How to Fight Selfishness in Marriage

how-to-fight-selfishness-in-marriage

I was doing some homework at breakfast, planning to meet a close friend and mentor the next morning. And I needed to be ready. I love connecting with him, but every time I do, he asks me the same question: “What has God been teaching you lately?”

I don’t always have an answer, and I wanted to prepare a theologically deep and appropriately pithy response. And then, just as my brain was getting into a groove, Erin interrupted me.

“I’m going to Denver next weekend,” she said, “and I was wondering if you’d bring Annie (our 10-year-old daughter) up to meet me so she and I can have a special date. There’s a fun play in town that I know she’d love.”

What? I mentally gasped. That’s, like, almost three hours of driving! Plus it’s on a Sunday … my day of rest. The Broncos are playing a really good team. The nerve of her asking for such a sacrifice. It’s ridiculous!

I didn’t say that to Erin, of course. I simply said, “Really? That would be a pretty long round-trip drive for me, plus the show tickets are really expensive.”

Erin could see she wasn’t going to get much traction with me and dropped her request. No big deal, right? Now I could get back to thinking about my friend’s inevitable question: What has God been trying to teach you lately?

Hmmm, I thought. Not much.

I was still in that same frame of mind on the way to breakfast the following morning and just about to conclude that God wasn’t trying to teach me anything, so tight the two of us were. Things between my heavenly Father and me are going pretty well, I thought. No big lessons for Greg.

And then, at that exact moment, God tapped me on the noggin and reminded me of Erin’ request.

What had God been teaching me lately? I had a clear answer as I slid into the booth for breakfast: He’d been showing me my own selfishness.

Since that morning, God has made me more aware of how my selfishness causes issues in my marriage. And, just in case you might act selfishly on occasion, too, I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned.

First admit — to yourself and your spouse — that you’re selfish. How do you know when you’ve been selfish? Look for the following signs: You’ve ignored your spouse’s feelings and interests and insisted on having your own way. You’ve made demands, not requests. You’ve withheld sex or thrown tantrums if your wishes haven’t been fulfilled.

Remember your spouse’s incredible value. The more you treasure your husband or wife, the more likely you will be to approach him or her selflessly and sacrificially. As Jesus told us, “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Learn to make sacrifices. The ultimate weapon against selfishness is sacrifice, and a happy marriage is often predicated on two people trying to out-serve each other. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it,” we read in Proverbs 3:27.

Ironically, even an act of sacrifice can turn into an act of selfishness. Here’s a personal example:

Erin is a counselor in an office a few minutes away from our house. She often sees clients in the evening, and if she sees a strange car in the office parking lot after the sun goes down, she’ll sometimes be nervous about leaving the building. So Erin will call and ask me to drive over — just to make sure she gets to her car safely.

It makes me feel valued, and that’s a great feeling. But a while ago, I remember a sense of superiority slipping into my thoughts: Look at what a good husband I am. Erin had better remember how I gave up my time for her.

Act in humility. If you need help finding reasons to be humble, follow Dr. Tony Evans’ example: Meet with your spouse every week for an hour to hear where you’ve messed up. Just listen during that time. (If your spouse struggles in this area, too, switch roles.) These types of meetings can train you in the art of humility.

The fight against selfishness means shelving the “me” and stressing the “we.” Make sure that your marriage has room for both of you: Embrace your interdependence — your inherent need and love for each other.

Finally, remember Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NIV).

When we remember that we are indeed God’s chosen — clothed in kindness — a little drive up the highway doesn’t seem like such a big thing, does it?

An article from Focus on the Family

640x480Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author of several books.

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Marriage on Display

Every marriage has an audience. Whether it’s your children, the next generation, church members, nonbelievers, coworkers, or other couples, your marriage is sending a message to those around you.

I heard a pastor this last weekend make a statement that shocked me. He said that a marriage can either convince people that hell really exists, or that God really exists. I literally said, “Oh my gosh” out loud in my truck when I heard it. But after some time of really thinking about it, I believe he’s correct in what he said.

So now for the hard part. If you’re married, what does your marriage put on display to others? Does it show more of the brokenness and hurt in this world? Or does your marriage reveal a God who is loving full of mercy? Does it show the pride and the ‘me-centered’ attitude that originated with Satan himself. Or does it show the sacrificial love that lays one’s life down for others, like Jesus did on the cross of Calvary? Is it full of anger and bitterness or radiating gentleness and forgiveness?

If your marriage story isn’t what it should be, don’t lose heart. God redeems lives and He can redeem marriages. I know you haven’t been perfect. Neither have I. No one has other than Jesus Himself. We will all have good days and bad days. But as a trend, our marriage should speak life and love. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, then our love should be most evident in the one we’ve chosen to join our lives too.

Peace to you and your marriage!

Marriage Series #5: Don’t forget your number one.

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For some reason, when people get married, life together can get muddled very easily. This final post in the five part series takes us deep into just how highly we hold our marriage relationship among the things of life.

Arguably nothing distracts us more from our spouse than having children. All of sudden, there is another little miracle to focus on, and before we know it, we’ve forgotten to focus on an even more important relationship: our marriage. That’s right, your spouse is your priority. Not at the neglect of your children, but because your children need your spouse to be number one.

We are given children to raise, and nurture, and help mold into godly individuals so that they can go out into the world to do the same. In a nut shell, we have kids with the goal to give them away at a later point in their future, and to prepare them for when that day comes. The marriage is way different. We join with a spouse for life. Our goal is never to prepare our spouse to leave one day. That would be crazy! Our goal is to draw more closely together in the union as one. But unfortunately, so many parents neglect their marriage for the cause of their children. They pour their time and effort out and have nothing left for the one that matters most. Don’t get me wrong, I have two little ones and I know the time and energy that it takes to raise kiddos. I also know the special place they hold in my heart. But I had a wife first, and I need to make sure she remembers that she had my heart first.

Children aren’t the only drain on marriage fun. For men especially, work can exhaust even the most hardy individual. Sometimes people fill their lives with work out of necessity. I’m a realist. I get it. I have a career as a teacher, I own a window washing business, and I coach wrestling. My life is full but out of the need to provide for my family. God has been so good to provide each of those opportunities for us. I could easily allow them to drain the life out of me and have nothing left when I get home. But that would be neglect. That would be sinful. Yes, sinful. God paired me with an amazing woman and I owe her my service, my love, and my affection. To deny her any of these is to shortchange the greatest treasure in my life. I will be the first to admit, that I have come up short, more than once. But each day is a new day for me to show her how much she means to me no matter how busy I am.

On the other hand, some people pour their lives out for their careers out of choice, not need. Why? Jobs can be controlled. Jobs are safe. And lets face it, jobs are way easier than relationships. So a lot of people retreat into their work where they can have more success. There’s no other way to put it…this is a cowards way out and it’s pathetic and crushing to a marriage.  Even with that said, it’s not too late to reset your priorities in life and to re-calibrate your heart back to your spouse.

There are many things that can take our eyes off our marriage. Worrying about bills, struggling health, stresses caused by others, etc…Whatever the case may be, it is possible to always have our marriage on high priority. It’s a choice…a constant one. I have a few ideas on how we can make sure we keep our spouse as our number one love (other than Jesus of course).

#1-Continue dating

Make it a point to go out with your spouse. If you have children, make sure you have some dates without those bundles of joy. If you can afford it, try once a month. If you can do more, do more. Dates don’t have to be expensive either. There’s plenty you can do for under $10 or even free. The effort makes the difference.

#2-Never stop adoring your spouse

To adore our spouse is very much a choice. Circumstance can certainly affect us but we get the power to choose whether we stay head over heals for our significant other. Remember how you loved them once. Remember how you never wanted to be apart. Hold on to that. That never has to change, we just allow it to. We should be way more in love with them at the end of life than we were the day we got married.

#3-Remember that they are a gift

I know that this can be hard right after an argument. But you don’t deserve them. They don’t deserve you. Your spouse is a symbol of God’s amazing grace in your life. God created the system of marriage as a way to help one another in carrying out life’s purposes. Don’t forget that or take that for granted.

#4-Don’t forget who your spouse belongs to

God made your spouse. That’s a fact. Treat her like the princess she is. Treat him like the prince he is. Even when they don’t act like it.

#5-Keep the communication lines open

There’s lots of ways to do this. Set specific times to talk. For my wife and I, that mostly happens after 8:30 when the kids are in bed. But we also need to make sure we don’t act on important things without including our spouse. Remember, we are one in marriage and they need to be the one we go to first and most.

#6-Have a lot of fun

My wife and I are best friends. We love to laugh together, be playful, sit by a fire in our backyard, watch movies, and so much more. Marriage is awesome. It’s a never ending sleep over with your best friend.

#7-Be intimate

Guys, this is more than just physical intimacy. Ladies, this is more than just emotional intimacy. To be intimate includes both and so much more. We can’t deny each other our hearts. We need to be playful, and physical, and open with our fears and dreams. We have to share, and share deeply.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine

Song of Songs 6:3

The marriage relationship is so important. That cannot be stressed enough. We cannot treat it like a secondary relationship. We can’t put our spouse on the back burner until our kids are out of the house or we meet that career goal. There are always going to be sacrifices on the part of each person in the marriage, but we can’t afford to sacrifice our marriage, not even a little.

Marriage is amazing. God made it to be amazing. You’re spouse is an absolute treasure. Make sure they know that. Peace to you and your marriage!

Follow Up: Use these questions for your own reflection or to engage in a discussion with the love of your life.

1- How often do you and your spouse go on dates?

2- Are you placing anyone or anything above your spouse (children, work, something else)?

3- Do you make time regularly to have conversations with your spouse about more than just surface level things?

4- Are you physically playful and intimate with your spouse?

5- What are signs that your love and affection for your spouse is growing? Is it growing? How can/do you nurture your affections for them?

Marriage Series #4: This Means War

spiritual-war

I heard once that the marriage relationship is meant to tell the truth about who God is and how He loves. That concept comes from passages like Ephesians 5:25 that states that our love should reflect the way that Jesus loves. There are also several verses that compare the church’s relationship with Jesus as a marriage union where Jesus is referred to as the Bridegroom and the church is the bride (I know that’s weird if you’re a guy). A couple of those verses to check out are Isaiah 61:10 and Matthew 9:15. Also, one day in the future we’ll be invited to a marriage feast with Jesus as the host. In the bible it’s referred to as the marriage supper of the Lamb where the church will be joined with it’s Bridegroom(Jesus). That story is in Revelation 19. Check it out:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Revelation 19:6-10 (ESV) [my emphasis]

How cool is that? If marriage reflects our relationship with Jesus then it must be the most important relationship we have outside of our relationship with Jesus himself. You can be sure that if a marriage carries that weight of importance, then it is going to be opposed. Why do I say that? Because God is opposed and the same one that opposes Him opposes your marriage.

In the last post we talked about how strong a marriage union can be when it includes the third cord who is God. So not only is a marriage meant to reveal qualities of God, it also includes God. Any relationship that He is a part of will be a high priority for the enemy of God. You’re a target! Your spouse is a target! Your family is part of a spiritual hit list that the enemy of God will do anything to bring down and tear apart. That’s the bleak reality, but it doesn’t end there. We’re under assault but from a defeated enemy. Which means, if a marriage has God, then a marriage has the victory already. But it’s not a passive victory. It has to be claimed.

A lot of marriages don’t experience the kind of victory I’m talking about because they don’t join in the fight. They might not even realize there is a fight. They might think they have a fight but that their the opponent is their spouse. It’s not…ever…no matter what the issue is or what they’ve done or said. Your spouse is NOT the problem. And neither are you. Remember what we’ve already talked about. You and your spouse are meant to be one, laced together in a powerful three cord bond with the purpose of serving and loving one another in a sacrificial way. That is marriage and it is beautiful. I know people fail and come up short. I know that sometimes people make a complete wreck of things. But nothing that our spouse does will ever make them the enemy of our marriage. There is another. One who is behind it all. One who wants nothing more than to split you up.

He goes by several names: Satan, the Devil, Prince of the power of the air, ruler of this world, and many more. He is not the fictitious little red man with horns and a pitchfork. He was once the most beautiful angel among the hosts of heavens. Then he lead a revolt against God and he’s been trying to destroy God and those close to Him ever since. He’s been described as both a vicious dragon and an angel of light. Whatever form he takes, and whatever name he goes by, he hates you and he hates your spouse. He hates your marriage. And he has an entire army at his command to engage you in spiritual combat.

His strategies are subtle. It’s the lures of attraction he uses. It could be a career that he wants us to place as priority over our spouse or family. It could be a relationship with someone of the opposite sex that starts innocent enough and spirals into a full affair. It could be pride that causes us to refuse to say I’m sorry or meet our spouse half way. It may be control that propels us into demanding our own way. It could be selfishness so that we seek what we can get out of our spouse rather than what we can do for them. It could be busyness which takes us away from our spouse and then the silence creeps in and intimacy fades. It could even be the delusion that we need to change our spouse and that’s why God gave them to us. His strategies are the harsh words spoken in the heat of an argument. He loves both the silent treatments and verbal abuse. He loves for either spouses to not be physically intimate and he loves physical abuse. Satan isn’t just a bully. He is the full embodiment of evil and there is no tactic below him. Napoleon wasn’t the originator of the strategy of divide and conquer. Where do you think he got it from. Satan wants to drive the wedge between us and our spouse, in any way that can be achieved.

So much of our energies are wasted. We have all the weapons at our disposal, and we all need to fight this battle, but rarely do we. We need to be praying over our spouses, every day. We need to be very choosy about what we allow into our relationship, meaning the movies, music, and other extracurricular activities. We need to serve our spouses more. We need to lay our lives down in sacrificial love towards them. They need to experience grace from us. They need to know that we love them no matter what. We need to engage them in deep and meaningful conversations. We have to be an open book. The marriage home can afford no closed doors, no ridicule, no shaming, no exclusion. You and your spouse are one, glued together by God himself. You have to keep the glue in the relationship.

I love the movie titled the “Ghost and the Darkness.” It came out back in 1996 with costars Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. The movie is all about these two lions in Africa who are terrorizing this railroad building project. They strike at night, killing workers in their tents or who have wondered off from the camp. It’s a pretty intense movie and few scenes are more intense then a dream sequence that Val Kilmer has while nearing the end of the bridge construction.  In the dream, Val is getting the opportunity to see his wife, and newly born child, who he’s been away from for months. Picture the scene. Val is in the middle of a large crowd as they work laying the rail lines. In the distance, Val sees his wife and child on the rail platform having just arrived. Val is ecstatic. He begins making is way towards his family when all of a sudden something catches his eye. As Val scans the tall grass that surrounds the platform, he spots a tail waving just above the golden tips of the grass. He begins to hasten even quicker but it is extremely difficult to make his way through the crowds. He shouts for his wife to go back into the train depot but the noise from the workers drown him out. The next moment is heart stopping. In a matter of seconds, the massive lion darts from his cover and lunges for Val’s wife and child. At that moment he is startled awake. Intense right? Well, satan is that lion, waiting in the tall grace, ready to devour your family. He’s waiting for his opening.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We can’t afford to ignore that he’s there. The cost is far more than any of us can bear. Don’t let this cause you to freeze in fear of what he may do to your marriage. Use this as a means to understand what stands against you. The best way to defeat your enemy is to know his strategy. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of Nazi Germany wrote a book on strategies in warfare in 1937. Unfortunately for him, American commander General George Patton, read the book and used his strategies against him during the course of World War II. The same applies for our marriage. We know his tactics. And more than that, we are armed with the greatest firepower in the world in order to defeat him. Imagine if Val Kilmer had a machine gun and couldn’t mowed that lion down to protect his family, but then chose not to use it. That’s the equivalent of us choosing not to partner with God by including him in all our decision and using the power of prayer for our spouses and children. And lets not forget ourselves in this equation. We definitely need to be covering ourselves in prayer and spending our days devoted to loving and serving God. Nothing disarms our enemy more than a heart poured out for the Lord.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ESV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

Ephesians 6:10-18 (ESV)

Follow Up: Use these questions as reflection or a discussion between you and your spouse. God bless my brother’s and sisters!

1- Have you ever viewed your spouse as the enemy? If so, take the opportunity to ask them for forgiveness.

2- How are you actively fighting for your marriage?

3- In what ways does your marriage reflect Christ’s love for His church?

4- What is one new thing, or renewed thing, that you can do regularly to fight for your spouse (and kids if you have them)?

5- What ways has the enemy of your marriage subtly tried to drive wedges in your relationship? I suggest committing to praying over these areas with urgency and consistency.

Marriage Series #3: The Glue

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In part two of this series I wrote about two people joining together to become one new person. In this post we will look at what keeps the two together as one. Whenever you place two objects together you have to have some kind of adhesive to make sure they stay together. We aren’t talking about Velcro, tape, or superglue though. In order to keep two people together as one, we need something far more powerful.

Have you ever tried fastening two objects together with the wrong substance? You’d never use duct tape for water pipes. Or wood glue for metal parts. You wouldn’t try to solder two plastic items together. Only the right adhesive will work. Use the wrong stuff and over time the objects will fall apart. Sometimes this happens quickly, but others, over a long period of time. When binding two people together, its no different.

So what is the correct way to bond the married couple as one? Most mainstream magazines would argue that it’s love. This, of course, depends on what definition of love you’re talking about. The so called emotion of love is an awful binding agent. Feelings come and go as we all know. Unfortunately this is the definition of love that most in the world operate with. That’s why we hear people say that they “fell out of love” and that’s why they are separating. What they are really saying is that the warm and fuzzy emotions aren’t there any more and they want to go search for them in someone or something else.

Another response that some might give to what keeps people together is commitment. But that warrants the question: commitment to what? I’ve known people that have stayed ‘together’ for decades but their marriage was a wreck and they simply lived together and tolerated one another. I’ve also seen people so committed to their spouse that they change to become whatever their spouse wants them to be, even if that is so far from who God called them to be. Does that sound like God’s design? Not even close.

Love and commitment are huge! Bigger than huge! I don’t even know what word would adequately depict just how huge they are. But they have to be centered on the right thing. We must be committed, not to the institution of marriage, but to the ones involved in the  marriage. Before you think that I can’t do math or that I put a typo in there. The ‘ones’ that I’m referring to are your spouse and the third person in the covenant relation: God. We also have to love both our spouse and God but not in the way that the world generally defines love (more on that further down).

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV) [my emphasis]

This passage obviously speaks about more than just a marriage but it is also meant to explain a covenant relationship between two people and the third strand: God. Whenever two people enter into a marriage they aren’t just making vows to each other, but also to God. A married couple becomes a threefold cord which are three parts laced together to make stronger. It’s not three parts side by side taped together. The three parts are literally overlapping and intertwined. In other words, they are meant to be inseparable. Take one strand out of the cord and it quickly unravels.

Many couples around the world view their marriage as a union of two people. God is often discarded, or not even recognized from the beginning. If that is the case, then it’s not a marriage according to God’s original design. God included himself in the equation and we cannot afford to write Him out. He is the adhesive. He is the ultimate superglue that binds us to our spouse.

He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV) [my emphasis]

God joined you to your spouse, therefore He holds you together. We have to be committed to Him, and His commands, and His guidance. We serve Him and love Him first, and from that comes our love and service to our spouse. It’s in the pursuit of God that our marriage is enriched and our love becomes genuine. It’s in the pursuit of God that our lives are changed so that we can be the person that our spouse deserves. What does that look like? We need to go to God before we go to our spouse. We should be praying before we bring things to our spouse. We should be self reflecting through time with God before we dare to point a finger of blame. We need to make sure we are treating our spouse like they are a child and treasure of God. We need to speak to and treat our spouse like we would speak to or treat God himself. We need to be faithful to our spouse like we would be faithful to God. We need to be spending time with God in prayer and bible study with our spouse.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Most people have seen this passage quoted. A lot of people even put it on marriage invitations or wedding glasses or fancy signs to hang in their homes. But how often does our love for our spouse really reflect the words in these verses? There is nothing in here about warm and fuzzy emotions. Love is the way we choose to treat our spouse. Love is a way of life. Love is selfless and giving. Love focuses on others and how we can benefit them. A marriage full of this love, which is only possible through a life lived through and for God, will hold together. This isn’t worldly love. This is Christian love. This is God infused and Holy Spirit empowered love. If we want to love our spouse as we should then we need the third part of the threefold cord. When we do, our marriage will be strong and it will endure.

Follow Up: Use these questions for your own self reflection or to have a deep discussion with your beloved.

1- What do you do with your spouse that includes God and is about God? (i.e. prayer, bible study, worship, serving others, etc…)

2- Do you ever pray before bringing something up to your spouse or while in the middle of a disagreement?

3- How often have you covered your spouse in prayer?

4- Do you view your spouse as a child and treasure of God?

5- Does your approach to loving your spouse reflect the words in 1 Corinthians 13? What areas do you need the Lord to change you in order to love them better?

Marriage Series #2: One not Two

two-become-one

This is the second post in a five part series on marriage. In the last post I talked about how we need to view our purpose in getting married. This post is more focused on what happens to people when they do “tie the knot” as the old adage goes.

I think that a lot of conflict in marriage results from having a two person mentality. What I mean by that is that we still view a marriage as two people in a relationship with one another. Isn’t that what it is? Not exactly. I’m going to try and use a rough illustration so bear with me please. Lets pretend that the lovely couple getting married are two companies (weird I know). Many people look at marriage as though the two companies are signing a contract to work together on a joint venture. Contracts are mutual agreements and if one party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, the contract is off. Two companies that write up contracts to work together remain two companies with separate identities. However, marriage isn’t meant to work like that. God designed marriage to be a merger. In a business merger, two companies see the advantage to joining forces and instead of signing a contract, they unite into one new company. Usually one company will take on the name of the other. I think you probably see the parallel I’m trying to draw.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 (NIV) [my emphasis]

I know, I know, many people have taken this to mean that husbands and wives are to consummate their union through physical means. I’m not about to argue that it doesn’t mean that. I’m just saying that, like with the rest of scripture, there is far deeper implications than the surface level. When you get married, you are uniting with your spouse into one new entity just as the merging companies did in the illustration. As a result, you and your spouse are now meant to be joined in purpose and direction. Imagine if two merging companies decided on a different purpose and direction and pursued them. The new company would disintegrate pretty rapidly. There would be plenty of internal squabbling and unrest until they finally reached the point of “irreconcilable differences.” On the other hand, merged companies with a united purpose and direction will operate much more smoothly and be able to resolve differences in order to achieve the desired outcome.

This is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, mainly because you are still you when you get married and your spouse is still your spouse. You don’t actually become one person physically. To operate as one, while not physically being one, is the essence of the marriage union. Success in this area requires extreme intimacy and openness. When communication breaks down, so does the system. There also has to be a high level of servant hood on the part of both members. A unique challenge to marriage is that two people, with two sets of dreams, two sets of talents, and two backgrounds, are now trying to coexist as one.  To overcome this challenge each person needs to commit to forming a new dream that they can help one another in achieving together. Each person also has to use their talents to compliment the other’s. That means we have to admit we aren’t perfect and the strengths of our spouse can help us overcome in areas of weakness. Each person should also commit to the new life they have begun together and only draw off of background experiences that can nourish their relationship. All of that is far easier said than done, I know.

Some may fail at this because they want to be the bigger company that their spouse is merging into. They place demands and expectations on their loved one rather than seeking to meet them half way. They place priority on their dreams, refusing to change course, while not even stopping to think if its God’s design for their life or consulting their spouse. They continue pursuing a life with, yet separate from, their partner. Over time their lives drift in different directions and resentment bubbles under the surface.

When we get married we have to realize that our spouse becomes as much of us as we are of ourselves. I hope that made sense. We have to embrace an entirely new outlook on our future because it is now inextricably linked with another. Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When two people get married, they become one new house, one new person, with a direction that is meant to be unified. A couple that is joined in purpose and direction can endure, even the most difficult of times.

No matter where you are in your relationship, Jesus can be the captain of your course correction. He is our healer so there is no marriage that is too fractured. Jesus also has to be the unified vision of our marriage. Pursuing Him brings us together in a real and very spiritually deep way (More on that in a later post). If you’re not married, this is a great time to consider what it will mean for you if you make that commitment some day in the future. You’ll be saying goodbye to yourself and hello to the new you that is joined with the love of you life. That’s pretty awesome.

Follow Up: These are great things to ponder on your own or use to talk with your loved one. Blessings!

1- Have you been pursuing your own dreams, possibly at the expense of your spouse?

2- Do you have a unified vision as a couple that you help one another to reach?

3- Is your ‘house’ divided in any way? If so, what part can you take to bring unity?

4- What talents does your spouse have that compliments you and helps the marriage to thrive? What do you bring to the table?

5- Are you pursuing Jesus as a couple?

Marriage Series #1: I married you why?

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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?