This is the first post in a five part series on marriage that I’ll be sharing over the next several weeks. For our first post I thought it best to start from the beginning and talk about how people approach the marriage relationship. Most people ponder the day they’ll meet Mr. or Mrs. right at some point while growing up. They imagine the day they’ll walk the isle and their dreams will come true and they’ll have that happily ever after fairy tale story that Disney and so many others have filled our imaginations with. But then they get married and they see just how different it actually is. They wonder then if they chose the wrong person. They ask themselves what went wrong. And sadly, so many decide that they just can’t continue any longer. That’s the bleak reality, and unfortunately, it probably hits home with a lot of those reading this post. Statistically speaking, most people in the United States have experienced divorce either first hand or second hand. I believe that to be the case due to the fact that the view of marriage is all wrong from day one. The faulty view in itself, sets us up for one bumpy ride!
If someone were to ask you why you got married, or wanted to get married, what would you say? The romanticized version would probably be that you fell in love and wanted to spend the rest of your life with that special someone. Am I close? Whatever the response I’m willing to bet that it had something to do with feelings of love and not wanting to be apart from them. We like the way we feel when we are in love and most people don’t like to be alone all of the time. We are relational beings. It’s how God designed us. So it is good to want to be with someone. It is good to want to be loved and valued. We are designed that way too. But neither of those should be the reason for getting married.
Most people begin a marriage with a self-centered point of view. Meaning, they want to get married so that they won’t be alone, or so they can be loved by someone, or so they can feel valued and wanted. Some people may get married because they want kids. Some people get married because it’s an expectation of them by parents or society. In all of these instances, marriage is all about them. Whether we admit it or not, we enter marriage with a “what can I get out of this” mentality. Put two people together with a self seeking approach to marriage and you no longer have to wonder why the divorce rate is so high.
I remember watching my bride walk down the isle on our wedding day thinking, “wow, I can’t believe she is going to be my wife!” Her beauty captivated me and her heart was as big as the sun and warmed my very soul. I was the luckiest man in the world. I’m sure most people felt similar feelings on their wedding day. But I was looking at things all wrong. She is extremely gorgeous and she has an amazing heart, but instead of being enthralled with having her as my wife, I should have been thinking about how awesome of a privilege it was going to be to take care of her for the rest of my life. It’s great to admire her qualities and feel blessed to have her, but I should’ve wanted to marry her because I wanted to help her become everything that God created her to be by encouraging her and serving her. I should’ve wanted to marry her so that I could show her Christ’s love in how I related to her. I would love to say that all of those things were running through my mind when I decided to ask her the big question, but that wouldn’t be honest.
There is nothing selfish about marriage. At least that’s how God intended it. Here are just a few verses that depict that:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Ephesians 5:22-31 (NIV)
The best way for a marriage to thrive is for each person in the relationship to view it as an opportunity to make life easier and better for the other. Instead of looking at our spouse as a means to our end, we need to view ourselves as a vehicle for love and nourishment in their lives. Instead of pondering what we want out of our spouse, we need to think about what they need from us. Getting married is not about your spouse giving themselves to you, it’s about you giving yourself to them. A wife has to die to self in order to submit to the godly leadership of her husband. A husband must die to self to lead through servant hood and sacrifice.
Imagine how families and culture would change around the world if people were making the marriage commitment in order to further the gospel of Christ. Imagine how things would change if people were giving themselves in marriage rather than taking others in marriage. Imagine if the words “I do” meant that I will love and serve you till the end. Imagine if the words “I do” meant that I do lay down my life here and now for you. Imagine if people didn’t get married to fill a perceived need of their own but as an opportunity to fill the needs of another.
For those of us who are already married, it’s never to late to change gears. Even if we didn’t start from a place of selflessness, we can live the rest of our lives that way. That hardest part about all of it is, our spouse may not be selfless too. But, that doesn’t matter. After all, Christ didn’t come to serve us and give his life for us because we were such amazing people who served him. It was quite the opposite. Jesus is our example, our spouse isn’t. And the only way a selfish spouse will ever change is by seeing your selflessness and only if that selflessness is genuine. We can’t serve in order to manipulate our spouse into doing the same. That’s selfishness and deceitfulness. Yikes! We love them because Christ first loved us and because it’s how God designed marriage to be. We want others experience the love of Jesus. Who more than our spouse?
If you’re not yet married, then you have a huge advantage. You get the opportunity to walk into marriage with the right mentality and the right heart. You get to have an even greater impact on your spouse! How cool for you and how unique you’ll be.
Follow up: These are for you to ponder and, if you want, use as a way to start a discussion with your spouse.
1-How am I serving my spouse currently? How could I serve them more.
2-What unfair expectations have I placed on my spouse?
3-Am I seeking fulfillment in any way from my spouse?
4-How can I make life better for my spouse?
5-Am I loving my spouse like Jesus loves me?