One of my fondest memories of friendship came out of a time when Paula and I were hurting the most. We were at home, both of us recovering from physical setbacks.
I had been in the hospital with pneumonia two nights before and the day before Paula had miscarried our first child in that same hospital. So we were not only hurting physically, but our hearts were broken.
It was a Sunday and I ordinarily would have been at church to fulfill my responsibilities, but both of us were in no shape to go anywhere. Shortly after noon someone knocked on our little apartment door and it was a family from our church, mom and dad with four of their children in our youth ministry. With compassionate smiles and hands full of food and a fruit basket they came in and served us. We have never forgotten that act of kindness.
Why did they do this? They were our friends. And that is what friends do: they serve each other.
Likewise, a healthy marriage has two people that are serving each other consistently.
Several years ago Paula had surgery and was debilitated for a while. I took a week off from work to stay at home and just waited on her. She rested on the couch and we watched videos together. I took care of her meals (I didn’t cook, but bought food!). It was a sweet time for me to serve her.
But more important than a focused time of serving when she is down is just being aware on a daily basis of my calling to be her servant. Jesus called me to “nourish and cherish” my wife (Ephesians 5:29). At the heart of that is serving and caring.
It’s easy to take advantage of people that are good to you. It’s also easy to overlook how good they are, until the benefit is gone and you realize, too late, what a treasure you had in that person.
Jesus was a friend to His disciples and called them friends (John 15:14). On the night before He was crucified He washed their feet, a dirty, humbling task which only the lowest servant was assigned to do. Now He tasks us to do the same – to serve each other in humble and quiet ways, because we love each other. Because we are friends.
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15)
The work of the gospel in our hearts brings a genuine humility and willingness to want to serve, to put others before our own selves, and to love as Christ has loved us. Christianity is best seen in relationships and the most basic relationship is that of the husband and wife.
Friends serve one another. And a good marriage has two people that are conscious of the needs of the other – and do their best to meet that need.
Don’t wait until the one you love is gone before you realize how much you cared for them – and you have regrets for not serving them well.
“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving”. (Amy Carmichael)