By: Heidi Jo Fulk
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” I’m guessing Elizabeth Barrett Browning didn’t have Titus 2 in mind when she wrote those words. But for some reason, Browning’s words are in my mind as I think about how Titus 2 tells us to love our husbands.
How do you love your husband? Go ahead. Count the ways. But before you do, consider this: the word love in Titus 2:4 in the original language is a form of “phileo”. Carolyn Mahaney describes phileo as “a tender, affectionate, passionate kind of love. It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship.” So…how are you tenderly, affectionately, passionately loving your husband? Somehow washing clothes, making dinner, and raising children don’t seem to be the right answers to that question.
The fact we’re called to this tender, affectionate, enjoyable kind of love shows me we’re less likely to do it. Older women wouldn’t be told here in Titus to teach this kind of love to younger women if they were going to do it automatically. We have to think differently—and I mean that on a lot of different levels. If we’re truly asking ourselves this question, we have to resist the urge to list the things we do and instead consider how we do them. We need to think about how our husbands would answer that question. We also have to think about what we’re not doing—either by being oblivious or intentional.
So here’s my answer from a specific day in our really recent past. How do I love thee, Dan Fulk? Here are the ways…
Dan had to work some unusually late hours—like 11pm—a few days a week for a while. Some nights I was already in bed when he got home, but some I waited up for him. One night I was pretty weary myself with the extra demands around the house, but I wanted to make an effort to welcome him home. So when he came in, we chatted a bit to get caught up on the events of the day, and he let me know he’d have to work until midnight the next night. As we talked, I started packing a lunch and dinner for him for the next day. (Note: I HATE to make lunches. I love to cook and do it happily, but for some reason, packing lunches puts me over the edge.) He thanked me with a little laugh (knowing my deep hatred of lunches) and we both went up to bed. The next day we said goodbye early in the morning and I had a full day at home, with some church stuff, and the kids. After I had all the kids in bed, I flipped on the World Series and hauled out the ironing board for a fun-filled evening tackling an overflowing basket of clothes. I took some breaks to send Dan some texts while he worked late with updates on the game and a rather suggestive suggestion that if I was asleep when he got home, he could wake me up. Thus ended 24(ish) hours in the Fulk home.
Maybe the tender, affectionate, passionate love described here may be lost on you, but it wasn’t on my husband. He was touched by a packed lunch and dinner. He felt loved and noticed when I stayed up to greet him and texted him baseball scores. (And we’ll keep the passionate parts to ourselves J) Now I’ll tell you straight out that every moment of these late night days has not been an example of me loving Dan. I’ve grumbled and sighed, rolled my eyes, and had a too-short temper with the kids many a time. But this day, I loved him well—mostly because I knew the ways he would feel loved.
My guess is you know a lot of ways too. You may, like me, not always feel like loving your husband in those ways. You may be weary or just long for him to show his love to you first. But in God’s strength and love, choose to love your husband like this anyway. Go ahead. Count the ways.
HEIDI JO FULK is passionate about encouraging woman and girls to love and live God’s word. She is wife to her high school sweetheart, Dan, and mom to their four young children — Emma Jo, Gretchen, Tucker and Brock. Heidi leads a women’s Bible study and an elementary girls’ ministry at her church.