It is the middle of the night and our youngest is wide-awake. She has been a good sleeper since a young age, but has been thrown off by our flight back from the US last week. Actually, even the flight was good, but jet lag has gotten her. She is all mixed up, which means I am, well, up.
Last night my wife was up with her so I could sleep. Tonight the roles are gladly reversed. So my mind is pondering a pair of words Paul uses just a couple of times. In Ephesians 5, he is addressing the subject of marriage. After telling husbands to love their wives with a self-sacrificial love, and with a washing in the Word kind of love, then he adds the need for a “as you care for your own bodies” kind of love.
At this point he uses two words – nourishing and cherishing. Taking them out of order: cherishing is a term he uses twice. It speaks of a tender, warming, kind of care. It’s a bit like the way we put on a sweater when our bodies feel cold. We cherish our bodies. He uses it in 1Thessalonians 2:7 of how a mother takes care of her little child. There is a gentleness, an inclination to hold carefully and to protect. (And in the Old Testament, the term is used twice to translate references to mother birds warming their eggs!)
So just as my wife was taking care of our sleepless baby last night, so I am glad to cherish my wife tonight.
Paul also tells husbands to nourish their wives as they naturally do their own bodies. Again, the term is used twice. It speaks of providing for and helping the growth of the other. I preached recently and urged husbands to not only put bread on the table, but also the spiritual nutrition needed in the marriage. Guess where he uses the term again? 1 Thessalonians 2? Sort of. Actually it is in Ephesians 6:4, in reference to bringing up children.
However, the shorter form of the term is found in the same phrase in his letter to the Thessalonians. It is the nursing mother who takes care of her child. There the noun points to a very verbal kind of idea – that of the giving of yourself that only a mother can do for an infant. As Kaylah continues to cry, on and off, I am racking my brains for ideas since this literal giving of yourself is not an option God has given me. But as my wife sleeps, it is my giving of my sleep that makes hers possible. That is worth it.
So Paul urges husbands to nourish and cherish their wives, just as they naturally do their own bodies. And in his other use of the pair of ideas, as mothers nurse and care for their infants. All very poignant images in the middle of the night.
But I mustn’t miss one more link here. What is he really speaking of in Ephesians 5? Even after making the connection throughout the passage, we are still surprised at the end to discover he is actually speaking of Christ and the church. Just as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church?
I wonder if we more easily think back to the self-sacrificial love of Christ, which stands historically behind the launch of the church. We look back to Calvary and rightly so. But here Paul ties Christ’s loving of the church not to a past event, but rather to a present ongoing reality. I haven’t pondered that enough. The present care of Christ for His own is such a wonderful truth.
My mind goes to the description in Isaiah 42. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. Perhaps we would do well to ponder the present care of Christ for His church. Not only did he give himself in self-sacrifice at the cross, but now he continues to tenderly give of himself to the church he loves so dearly, seeking to warm us and help us to grow.
My baby can’t quite grasp how much we love her. I hope my wife wakes in the morning and senses my love for her. But as I hopefully head back to bed soon, I have a slight concern for myself – do I really grasp how much Christ continues to love us? I don’t think I grasp that at all.