Without a doubt, those of us in pastoral ministry have seen marriage counseling spike during these COVID times. Now comes National Marriage Week and Valentine’s Day in the midst of it. It’s a great time to pause, take a breath, and do two things – celebrate marriage itself and Bless your wife.
Marriage is indeed a mystery. (Ephesians 5). How two people, incredibly different from their very cells to their personalities, can in God’s love become one. Both physically, and in completing each other. Even more, how two prideful people, saved and changed by Christ’s love, can set down their selfishness and sacrificially serve the other. When that happens, it is indeed a “mystery” to people viewing it from their “it’s all about me” world1. Marriage is indeed an “icon” of the gospel and worth celebrating.
But while it’s wonderful to lift up God’s purpose and glory in marriage, this National Marriage Week, it’s also a great time to get “personal” about our own marriage.
Like what would your spouse say, if I were to ask her this one question right now: “Do you have your husband’s ‘Blessing?’”
Your wife needs your Blessing
There are all kinds of things you can do in “guessing” what your spouse needs. It’s a pretty safe bet that getting her another “chia pet” or surprising her with a “thigh-master” this Valentines probably won’t be at the top of her list. But as someone who has counseled with hundreds of ministry couples over the last 40 years, I can tell you something she longs for. Something I pray you’ve given her many times over. Or something I pray you’ll do for the first time after reading this article.
That’s giving your spouse your “Blessing.”
You might ask, “But I thought a “Blessing” is something you give your kids, not your spouse?”
That’s true if you focus in only on Genesis 27. There we see how even grown kids are indeed desperate to get your Blessing. They are often emotionally devastated if they miss it, or have it withheld from them.
Our calling to “Bless” goes beyond just giving it to our children. I love how Eugene Peterson’s interpretive paraphrase, The Message, captures what I think is at the heart of 1 Peter 3:8-9. Peter sums things up there by saying we’re not to use our words to hurt, to tear down, or to be sharped tongued with anyone – including our spouse.
Rather, he says, “Instead Bless – that’s your job. To be a Blessing and to get a Blessing.”
There’s so much great theology in 1 Peter 3, where it talks about our inheritance and the Blessing God has stored up for us. It’s precisely because we have His Blessing and love always that we’re able and called to “be” a Blessing today. If I can be allowed to paraphrase a paraphrase, when it comes to your marriage, I’d say:
“Bless your wife – that’s your job.”
Your wife’s desire and heart are linked with that “attitude” and “action” wrapped up in your “choice” to Bless (to add to her life) or curse (to subtract from it). (Read Deut. 30:19). She longs for every element of the Blessing from YOU. Meaningful, appropriate touch. Spoken words of affirmation. Words that attach high value to her. Picturing for her a special future in Christ, and for the two of you as a couple. She wants all these “elements” of the Blessing wrapped in a genuine commitment to be there for her. When she reaches out, she wants to know you’ll be there to reach back.2
Blessing your wife involves an attitude that says, “You are incredibly valuable to me.” The very word, “Bless” in Hebrew means, “to bow the knee.”
It calls us to live out that Blessing with our actions.
Briefly, then, here are three things you can do to “Bless” your wife.
First, this is a great week to “say it”
Sometime this week, sit down with your spouse, and use your spoken words to say something like this: “I want you, my wife, to know that you have my Blessing. That you are – and always will be – enough. That you are to me, a gift from God.” Use your words, but it’s time to tell her she has your Blessing.
Second, give her a better picture of herself than anyone else
In the Song of Songs, Solomon’s bride begins their marriage feeling very insecure. She is a working-class woman, and she’s fallen in love with a king. Not only that, but she’s from a past filled with challenges. “Do not stare at me,” she says to him, “for the sun has burned me … My mother’s sons were angry with me. They made me caretake of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own (Song of Songs1:5-6).” She’s grown up with angry stepbrothers who have poured hurtful words upon her in the past. In the present, she’s had to work in their vineyard, having no time to build up her own dowry to bring to her marriage.
What does Solomon – at the time, the wisest man in the world – do to lift up her eyes, to communicate that he “sees” her much differently than her brothers?
Some 40 times in eight short chapters of the Song of Songs, Solomon gives her a better picture of herself than the ones she’s gotten from the past or present. He doesn’t just celebrate her beauty. He gives her picture after picture. Ones that celebrate her faith. How she carries herself. The way she treats others. This week – and in weeks to come – like Solomon at his wisest, when you see it, say it.
Make sure that the place where your wife gets a better picture of herself – more than anywhere else on the planet – is in your home and with your words of Blessing.
Third, step toward her when she’s facing that “high hill.”
A recent study on visual perception demonstrated (serendipitously) an amazing way to Bless your spouse. It was actually just trying to demonstrate what we’re thinking when we stand alone and look up at a high hill we have to climb.3
The perception they measured experimentally is our tendency to overshoot the challenge before us. In other words, we view the hill before us as higher and harder to climb. But then the experimenters had someone walk up to the person facing the “high hill” – someone they were attached to and knew cared about them. That person would stand right next to them. Sometimes put their hand on their shoulder. Tell them they were there to climb the hill with them. You can imagine what happened to that “high hill” they were facing in terms of that person’s visual and emotional perception – it shrunk.
When someone you care about demonstrates a “genuine commitment” by standing with you, that’s an incredible gift. It’s a way to “Bless” our spouse. To stand with them in what they’re facing.
The technical explanation for that shrinking perception is this: “Proximity to social resources decreases the cost of climbing both the literal and figurative hills we face.” Jesus put it best when he says in Hebrews 13:5, “For he himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Your spouse, this National Marriage Week, needs to know that you’re standing with them. No matter what they’re facing. You’re not going anywhere.
There will be “high hills” in our future. Speaking your Blessing, adding your praise and your genuine commitment to “be there” – to stand alongside your spouse in those tough climbs – are three ways you can “Bless” your wife. Three ways we can do our job in Blessing and loving like Jesus.
1 If your goal is to uplift marriage itself, feel free to dig deeper into a way to celebrate and uplift it by reading a book like, Marriage: Its Foundation, Theology and Mission in a Changing World, Curt Hamner, John Trent, Rebekah J. Byrd, Eric L. Johnson, and Erik Thoennes, Moody Press, Chicago, 2018). Where 20 theologians and 20 practitioners take a deep dive celebrating and outlining a theology of marriage.
2 To learn more about the 5 “elements” of the Blessing in scripture, dive into the book, The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, John Trent, Gary Smalley, and Kari Trent Stageberg, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2019 edition, and learn more about those five things that reflect God’s love and our “stepping towards” our loved ones to give them our Blessing.
3 Gross, J.J., and Profitt, D. (2013) The economy of social resources and its influence on spatial perceptions. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol 7, 772.