Image Bearing Marriage

For some time, my wife and I have been researching the scriptural idea of an "Image Bearing Marriage."  It is interesting that Scripture begins the human portion of the biblical narrative by declaring that man alone was not good.  It was not until they (man and woman) were joined as one  flesh that God was satisfied and declared His crown jewels as "Good".

I have failed as an Image Bearing servant-leader to my wife far too many times.  I WRITE AS A HUSBAND FROM MY PERSPECTIVE FULLY KNOWING THAT MY WIFE HAS HERS.  I hope this journal serves as an encouragement and testimony-producing adventure for the many of us who share in this incredible ministry called marriage.  God Bless.

With you for His glory


There is a story of a man who once walked his portion of the earth alone.  I mean alone.  He had no one else like him.  The world had been filled with all sorts of beautiful creatures and landscape expressions, but there was not another Image-bearing human with which this relational being could share his existence.

I don't know if the man knew his aloneness or incompleteness, but his creator God did, and apparently, that is what mattered.  This incredible God spoke into the void of this mans experience and gave him a companion that would change the course of his life, his existence, and ultimately his world - literally.

I don't know how sinfully untainted relationship with God can be made better, but again, apparently this addition to the Created order did just that.  That's significant to me.

I am married to a wonderful woman who is herself a daughter of the same King that I am a son to; yet I have struggled for so long to realize this amazing relationship for what it is.  I have been made woefully aware of the striking disjointedness between my well intentioned marriage vows and the reality of thirteen years of marriage (at this writing).  Despite the best efforts of my will to have a great marriage, I have failed - and my failures have driven me to admit my pride and shame and finally find hope about what can be.

About what I can be to my bride and my children.
About what kind of Image Bearer I can truly be when pride and self is surrendered.
About what kind of relationship I can have with my Heavenly Father through all of this.

This is a marriage journal, born out of Biblical Marriage Counseling and a sort of new beginning from a place of surrendered discipleship.  Over the next several posts, I am going to walk through a model of Biblical counseling that I use for pre-marital counseling, but I recommend it for use to refresh veteran marriages as well.

It is a model that my wife and I have walked through, and I would like to share insights from this journey, as I offer keys to spiritual growth through marital maturity.

With you for His glory,


The Love of an Image Bearing Husband

One Flesh.

Besides the obvious biblical metaphor, you know what comes to mind when I read God's words to me?  I think of a body.  Ephesians 5:23 says:

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (ESV)

So I see a body in which the head is my contribution, and the rest of the body is my wife's contribution.
Male dominion?  No.  Every time I have observed, a head couldn't function or survive without it's body.  Female subjugation?  No.  Every time I have observed, a body was happy to have a head.  The main idea in this verse is not the distinction of the two elements, that has to be inserted by the reader.  The main idea is the assimilation or union of the two elements.  The man is not compared to Christ.  The man is compared - only in union with His wife - to the mysterious union of Christ and His Church.  The man and woman are one Image Bearer.  This Image is compared to the Church.  Enter Ephesians 5:31-32.  Through clarification, I am reminded:

31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

So I am not compared to being Jesus, the authority and savior of the Church - that would be slightly out of context.  I am not compared to anything.  My wife and I, as indivisible one flesh, are compared to something else indivisible - Christ and His Church.

Now I am drawn back to vs. 24.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

I am reminded that my 20th-century connotation of "historical female-submission" is not contextually appropriate here.  The Church does not submit to Christ as an ignorant, labor-weary, manipulated, and under-appreciated appendage of physical usury. 

My wife's submission to me is compared to the Body of Christ which submits to Him in love, honor and worship through the offering of all their intelligence, skill, talent, and stewardship of life.  By the way, Christ receives this submission by glorifying the Body, equipping the Body, unifying the Body, providing for the Body, protecting the Body, interceding for the Body in irrefutable and unrefusable prayer to the Father, and sacrificing absolutely everything for the Body.  I think to myself, "I wouldn't mind being told to submit in comparison with that."  I also remind myself, "This was comparing your wife's responsibility to that of the Churches, not your role to that of Christ's."

But I want to be a better husband.  I want to respond to Christ by being obedient to this text.  I'm not seeing the application yet.  So I have to go on.  Ephesians 5:25-30:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church, 30because we are members of his body.

Thank you Lord.  It is coming together for me now.  I am reminded of several other texts and the holistic picture begins to form clearly in my mind.
1 Peter 3:7  
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I think I understand now.  I bullet-point all of the verses.

One Flesh.
Love wives as Christ loved Church.
Submit to one another (immediately previous text of Ephesians 5).
My wife is an heir of grace (that grace is not mine to give, it was already given by our Lord).
She is the weaker vessel.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Lord, here are my resolutions in response to what you have told me.

Resolution #1
I will be the indivisible head of my wife, leading her into our shared journey of righteous sanctification.
I am commanded to emulate the actions of one who lived a righteous life in order to be able to protect, serve, and save His Bride.  Every decision He made was self-sacrificing, to the Glory of His Father, so that He might fulfill the afore-mentioned mission.  I must use Spirit-led discernment to protect myself, build myself, and draw from Him for sustainment - in order to accomplish mine.  I will be that leader she can depend on for personal and homebuilding righteousness.
Resolution #2
I will provide hope for her and never lose hope in her.
I am commanded to bear all things and always persevere.  Couched in these two things is belief and hope, two sides of the same coin.  My wife has a savior just like I do.  He is working on her just like He is in me.  He has given her to me for good, and not for bad, to prosper me and not to hurt me, build me and not to destroy me.  My future on this side of eternity is inextricably tied to her in One Flesh.  She is mine and I am hers.  Jesus is our hope.  I will never lose that hope or rob her of it for herself or us and our future no matter what comes against us and me.
Resolution #3
I will unselfishly protect her and intercede for her.
I am commanded to love my wife like Christ loves His Church.  Their can be no pride in my love.  I can not stand up for her or protect her in order to serve myself or glorify in my own strength.  I must protect her physically because she is my flesh and God's daughter.  I must protect her mentally by how I respond to what comes against her, and by what I say to her.  I must protect her emotionally (as much as I can) by protecting the quality and quantity of intimacy in our marriage, and creating security and venue for her emotions in my presence and within our home.  I must protect her socially by standing strong in the face of conflict, standing humbly in the face of praise, standing resolutely for what is right and against what is wrong, and standing always for the Holy name of Christ.  And I must protect her spiritually by remembering she is not mine to mold, but Christ's through the power of the Holy Spirit to the Glory of God.  He is her true guardian and intercessor.  He is her life, Lord, and Savior.  The greatest thing I can do for her is to allow her to always see that truth as reality in her life and mine.  I must give her and all of her life, good and bad, up to Christ while I do my job.

This is not possible for me Lord.  I am overwhelmed by the responsibility.
"You can do all things through me."
"It is I who work in you."
"My grace is sufficient for you."
"My strength is made perfect in your weakness."

I weep.

Thank You Lord for Your grace.

Dying to Self 

It has been a difficult week for me as a husband and a father.  I have struggled with certain texts this week as I have tried to submit to Christ in my responsibilities.  I genuinely want to be the man Christ made me to be.  It's not a matter of feeling obligated or a sense of duty (although, it is a tremendous honor and privilege to be the husband and father of my given family, and I do feel the weight of that responsibility greatly), it is truly wanting to please my Lord and receive the blessings from within my own family that come from "doing it right".  

But sometimes, "doing it right" is the problem in itself.  I really don't know how.  I struggle with the text in Ephesians 4:26, "In your anger, do not sin...", and Luke 7:47, "He who is forgiven little loves little", and Luke 9:23, " If anyone wold follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me."  

There are times when I don't know how to feel love through my hurt and discouragement.

There are times when I don't know how to forgive even though I say "I forgive you" out of obedience to Christ.

There are times when I don't know how to process my anger without sinning.

There are times when I don't know how to deny myself.  Where is the line between sacrificial love and unbiblical emotional and social emasculation?

Again, Christ said to love my wife as Christ loved the Church.  Christ gave himself up for her, but he doesn't roll over and let her do whatever she wants.  His will is still the sovereign order of the day.
But how do I apply this?  I am not Christ.  I do not have a sovereign will.  What do I do when  there is great evidence to me that I am unappreciated, unloved, unwanted, misunderstood, belittled, or emasculated as a real man in my own home?
What do I do when I have no idea how to combat the evil inside of me responding to the evil inside those I love the most?  Marriage does not always feel like love.  Sometimes it feels like quite the opposite.  And yet, we find our way through it and God provides what we are lacking.  Sometimes right away, sometimes, very (and painfully) slow.

I don't have answers to all of these.  These are honest questions.  

I am committed to this truth that marriage is a part of Image Bearing.  So how do I bear the Image in these situations?  I look to Genesis this week and am reminded that it was not good for me to be alone.  Genesis 2:18:
"It is not good that the man should be alone;"

I remember being single.  There were times I desired to have a soulmate (wife) so badly that it ached.  There were times that losing a girlfriend was so devastating to me because I felt like having that one true love was all that much further away from me rather than closer.  I remember praying for a wife, for a love that would be that one earthly manifestation of His complete design for me.  I could feel the designed longing within me.  I ached for it.  
I knew what it was to be alone.  God said it was not good.

And then, when I least expected it, He brought me Elisabeth.  He brought me the one I knew was my one true companion, the one made for me, the one I was designed to love and be one with.  

I remember that God gave Eve to Adam fully, and he sang about it, and God said it was good.  It was then that God said the work was complete.  It was then, that the Image Bearing was at it's zenith.  

But then, at the first sign of trouble, woman betrayed man and man betrayed woman.

And in doing so, they both betrayed the Image of God they could only bear together.

Genesis 3:10 tells us that the motive behind this unexplainable and irrevocable betrayal was - fear.  I'm not talking about the Fall, I'm talking about the betrayal of blame and shame that comes afterwards.

I think to myself, "Is it fear that creates these marital crisis' I feel?"

I think the answer is "yes".  

What do I fear that causes me to not feel like forgiving, not feel like loving, not feel like picking up my cross daily?  What fear drives me to feel that my anger is justified?

I think the answer is that I fear not being enough.  My fear is that I don't measure up to what it is I am supposed to be.  My fear is that if I don't fight for the facade that I do, everyone I love will see that - I don't - and there will be no point in me being around.  

1 John 4:18 says, 
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

I realize my fears are my ways of punishing myself mentally and emotionally for being a failure.

Because - I am a failure.  I am a broken Image Bearer (redeemed, but broken), and I am only half of this Image Bearing marriage of which, the other half is redeemed, but broken as well.  I can't control any of that.

The same passage of Scripture tells me that I can't love of my own.  I can only love out of a spiritual rebirth that comes from Him loving me.  That makes me completely dependent.

I think back to what it felt like to be alone.  I look at the woman I love reading her book on our bed.  OUR bed.

I look over to a picture of three little Image Bearers that God allowed us to produce.  The words, "Perfect love drives out fear" puts a knot in my throat.  

You know what I fear most?  Falling into a pride that pulls me away from the one assurance that I have at keeping all this together.  My dependence on Him.

I don't know how to respond to them when all these emotions come over me Lord, but I do know how I am supposed to respond to You.  Forgive me for my pride.  Forgive me for trying to be a man without my source of strength.  Forgive me for acting like my value is more important than the value of Your Image in us.  

Please show me what to do.  Tell me what to say.  Tell me when to speak.  Show me how to listen.  Make me a steward of Your Image, not mine.

Thank you Lord for Your Grace.

Who is She? 

I have a secret side of me.  It is the side of me that nobody knows.  A few see it and/or sense it, but they don't really know it.  I try to hide it and overcome it, but the more I do, the more powerful it becomes.

It's the secret me of my own mind.  Not the confident, outgoing, accomplished, handsome man my wife fell in love with.  It's the disgusting, unwanted, immature, unimportant, foolish, failure self that exists in my own mind.  The great tragedy is that unless I deal with that self by the counsel of God's Word, I begin to believe that self is the real me - because no matter how hard I try, no matter what I accomplish, that self-perception never goes away.

So I keep it hidden.  No one knows what I really think about myself.  So, in my mind no one knows the real me, which only makes me feel worse.  Sin tells me that if anyone did know, I would be even more unlovable, more unwanted, more unattractive.  So I keep it masked.  There is no time to ever bring it to God, because that would be admitting it, and it might be seen by others who are not as divinely forgiving and accepting as God.  I can't be that vulnerable.

Am I the only one who feels like this?  Oh, Lord - does my wife feel like this?

Does the love of my life have a secret "real identity" that she believes about herself that no one knows about?  Am I missing the most important ministry I have to my wife (and my children), by failing to see what is really deep inside?

How can I minister to the identity of my wife if I am only ministering to the part she projects for self-preservation and safety?
How can I minister to her worth if I don't understand how she really feels about herself?
How can I minister to her with love, if my love never challenges the deepest negative beliefs in her heart?
How can I truly communicate with this woman when my communication is designed to touch only the mask, and keep her looking at only my mask?

Who am I ministering to?  The woman she thinks I want her to be, or the real woman with all of her nakedness that needs God's grace and anointing?  Am I missing it?  We need your light.

I want to know my wife and I want her to know me.  I want her to know how I see myself truly so that she can minister to that person.  I want to know how she sees herself truly, so that I can minister to that person.  Then we can talk about communication.  Then we can talk about respect and love.  Then we can move beyond our insecurities and fears that so often drive us to offense and defense - to a place where we minister to each other deeply and righteously, until that secret person no longer exists, because we can finally see in each other that they never did.

God, your Word says that we are One in you.  I have been so negligent of sharing with her all of me, and in paying attention to all of her.  I see her pain, confusion, and restlessness so often, and I don't understand.  I know she sees the same in me.  Thank You for Your grace and forgiveness.  Please move us beyond our fears of nakedness and discovery so that we can be the One that You called us and anointed us to be.

Thank You for this wonderful woman.  Give me the wisdom and grace to see her as she sees herself and minister to that precious beautiful person so that she sees what you have made and not what her sin and the world has made her see.  Help me to be an instrument of grace in my wife's life so that she fully lives in the redemption you have given.

Help us to discuss honestly with each other how we truly see ourselves, and bless our trusting in You for the outcome.

Thank You Lord for Your grace.

A Higher Marriage

A Higher Marriage: Part 2

A Higher Marriage: Part 3

A Higher Marriage: Part 4

A Higher Marriage: Part 5