Last week I was in the Philippines talking to husbands about marriage. Some of these men are married to an OFW who is part of our church family in Hong Kong. I was there to talk to them and hear from them. Too often we only hear the wives, and these beloved ones cry a lot. I was surprise that the men were also crying, silently, they too suffer from the separation, they hurt from being left behind.
The Song especially addresses the pain of separation between husband and wife. Chapters 4:1-5:16 shows how their love for each other makes the pain of separation unbearable. Personally, I can’t imagine myself living separately with Emma. We actually had some of these conversations in the past. We have three children and two of them have gone back to the Philippines. The Lord also added another teen-age girl to our family and so her mom instincts made her want to spend time with the children. I’m glad she did not. Thank God for phones, for Facebook, and now FaceTime. We literally see our children everyday, sometimes several times a day.
In the Song what bridges the chasm of physical and emotional separation is self-denial. Both learn to deny themselves for the sake of their marriage. They voluntary curtail their own freedoms so they could give themselves to each other more for a better relationship.
This reminds us of Jesus who is the perfect example of self-denial that leads to a perfect union. In humility Jesus “emptied himself by becoming an obedient servant to the point of death . . . on the cross. The apostle Paul points this out in his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 2:1-11). Here he tells the church that the way of self-denial, the way of selfless love and selfless submission provide to key to encouragement and enjoyment of their union with Christ and with each other. Selflessness makes love comforting; it opens the door for common sharing in the Spirit; it enables God’s people to be tender and compassionate to each other.
Your marriage is designed to look like Christ’s crucifixion, where selflessness rules for the sake of each other. This is so beautifully presented in Ephesians 5:22-33. Here husbands are commanded to love their wives selflessly, sacrificially, just like Christ. At the same, wives are exhorted to selflessly submit to their husbands. One writer comments on this passage saying that such love and submission would make both husband and wife say, “God has given me a lover whose love points me to Jesus Christ, the One who reconciled selfish sinners through his selfless love.
Can we do this? The apostle Paul says, no. The only hope that we have is Jesus. We need him. As a husband I need Jesus. I need his love, his righteousness, his Spirit, his empowerment. Apart from him, I am selfish and would only drive my wife away from me. But through Christ, he empowers me to love my Emma sacrificially to have a marriage that honours God and points to him.
We pray you will have one too.