Written by : Jonathan David Helser
Photography from Family Collection
“A wise man once told Melissa and I in our marriage counseling, ‘You will never meet all of your spouse’s emotional needs in marriage.’ We were both politely nodding our heads as our mentor shared, but we were both thinking, What in the world is marriage for then? Our mentor went on to unpack this truth: God’s love is the only thing that can fill the deep places in the heart of every person.”
This month on the blog, we’re featuring a writing from Jonathan Helser from Cultivate Volume V: The Art of Connection, Pt. I. In “Overflow”, Jonathan unpacks what it means to love your spouse and children from an overflow of God’s love, and why it’s essential to a healthy marriage. If you enjoyed the quote above, keep reading for the full article. Our hope is that you would receive the Father’s fullness of love for you, and let it serve as a catalyst for the way you love those who matter most to you.
One of my kids’ favorite things in life is what they have affectionately titled a “Daddy Date.” A Daddy Date is exactly what the title suggests—a special date with just their dad. What makes this so significant is that there is no one else allowed on a Daddy Date; it’s just one of them and me. Whatever adventure we go on—from seeing a movie to getting ice cream or going to the park—the one thing they can always expect on these dates is that they have their father all to themselves.
Recently, while I was on one of these dates with my son, I started thinking about when Adam had God all to himself in Eden. We don’t know how long that moment lasted before Eve entered the story, but I like to imagine it was an extended time of friendship between a Father and His son. I believe they shared many long walks, the Father showing off His creation to His son. Days were filled with delight and joy unspeakable as they discovered one another in a world without sin and shame. There was even a wild date to the zoo when God brought all the animals of the earth to Adam, for His son to name each one.
After these sacred moments of a Father and son enjoying one another’s company, the story shifts as God places Adam in a deep sleep and pulls a rib from his side. From this rib God fashions a woman. Now, we see another date begin between the Father and His first daughter. We don’t know how long this moment lasted either, but remember we are talking about a God to whom one day is like a thousand years. I imagine Adam passed out in a deep sleep in the corner of Eden, while the Father takes His daughter all over creation showing off His handiwork. Just as Adam had his own time alone with God, Eve shared her own moment with the Father before she met her husband. I personally think that God savored this moment and stretched it out as long as possible. God had to know that once Adam saw Eve, Adam would be so head over heels in love with her that it might be a while before God could have a date like this again.
The scene shifts again when God “brought her unto the man” (Genesis 2:22, ASV). Just like weddings have replayed ever since, the Father walks His daughter down the aisle of Eden to meet her groom and lifelong companion. Adam awakes from his deep sleep to see the desire of his heart coming toward him. Both Adam and Eve have had their hearts filled up in relationship with God, and they begin their marriage loving one another from that overflow. In this first marriage we see God’s design and dream. Marriage is not two broken halves becoming one. Marriage is two whole hearts becoming one. In this detail of the creation story is hidden one of the greatest keys for marriage and relationship. We are designed to love one another from the overflow of our relationship with God. True relationship is not about what we can get from one another, but what we can give to one another.
A wise man once told Melissa and I in our marriage counseling, “You will never meet all of your spouse’s emotional needs in marriage.” I have to be honest that his statement sounded kind of crazy to both of us. We were in our early twenties and so madly in love with each other that we thought our young love could fix any problem. We were both politely nodding our heads as our mentor shared, but we were both thinking, What in the world is marriage for then? We had both assumed that in marriage all of our emotional needs would get met. Our mentor went on to unpack this truth: God’s love is the only thing that can fill the deep places in the heart of every person. If we demand our marriage to meet our every need, we will be greatly disappointed. These words of wisdom have saved us many heartbreaks and have set us up for so much success in our relationship.
Recently I was having a rather rough day. It all came to a head while I was trying my best to be a “good” husband and get dinner ready for my family. I was getting frustrated at the smallest little thing and letting everyone know it through my very passive-aggressive huffs and puffs. It had been a very busy week and I hadn’t taken much time to be alone and center my heart with the Father. Right in the middle of another round of huffs and puffs my beautiful bride gently placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “Babe, I think you need to go take a walk and spend some time with the Lord. I will finish up dinner. Just come back in twenty minutes.” After eighteen years of marriage, I have learned to listen to this wise woman. I wasn’t always so quick to listen, but over the years I’ve learned that God really knew what He was talking about when He said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” My wife can see the blind spots I can’t see about myself, and on this evening she was seeing right through my outer frustration into the deeper need my heart was crying out for. When I returned to the dinner table twenty minutes later, I was a different person. I was filled with the joy and love of the husband and father I was meant to be. I am so thankful that my wife knows me well enough to know when I am running on empty and need to be refilled by the Father.
Love began with a Father choosing us and daring to give everything to save us. He made the greatest sacrifice the world will ever know to prove His love to us. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19, NIV). The beautiful invitation in every relationship is to love others with this love He first gave. The words of Jesus so beautifully sum up this design of overflow: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, NIV).
Prompt: Set aside a block in your schedule this week for a date with your Father. Carve out a time when you can turn off all the distractions and just be with Him. Think of something that you will really enjoy doing with just Him. Don’t let it be a stuffy, religious quiet time, but allow it to be a time filled with joy like Adam and Eve experienced in Eden. Maybe take a long hike or find a quiet place to watch Him paint a sunrise or sunset. Let His peace fill you where there is tension; let His joy kiss the places that have become dull. Pour out your heart to Him and let His presence refill your heart, so you may love others from the overflow of His love. Toward the end of your time with the Lord, take a few moments to pray out loud for the relationships in your life. I have found that when I cultivate time alone praying for my wife, my children and my friends, my love for them increases in incredible ways. As you re-engage your relationships pay attention to how this time with the Father affects the way you respond to your spouse, children and the people around you. Remember, you were made to love from overflow of His love.