SARALAND, Ala. (BP) -- As you live with your wife in a climate of understanding, your love will be demonstrative and tangible.
-- Your love will work hard to learn her ways.
(NOTE: I didn't say understand her ways, because she doesn't always understand herself.) You don't need to be able to explain her, but actively study who she is, her unique personality, her love language and her soul. Know her wounds and vulnerabilities. Her spiritual life is the foundation of building intimacy and should be your top priority as a shepherd. When you learn her, you will be able to love, serve her and shepherd her well.
-- Your love will say, "You are my priority."
People will look into your life as a man, father, pastor or community leader and pretty quickly assess your priorities. Do not underestimate this. People know how you spend your time. What do you do that clearly demonstrates she is your priority? People know the order of your priorities. So does she.
-- Your love will take the time to listen to her.
Yes, we wives ramble a bit. You are looking for the CliffsNotes version of our issues so that you may give us a quick fix. That is your preferred painless option. (Women, we would do ourselves a favor and edit details. Attention spans may wane.) Your wife feels very loved and significant when you make eye contact and engage her. You value her ideas. If you have small children, this item gets moved up higher on list.
-- Your love will provide the sacrificial leadership she longs for.
Ironically it's a sad secret that it's tempting to lead well at work or church but coast at home. And we get it. You come home tired, drained and wanting a respite from the demands of leadership. We want and can fill many gaps in the demands of your life, but it is not good for anyone if we get this area reversed even in a well-meaning way. Your kids will figure out pretty quickly that dad shepherds at work or church but not at home. Pastors, it's a confusing signal to your children if you are bold in the pulpit but passive at home.
It must be hard to lead women. It has to be tricky. We probably send many confusing signals, but we want you to lead.
-- Your love will free her.
Your wife is mommy, mate, lover, CEO of day-to-day operations of your household enterprises, serves at church and community and perhaps works 40 hours a week elsewhere. What blows wind in her sails? (If you don't know what blows wind in her sails, skip back to my first point.) Free her to do all she does. Encourage her to pursue life-giving relationships with other women, or give her space for refreshing experiences. If she has nothing to refresh or recharge herself, help her find such opportunities.
-- Your love will pursue personal holiness.
This should occur not because it's your duty as a husband, but because of your critical, authentic and vibrant walk with Christ, and because your personal holiness is essential to your wife and the sanctity of your marriage. Your wife needs to see in you an authentic faith. Especially, you should demonstrate a strong sexual ethic, behaving appropriately with other women, resisting pornography and monitoring what you read, view and allow into your home.
I have been married to two men -- the late Rick Ferguson and now Ed Litton. These are things I knew about these men -- that they would struggle in their personal holiness like any other man and that they feared God.
Does your wife know that you genuinely, internally fear God? Such knowledge strengthens marital trust.
Kathy Ferguson Litton is the North American Mission Board's national consultant for ministry to pastors' wives. Her husband, Ed Litton, is pastor of First Baptist North Mobile in Saraland, Ala. This column first appeared at NAMB's www.Flourish.me
website, an online equipping community for ministers' wives. Read her companion piece, FIRST-PERSON: What my love does for my husband, here