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When a Man Loves a Woman
Pursuing Her Heart
By James Ford Jr., Cynthia Ballenger
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2011 James Ford Jr.
All rights reserved.
Section One: a man and his woman
BROTHERS, I am sure you remember the phenomenon we used to call a "house party." All evening long you got your groove on, dancing with any woman willing to dance with you—that is, until the end of the party. That last dance was always a slow one, played against a backdrop of dimmed lights and emotion, reserved for the one you loved or the one you wanted to love so you could dance so close it was too close, well ...
I remember one occasion when I could hardly wait for the last dance. The lyrics of the current hit song "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge, would tell "Pug" (pronounced Pudge), also known as Leslie, the woman who would eventually become my wife, everything I had in my heart for her.
The song tells the story of a brother in love. He is totally preoccupied. You know him! His nose is open. He can't think of anything or anyone else but her. There isn't anything he wouldn't do or sacrifice to be with her. She is wonderful! The sun, moon, stars, and planets all revolve around her. She's perfect. If he could change anything about her, he wouldn't, because she can do no wrong. If she did something wrong, he'd never notice. If anyone ever tried to bring her shortcomings to his attention, they'd run the risk of losing his friendship, since the woman he loved was perfect.
Nothing was too good for her. He'd spend all of his money on her. If she said, "Jump," he'd ask, "How high?" He begged her to treat him right, since he was totally and completely at her mercy.
"Don't play me!" he'd plead, because he knew she had the power and opportunity. If she ever decided to treat him bad, he'd be the very last to know, because he was so caught up in his feelings for her ...
Someone once said, "Love is a feeling, and when you feel it, you feel like you've never felt before." Sometimes love just feels amorphous. It is beyond measure. Love can be demonstrated in many ways. Yet, its description and definition are elusive.
Throughout history men have gone to great lengths to demonstrate love. Real love will cause a man to behave in ways that he would not normally consider rational, just as the lyrics to "When a Man Loves a Woman" imply.
Think about it:
1. Do you feel that kind of love for your woman?
2. Are you willing to show your woman what you really feel for her?
Live by it:
"Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings him into active aid." E. M. Bounds
WHO'S THE WOMAN THAT GOD HAS FOR YOU?
When I first saw Leslie forty years ago (when she was eight years old), I knew she would grow up and become my wife. I told her so the very first day I met her. Of course, I don't recommend that everyone propose to his intended the first time they meet, but I do believe that it is possible to recognize your life partner instantly.
The well was a regular place of work. It was neither extraordinary nor supernatural. Scripture reveals that it was customary for Rachel to go to the well to water her father's sheep.
It was in the course of her normal, daily activity that Jacob discovered Rachel. Rachel did not waste time peering into a pool of water at her reflection, daydreaming about a speculative suitor. Like Rachel, singles must diligently pursue and perfect the gifts, talents, ministry, and vocation that God has uniquely ordained for them. Second Peter 1:5–7 outlines the training sequence prescribed by God:
"Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity."
ADD TO YOUR FAITH
There are basic skills that every growing Christian should master—most notably, the ability to lead a person to Christ and encourage them to maturity. Others include teaching (2 Timothy 1:11), preaching (1 Timothy 2:7), counseling (2 Corinthians 1:4), and serving (Romans 1:1). However, genuine ministry and unearthing God's call on our lives grows out of a walk of faith! Faith is perceiving what God wants us to accomplish and living our lives in accordance with those objectives. It is the foundation on which virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and genuine love are established.
Rachel was busy doing the work set before her, wisely "redeeming the time" (Ephesians 5:15–16).
Genesis 29:10 says that when Jacob saw Rachel, he literally saw with comprehension. It was love at first sight! The Hebrew word translated "saw" in Genesis 29:10 literally means "to see with comprehension." Of course, there are those who do not believe in love at first sight. They say you must take a second and sometimes a third look. Perhaps there is some truth in the saying, "Puppy love can lead to a dog's life." I can relate to Jacob, however, because my personal experience mirrors his.
Think about it,
1. Do you believe in love at first sight? What does that mean to you?
2. Do you see her as you want others to see her (as a sister, mother, or someone's wife) and treat her accordingly?
Live by it,
"Prayer wonderfully clears the vision, steadies the nerves, defines duty, stiffens the purpose; sweetens and strengthens the spirit." S. D. Gordon
RACHEL'S OUTWARD APPEARANCE
Genesis chapter 29 introduces Rachel; it doesn't speak of her character: "Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel" (29:17–18 NIV). By declaring Jacob's love right after mentioning her appearance, the implication is Rachel's beauty was, at the least, a minimal consideration in his declaration of love. Although beauty often attracts love, it doesn't end there.
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Okay men, knowing that we are visual creatures, when a man looks at a woman, his perception is overwhelmingly influenced by the emotion he feels for the one his gaze is fixed on. A man in love sees the woman he loves as beautiful. Studies suggest that being objectively attractive is less important to a woman's well-being than feeling attractive and being treated as attractive by a loving beholder. However, men, we can't forget that women need to be loved in ways that make them feel beautiful! The curious/serious gazer can uncover beauty. He doesn't dream of conquest, but of discovery. He is like an explorer. He isn't interested in possessing his woman or exploiting her resources. Instead he wants to learn of her and delight in her.
It was with a curious gaze of delight that Adam first beheld Eve. She was unique, unlike any of the other creatures in his world. She moved him to wonder. Women long to be looked at the way Adam looked at Eve and Jacob gazed at Rachel: with enraptured pleasure.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then a loving beholder must have the power to bring out the beauty in his beloved. In the movie The Cooler starring Alec Baldwin, the cooler told his girlfriend—who had been disfigured on her face—not to judge her beauty by looking in the mirror but by looking into his eyes. Then she would truly know how beautiful she was. A husband's words of affirmation and praise have the power to turn his wife into a Rachel!
Think about it:
1. What are some of the things that make your woman beautiful to you?
2. Have long has it been since you told her how beautiful she is?
Live by it:
"Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty." E. M. Bounds
JACOB LOVED RACHEL UNCONDITIONALLY
The first time he laid eyes on her, Jacob knew Rachel was the woman he wanted to be his wife. His motivation for wanting to marry Rachel was his love for her. Genesis 29:18 says, "Jacob loved Rachel," Genesis 29:20 says Jacob loved Rachel, and Genesis 29:30 says Jacob loved Rachel. The word used to describe Jacob's love for Rachel is hesed in the Old Testament and is equivalent to the New Testament word agape.
Five words are translated "love" in the New Testament. God makes these distinctions to precisely communicate feeling, purpose, and meaning.
Phileo (friendship)—To cherish and have a tender affection for the beloved. It anticipates a response. Comradeship. Sharing. Communication. Friendship. Phileo is shared by dear friends who enjoy closeness and companionship. A marriage without phileo will be lacking, even if there is passion, since phileo flavors the marriage with common interests, goals, and objectives.
Storge (family love)—A natural affection and a sense of belonging to each other that is shared and expressed among parents, children, brothers, and sisters. Storge provides an atmosphere of security in which other forms of married love can flourish.
Epitumia (physical love)—Although not translated "love," epitumia is a critical aspect of married love. It denotes a strong physical desire. While not the most important aspect, it can be an indicator of the health of a marriage. Eros (romantic love)—It includes the idea of yearning to unite with and please the loved one. Romantic, passionate, and sentimental. The kind of love poets write about in songs and poems. Exquisite pleasure. Strong. Sweet and sometimes terrifying. Eros is wholly emotional and cannot be summoned at will. It cannot be independent and will die if not combined with the other types of love to rejuvenate and strengthen it. Eros transforms a mere existence into a glorious adventure.
Finally, there is agape. The totally unselfish love that has the capacity to give and keep giving without expectation of anything being given in return. Agape values and serves in contrast to phileo, which cherishes and enjoys. Agape is the love that you can bring to marriage immediately, since it is extended as a choice of your will independent of emotion. Agape love is supernatural and goes on operating when every other kind of love is lacking.
Think about it:
1. What are your impressions of these different expressions of love?
2. Do you have what it takes to show your love in these areas?
Live by it:
"Time spent alone with God is not wasted. It changes us, it changes our surroundings; and every Christian who would live the life that counts, and who would have power for service must take time to pray." M. E. Andross
The love Jacob had for Rachel was genuine agape. It wasn't an "if you love me" or "because you love me" kind of love, but it was an unconditional and "in spite of" kind of a love, the highest kind of love anyone can demonstrate. When a man really loves a woman, he does not love her for how she looks, what she can do for him, how she makes him feel, or even because she loves him with the same measure he loves her. This superior love is given without regard to individual achievement and superior qualities. This Jacob-style of love is not a reward for these. Looks, ability to help, and feelings are not the reason agape is given. Jacob loved Rachel for the sake of loving her. He delighted in his love for her exclusively. When a man loves a woman, he just loves her.
Jacob's expression of love toward Rachel was not unique in his day, and it is not unique today. I agree with Edith Deen who wrote in All the Women of the Bible: "Jacob's words are unsurpassed in the whole of romantic love literature. In fact, Jacob's service for Rachel marks him as the most devoted lover in the Bible. His love for Rachel was not a passing fancy; it would last until the end of his life."
Now, let's look at what happens as Jacob wins, works for, waits on, wants, weds, and warns Rachel. These are the objectives a man has the tenacity to accomplish when he truly loves a woman.
Think about it:
1. Is it realistic to believe that you could love a woman the way Jacob loved Rachel?
2. Do you see how you can make yourself vulnerable enough to love a woman the way Jacob loved Rachel?
Live by it:
"Therefore, whether the desire for prayer is on you or not, get to your closet at the set time; shut yourself in with God; wait upon Him; seek His face; realize Him; pray." R. F. Horton
Section Two: affirming her identity
WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN HE AFFIRMS HER IDENTITY
"And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother." (Genesis 29:10)
AN OLD JEWISH PROVERB paints a good picture of God's ordained plan that a woman's identity is distinct from a man's: "The woman was not taken from the man's head to be over him, nor from his feet to be walked on by him, but from his side to be his closest companion, from under his arm to be protected by him, near his heart to be loved by him."
God confirms this wise saying in Genesis 2:18 (NIV): "I will make a helper suitable for him." When Adam saw his gift, Eve, he said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman'" (v. 23). Why didn't Adam call her his wife? He would have been correct; she was his wife. Why woman? Because God is establishing a principle for all women, not just wives.
Adam is affirming her identity, distinct from his. Eve is a woman whether she is a wife or not. Like all women, Eve needs her femininity affirmed. God tells us in Genesis 3 that women have unique tastes and preferences: "The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes." Woman is made soft. Man is made hard. The Hebrew name for woman is ish-shah, which means "soft and sculptured." The Hebrew word for man is ish, which means "hard."
Think about it:
1. In what way did Adam show us men how to affirm a woman's identity?
2. How can you affirm your woman's unique identity?
Live by it:
"God's cause is committed to men; God commits Himself to men. Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans." E. M. Bounds
DELIGHT IN HER BEAUTY
First, a man can make a woman feel special by delighting in her beauty. As I stated earlier, beauty is the outward expression of the inward reality! There are some women who are obviously stunning, but even they exude an additional "shine" when looked upon and made beautiful by "the face of love"—her man's loving face that sees the woman as beautiful because he loves her. Remember, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the loved woman radiates the beauty of security, and so her face can be called the "face of love." We give back to the world a reflection of the love we have received. The face of love, then, is the face of one who is loved.
GIVE GIFTS THAT COMMUNICATE HIGH VALUE
To value something is to attach great importance to it. God gave me a great idea to help me affirm my wife's identity and communicate to her what a priceless treasure she is to me. I have been doing it at least once a year for the past nine years. I'll never forget the first time I blessed Leslie with one of her special days. I called one of her best friends, Maria, and told her to invite my wife out shopping. It was an invitation I knew my wife could not refuse. I even offered to pay for the entire shopping spree, gave her $50, and sent her on her way! While she was out, I cleaned the house from top to bottom and sprayed Leslie's favorite cologne through-out the house. I asked Maria to give me a call prior to bringing my wife home. I warned her not to accompany my wife to the door, because if she did, she would see her pastor as she'd never seen him before!
Leslie's eyes were wide with surprise when she stepped through the door and was greeted with, "Madam, your servant awaits your every command," as I bowed. In Hebrew, to "bow the knee" is the root meaning of blessing. Bowing before someone is a graphic picture of valuing that person. Leslie squealed with glee when she saw a dozen roses in the living room, a dozen in the dining room, and a dozen in the kitchen. Of course, the bow tie around my neck, towel over my arm, and silk boxers didn't hurt!
I relieved her of her bags ... and clothing. I placed a robe around her as I led her to the bathroom, where there were another dozen roses. The aroma of peach bubble bath (her favorite) drifted through the bathroom.
I helped her into the tub and began to bathe her. As I gingerly washed her, I began to tell her how much I appreciated her and the sacrifices she had made throughout our married life. I reminded her how she gave up her home in Pittsburgh to accompany me to Chicago to train for ministry. I thanked her for giving up her educational goals in order for me to attain my degrees. I reminded her how she gave up her job and good career to stay at home just so that our teenage boys would have a parent at home after school. I looked lovingly into her tear-filled eyes and began to weep as well. Our silence was deafening. It was a moment neither of us will ever forget. It is indelibly etched in our minds. I dried her off, and we put on robes and headed for our bedroom, where we dined on stuffed Cornish hens, cheese broccoli rolls made from scratch, and baked Alaska for dessert. What happened next is none of your business!
Excerpted from When a Man Loves a Woman by James Ford Jr., Cynthia Ballenger. Copyright © 2011 James Ford Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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