the reason for her indecision?
Now, perhaps you did not agonize over the choice of your bride the way that some young men do. However, I want you to imagine what my future wife may have felt when her chosen piece of pie finally arrived. “Hmm,” she says, “this is not as sweet as I thought it would be. Perhaps I should have chosen a different one.” Now, do you get my point?
At some mile down the marriage road, reality sets in. “Hmm, she’s not as pretty as I thought she was. Nor as kind. Nor as thoughtful. Nor as loving.” Instead of seeing her as “the most beautiful among women,” the phrase used of the Shulammite in Scripture (Song 1:8; 6:1), you now notice that there are, in fact, quite a number of women more beautiful. Instead of feeling that wonderful rush of “love,” which marriage counselor Gary Chapman rightly calls euphoria, you begin to have other feelings. Irritations. Frustrations. Discontentment. Even resentment. Words are muttered under your breath, eye contact is avoided, and you begin to think that fishing more often might be a good idea.
Now, I’m not trying to discourage you, but I am trying to prepare you to own up to this fact: You are right now choosing your love. No one is forcing you. This is your choice, and it is a free choice. Consequently, you will have no right in the future to go looking around and say to yourself, as my girlfriend back in the pie restaurant may have done, “Maybe I should have chosen a different one.”
At that point in your marriage, I want you to realize how special your wife will be to you—how uniquely special. She will be the only one you have chosen to be your wife. Out of all the women in the world, she alone will be “the wife of your youth,” to whom God Himself will hold you accountable as the witness of your union, according to the prophet Malachi (2:13-16). Moreover, as we learn from the Garden of Eden, she will uniquely be the one God Himself has joined to you. Of no other woman will you be able to say, “God has granted me this woman.” Regardless of how much her looks or personality may change (and both will!), these two facts will remain. You chose her and God ordained it. Therefore, because she is your choice, you must learn to love her.
And that brings us to the second half of our proverb: “Choose your love, and love your choice.”
Now regarding love, where do we start? So much could be said! Perhaps the broadest thing is the unique way that we as husbands can imitate Jesus in a marriage. Just as He did not wait for us to become lovely before He loved us and died for us (Ephesians 5:25), so also, we have the privilege to love our wives, even when they are unlovely. That especially is Christ-like love, and Christ in us can do this. And then, no matter what it costs us initially, we have the privilege to seek her true beauty in holiness, just as Jesus Himself sanctifies and washes His church that “He might present [her] to Himself in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27).
It is in keeping with this general purpose of Christ for His own wife, that I want to stress to you one aspect about love: Love does what is right. According to Paul, the apostle of this Christ, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). According to another apostle, we should “entrust [our] souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
This truth will be extremely important for you to remember in decision-making. When you know the right thing to do, even if it may not please your wife—and believe me, every husband has been there—please, please, please choose the right thing. Entrust yourself to God and go for it. If you do not, you may have her short-term happiness, but you may also have the long-term temptation to resent her, as if she made you choose the wrong option. You are the husband. The choice resides with you as the leader. Therefore, own this responsibility and make the right choice. Does that make sense?
Now, let me clarify this point, before I illustrate it. First, I am assuming the matter at hand has some weight. On many mundane things, such as how to stuff a card in an envelope or how to cook the turkey well, doing the “right” thing is not a moral issue, so deferring to each other’s preferences is often the truly right thing to do. It just does not matter! But then, with regard to weighty things, you may not always know what is right. You will need counsel from older men, time with God in prayer and the word, and a readiness to learn from your wife, as women often notice aspects of life different than us, especially with regard to children. As you can see, I am not saying that you should go with the first idea you think is right and then not be open to counsel from your wife. No, seek her counsel, weigh it well, and then, after due deliberation, if you think an option is truly right, regardless of whether she will be pleased or not, pursue the right thing with all your heart. This choice will be loving to your wife and to your family.
Now let me illustrate it for you. Let’s imagine your post–euphoria marriage, seven years down the line, which is a typical time for couples to divorce. Perhaps you have learned to be content with your choice of pie, but you may discover that your wife has begun to have her doubts about her choice of pie! At first, it may be over small things. You need a new hair style or a better stock of clothes. Perhaps it is a new job, more money, better times, more fun. Whatever it may be, you may find yourself trying harder and harder to please her expectations, in order to keep her satisfied with her choice. What should you do? What is loving? What is right?
As a pastor, I can attest that this scenario is not uncommon. Men and women both do it. When the euphoria is long gone, both partners can sense that something is missing and both may look at the now-obvious deficiencies in the other and say, “There’s the problem!” At that moment, brother, I want you to take the lead and give her Jesus. This is not a cliché. I’m dead serious. At that moment, yes, confess your desire to improve, to love her truly, but then confess that the best that you can offer to her deepest needs is the Lord Jesus Himself. Be the leader at that moment, and take your wife to Jesus. It will be the right thing to do, because only Jesus satisfies our true and deepest needs. And because it will be the right thing to do, it will be the loving thing to do!
Well, may God truly bless you to be the husband you need to be for your future wife and your future home!
Remember, “Choose your love, and love your choice!”