In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam and Eve to enjoy any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is a familiar story to many of us – Eve was tempted by the enemy, ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, shared it with her husband and sin entered the world. With their newfound ability to know right from wrong, Adam and Eve felt judged and therefore ashamed in their nakedness. Though they walked freely before, for the first time, they hide. The idea of being fully known – our physical, emotional and spiritual nakedness – was deemed wrong. Oh, the impact on marriages since!
After Adam and Eve were kicked out of the perfect garden, they could no longer eat from the tree of life, leaving us a legacy of battling the temptation to judge others, including our spouse, rather than encouraging and being the tree of life to them. Perhaps I am the only one, but I confess that finding others’ faults comes almost effortlessly, but praising their strengths and growth takes intention.
I think we can be life givers in our marriages by:
- building up our spouse with our words. Read Song of Songs for ideas.
It’s easy for me to compliment my husband’s provision for our family. He is a hard worker, a faithful husband and a great dad. As much as he needs to hear my appreciation for these things, he also needs to hear that I find him even sexier as he ages, that his arms around me make my thoughts stop spinning and that I just can’t stop thinking about last Thursday night.
I can’t underscore how important this is. Last week, the man trimming our trees, whom I had never met before, told me that his wife complimented him that morning. He went on and on about what she said, what it meant to him and how out of the ordinary it was for her to say something like that. He worked the retelling of her compliment into our totally unrelated conversation and was gushing about it to me – a total stranger. It made his day…and it took just a few seconds of her time.
- taking time to understand and acknowledge our spouse’s heart and motivations rather than just reacting to their actions.
In the past, I created crushing expectations for my husband by ensuring that any praise for him also included a note on how he could improve. This led to a cycle of him tirelessly striving to reach my unrealistic goals. Sadly, I unintentionally valued the outcome of his efforts more than his motivations. Now, I try to look beyond the outcome and instead praise his efforts and intentions, acknowledge his growth and look for opportunities to compliment him. My words bring encouragement rather than defeat.
- encouraging our spouse to be who God created them to be by celebrating every step forward.
At the end of a challenging day, my husband recently shared, “I feel like I am bouncing back from being knocked down faster than I was before.” Yes, he is, I see him yielding to the Spirit rather than his emotions more and more. I took the opportunity to tell him how proud I am of his new growth, that I appreciate him being a man of character and encouraged him to press on in the trenches.
- embracing becoming One with our spouse rather than obligatory sex and superficial intimacy.
Being a fully present enthusiastic participant in the moment with our spouse is a huge turn on! Preparing for our time together by sending an anticipatory text message, letting my thoughts linger on what is to come, or blocking off time on our calendar and planning a home date, shows that our time connecting together is a priority.
- pursuing really knowing our spouse in every sense of the word throughout our lives.
My spouse and I are constantly changing – our understanding of truth, our aging bodies, our circumstances and season of life – so our marriage is naturally a never ending journey of discovery. We ask each other questions, we try new things, and we revisit what maybe wasn’t yet right for us in the past. We intentionally seize opportunities to learn about one another and become more glued together in our everyday life.
We see Solomon and his bride speaking encouraging words again and again in Song of Songs – they speak life – to one another through every season of their relationship. They are both emboldening their spouse and positively influencing their own perspective of their spouse. We all need that!
If we, with our spouse, are moving our marriage toward that perfect garden and the tree of life within it, then we can safely express our joy, cry tears of worship or tears of pain, deeply grieve and be comforted, experience unrestricted passion and pleasure, and freely express our desires. We are designed to be free!
When we instead “eat” of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we live in fear of judgement and cannot walk in the freedom of being fully known. We cannot express all of ourselves with the abundant freedom that God intends within marriage. Be certain of this, we are not designed to hide.
God desires us to echo the Garden of Eden in our marriages. We can do that by being life givers that don’t hide from our spouse or from God.
How can you be a life giver to your spouse today?
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.
How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.
– Song of Songs 1:15-16
Update on our prayer request: Thank you for lifting up our friends to our Father. Your prayers were felt at the meeting. After a very thorough and encouraging discussion, they left with their church’s support and a pilot Awaken-Love class scheduled in October. God is so good!