Delighted In

Posted on May 25, 2020


“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zeph. 3:17

The majority of my clients are fellow Christians who sought out a Christian therapist because their faith is an important part of their lives.  Between my role as a therapist and decades of serving in Christian ministries, I have heard many stories of how people have come to faith.  One of the things I listen for is if there was a time at which you actually had the experience of being delighted in, just as you are, in all of your imperfection.  I have long maintained that we don’t experience real transformation until we reach a place of recognizing that we are loved and accepted just as we are whether we get any better or not.

This is a difficult concept, particularly if you did not experience being delighted in as a child.  It is hard to not let your experience of your earthly father color your experience of your heavenly father.  If the message you got from Dad was that you were never measuring up to expectations, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that God feels the same way about you.  Even if you had a conversion experience where you felt loved and accepted in as is condition, the old feeling that you need to measure up and that you don’t can still sneak in.

None of knows what heaven will be like, but we will be in the presence of infinite love, goodness, kindness, mercy, grace, forgiveness.  We will see face to face, know and be completely known.

That’s not what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about marriage.

Marriage, when it works well, is that foretaste of heaven.  It is the human relationship that most lends itself to knowing and being fully known, that is, intimacy.

What do we owe each other in marriage?  If you have a complementarian view of marriage, the husband owes the wife love and the wife owes the husband respect.  If you have a egalitarian view of marriage, you both owe each other both of those things.  This love that we are talking about is agape in the original Greek.  This is a self-sacrificing love for the benefit of the one being loved.  We are supposed to love each other like Christ loved the church.  It’s a tall order, and you absolutely will fall short.  But that is our goal.  Just because we can’t get all the way there, doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying.

Prior to (and including) the marriage, you each had experiences in close relationship (starting with your parents) that impact how you attach in close relationships.  We enter these relationships with two basic questions: 1) Am I loveable? 2) Are you safe for me?  If you answer both these questions, “yes,” you experience secure attachment which is a wonderful thing.  If you answer either or both questions, “no,” it can adversely impact your close relationships.  Generally, you either become anxious in close relationship (watching for signs that your partner is pulling away) or you avoid intimacy (keeping your mate at an emotional arm’s length).  Or both.

In therapy, if either or both of the partners is experiencing something other than a secure attachment style, we want to create a corrective experience such that that partner can experience themselves as loved as they are and their partner as safe.  If either partner has a secure attachment style, this is easier to accomplish than if they are both coping with attachment styles that aren’t secure.  When you are secure that you are loveable and that others are capable of being a safe place for your heart, it is much easier to not make your mate’s distress about you.  Empathy comes more naturally.  An anxious partner can relax and an avoidant partner can come close.

That loops us back around to making your mate feel that they are delighted in.  Your mission, in loving your partner the way Christ loved the church, is to make sure that your mate feels delighted in.  You want your partner to experience moment by moment, day by day, that you are just delighted that this is the person you married.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries or express your needs in constructive ways.  It does mean avoiding criticism and (God forbid) contempt.  It means acting with kindness.  It means speaking with a loving tone.

This stuff isn’t easy to fake.  It helps if you really do delight in your spouse.  You can actually learn to do this by the way you talk to yourself about your partner.  You can focus on the annoying things about your partner (there are plenty there to choose from – just like there are with you), or you can remind yourself of the things that are wonderful about your partner.  If you are having trouble getting there, it may be something to not only address in your thought life, but in your spiritual life.

Loving your partner is the gig you signed up for.  Having your partner feel that you think they are great is part of loving your partner.  Give your partner that foretaste of heaven and have faith that it will come back to you.

One last little side benefit of doing this…you may find yourself delighting in your partner.  It’s wonderful to be married to someone in whom you delight.