What came first? The chicken or the egg?
Some age-old riddles can only be solved from a biblical perspective.
'Then God said, 'Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.' And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply on the earth.'" (Genesis 1:20-22)
When God created the heavens and the earth, and brought forth life, He did so purposefully, without accident. Primordial mud and sludge cannot still the thunderous glory of an intentional creator God. No, God was not confused as he brought life from the void, He set up His plan masterfully. And He saw that what he created was very good.
Then He went on to bless what He had made by giving animals this command, "And God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply on the earth.'" (vs.22)
First came the chicken, then the egg.
What in the world does this have to do with marriage and the riddle of loving one another well? Only this: God has a purpose and an order to all that He created. And He proclaims it good, when we follow the plan He laid down long ago.
But it doesn't always feel good, does it? The loneliness and awkwardness we never expected to find, here on the other side of our vows.
So we turn to the pattern laid forth in God's Word.
"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." (Ephesian 5: 22-25)
Here's my gripe: Why does this charge to honor and subject ourselves to our husbands come before their command to love us? Doesn't it feel backwards? It does to me. When I think of love making in our bed at night, I know how natural it is for me to love him physically when I've experienced his love in word and deed throughout the day. A gentle touch, an ordinary compliment, a flirty text... When he does these things that show ordinary love, I respond in extraordinarily ordinary ways that meet his core needs. Back and forth the giving and receiving moves like the faithful tide.
There is a popular book entitled "Love and Respect" that speaks to the way a man's need for respect and a woman's need for love work together with God crafted synchronicity. When we respect him, he responds with love, and when we feel loved, we respond with respect, and when he experiences our respect, he responds lovingly, and when we experience his love, we in turn are respectful of him... and the cycle rolls on in its God intended design.
Only... we are sinful. We go astray. Selfish rather than loving, dishonoring rather than honoring; and they are often undeserving of our respect. And so, sometimes in an instant, this healthy cycle of love and respect, or the chicken and its egg, goes terribly awry. And the cycle turns on itself like a festering wound. Before we know it we are withholding respect, which makes him turn cold and pull back, hurting us more deeply than before so we are curt in turn, and he holes up in his man cave, and we go to bed angry, only to wake up hurt and quiet, so he leaves early for work, early before the children wake up. And we wonder... What now?
What comes first? The chicken or the egg? Do we go on waiting for his apology to kickstart the cycle? Or do we turn to God's wisdom and design for the answer to marriage's confusing riddle?
What comes first?
I believe God knew exactly what He was doing when He put these verses together in the order He did. So often we jump over our part and point out our husband's role, with hurtful accusations. But today, regardless of where we are in the cycle, can we commit to going first? Would you, with me, choose to subject yourself to showing respect and honor to the one you vowed to love? Today, this morning, wake up and bring him coffee, tell him how much you appreciate the way he works to support your family and the way he comes home each night and invests in the children's lives. Text him today and ask him if there's anything he'd like for you to pick up at the store when you're out. Make him his favorite dinner or dessert, and say a positive word when he comes in the door.
This isn't easy. Ask Him for His power to do this thing we call marriage. Call a girlfriend and ask her for her faithful prayers as you commit to going first in your marriage today, then cover her God-designed love relationship with your own prayers.
This is not a riddle, but it is difficult. Still, I charge you with great love and exhortation, to begin today fresh and persevere in love and respect... and I commit to the same.