Everyone seems to know that a marriage should look like love, but what does love look like? As with everything that is valuable and precious, there are many counterfeits and knock-offs. No one counterfeits worthless things, but they do want to copy things of great value. This is why there are things like paste diamonds, and no imitation copies of thrown-away hot dog bun packages.
Imitations of love are many, and easy to manufacture. Remember that the point of the counterfeit is to avoid the cost. No counterfeits are more expensive than the real thing. This is the case, almost by definition.
What do the imitations look like? There are several worth mentioning here. One counterfeit is sentimentalism. Many relationships are characterized by high drama, much emotion, easy sentiment. But, as the proverb goes, nothing dries more quickly than a tear. It is easy to feel sentimental on certain occasions like anniversaries. And there is nothing wrong with such sentiments, so long as everyone recognizes that they come and go. The kind of love and respect that husbands and wives ought to have for one another is a 24-7, 365 day a year sort of thing. It is to be a hard constant, which sentimental emotion can never be.
Another counterfeit is substitution. A person figures out a way of giving things instead of giving himself or herself. A husband drifts into the pattern of giving money or things instead of himself. When the process is completed, the transaction looks more like a tribute or a ransom payment than like a family. A wife might give the hard work of making the household run, and this work is a stand-in for her heart.
Now of course a husband should provide for his wife, and the wife should work hard to glorify what he provides. But this should be done as a token of self-gift, and not a replacement for self-gift. You can tell that the replacement mentality has set in when a person thinks (or says), “There. I’ve done my bit. Now leave me alone.” This is counterfeit love. This is a poor substitute.
So what does real love actually look like? As defined by the Bible, as we see plainly outlined in 1 Cor. 13, Eph. 5 and elsewhere, the love of a husband for his wife, and the love of a wife for her husband, looks like sacrifice, forgiveness, forbearance, work, patience, calluses, sweat, childbirth, provision, protection, laughter, loyalty, and joy. It looks like covenants kept, and gladness secured. It looks the right kind of unconditional. It looks like Jesus.
Ben, you are a hard worker, and my charge to you is related to this. Make sure that your work always remains personal, and does not become an end in itself. As you look down the course of each work day, you should see Alex as the end of it. She is the point, and you want to make sure you keep her the point. This is something that men can only do if they are doing the same thing with their entire lives, keeping Jesus as the focal point. As Christians we confess that Christ is the end or purpose of all things. If you keep Christ number one in your life, then you will be equipped to keep Alex number two. She will not resent this at all because it will be apparent to her that she would get far less from you as number one than she gets in the right kind of second place. If you love Christ above all, then you will be in complete fellowship with the eternal source of all love. That will mean that when it comes to loving Alex, you will never run dry. So keep your work personal. Love Christ personally. Love your wife personally. Love the children God gives you personally. God is not giving you to your wife and family so that you could be a vending machine or an ATM. You are being given as a husband and a father.
Alex, my charge to you is this. Accept your husband’s love for you, and let it secure you. A secure wife is a confident wife, and a confident wife is a lovely wife. The Bible teaches that love bestows loveliness. Ben has offered to love you for the rest of your lives together, and you have accepted him. Continue to accept him. Accept his love daily, and as you accept his love daily, you will find that God is providing you with a glorious anchor. You will be a Christian woman and, as the hymn puts it, you will be safe and secure from all alarms. Ben is responsible to provide and protect. Your responsibility is to glorify that provision by making it beautiful, and your responsibility is to glorify that protection by being lovely in the midst of it.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.