My dad used to tease me that I would be a great professional student. As with most humor the reason this was funny is because there was truth behind it. I am one of those rare people who love school. I appreciate the organization, I treasure the learning and I actually like the process of studying. Having dedicated time to learn new material works well with both my introversion and my tendency to collect things (like random facts.) Academic pursuits are invigorating for me.
Since I am no longer a student in any official capacity it would be easy to think that my days of studying are over. After all, no one is going to issue me a pop quiz. Finals week does not cause me to stay up late and attempt to cram (since now I’m the one giving the finals I stay up late to assess how successful the cramming was.) Report cards are a thing of the past. Studying, it would seem, would join it.
While I may not be sharpening any number 2 pencils or purchasing any blue books, it doesn’t mean that my study sessions are over. There is a far more important report than the one that arrived in the mail every semester. At the end of my days there is an account that I will give to my Maker regarding what I did with the blessing of marriage that He gave me. Giving an account that will honor Him is one that requires even more diligence and focus than my hardest exam. It requires that I study.
This may seem like an arduous task for something that is supposed to be a delight. And let me assuaged any concerns by stating that I deeply and profoundly love my spouse and being married to him is the second greatest gift in my life after my salvation in Jesus Christ. However, serving him in a way that pleases Jesus doesn’t come naturally. Serving anyone goes against our sinful nature because our desire is to please ourselves. Serving another person in a way that will be best for that other person requires awareness, expansive knowledge and spontaneous recall. In other words, it requires that I study who my husband is so that my service is prompted by what would most benefit him. The aim of my study then is not so that I can pat myself on the back for my good performance, but that through our marriage my husband is encouraged and God is pleased.
What things should I study? There are at least four areas on which I should focus:
1) Study his habits – Maybe your spouse always forgets where they put their keys. Or maybe you know that he likes a glass of water before dinner or the house cooled before he goes to sleep. When you studying your husband’s habits it makes it easier to know how to best serve him because you can more easily identify areas where you loving assistance would be most appreciated, and most beneficial to him. Diligently observing how he regularly organizes and operates his day while reveal specific ways that you can do good to your spouse and as a result display Jesus’ love to him.
2) Study his hobbies – It seems to be en vogue for husbands and wives to spend their time separately. We want to allow each other to “be their own person” or so the reasoning goes. However, when you got married God joined you together (Mt. 19:5) and it makes sense then that there would be some crossover between what the other partner likes to do. Hobbies are a wonderful indication of what someone values because they demonstrate how a person chooses to spend their time. Studying your spouse’s hobbies doesn’t mean that you have to go to the golf course with them every single time or that you have to become an expert in their favorite team or movie genre, but it does mean that you should be able to converse about these things. If something is important to your loved one it should be important to you. Serving your husband means that when you spend time together it shouldn’t always be about what you mutually like to do or worse yet what you exclusively want. Sometimes simply sacrificing your time to pursue a hobby that your husband values is a wonderful way to serve him.
3) Study his heart - The Bible teaches us that where our treasure is our heart will be also (Mt. 6:21). In order to serve your husband well it is important to study what he values. For some, a home cooked meal every night is a meaningful and significant way to serve them; for others they could care less about this. It is important that we don’t always assume that we know what our husband needs, but that we are diligent about studying who he is in order to serve him in the way that will be most significant for him, and in keeping with what he treasures.
4) Study his holiness - If we are going to serve our spouse well, one of the things that we should be cognizant of is how God is currently working in him in order to make him more like Christ. As someone who cares for our husband, we should be helping and supporting their sanctification. This doesn’t mean that we should strive to do the work of conviction in our husband’s life; that is the Holy Spirit’s role and frankly He does a much better job of it. But it does mean that when we know our husband is striving to conform a certain aspect of his life to more closely mirror God’s desires, we can support, encourage and help him in doing so. We should be celebrating the work that God is doing in our husband, and doing so requires that we are careful to pay attention to how God is working to make our loved one more like Him.
There may be a temptation to read all of this and to think “well that sounds sweet and all, but what about what the husband should do?” And I get that our prideful nature wants to make sure that we aren’t extending ourselves in service if it is not going to be reciprocated. However, there are two things to keep in mind. First, our obedience to Christ shouldn’t be contingent on another person’s response. We are called to serve others (see Gal. 5:13) and our husband should be first on the list of those who receive the outpouring of our service to Christ. Secondly, Christian husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and there is no one who served more sacrificially than when Christ laid down His life to take on the sins of the world that we may be saved and spend eternity with Him. In other words, while this isn’t supposed to be a one-way street, we can’t let whether or not our spouse is going in the right direction deter us from pursuing what God has called us to do.
It may sound unconventional to study our spouse in order to serve them well. We may be tempted to think that this should be a natural outpouring of our love for him, and in reality, it should be. But in order to serve him in a way that is most beneficial to and appreciated by him requires diligence, focus and intention. In other words it requires study. May our studying of our spouse lead us to serve him in a way that will bring more glory to God, through our lives and his.