Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Being a better spouse

Have you ever noticed the abundance of pop psychology books and self-help tomes on marriage that all seem to focus on getting what you want from marriage rather than supplying what your spouse wants and needs? Does it never occur to these people that the human soul is most satisfied when it is serving others, not manipulating them for its own purpose? But I guess a self-centric view of marriage is to be expected in this “it’s all about me” society.

My personal experience has been, and scripture confirms its truth, that marriage is about selflessly giving, not selfishly getting. This makes sense when you think about the fact that the church is spoken of as Christ’s bride. He selflessly gave his life as the leader of his family (the called out, or ekklesia) in order to provoke us to love him in return.

Our love for Christ translates to selfless service, just as our love for our spouses should do the same. But it is willing service, not service by compulsion or the result of conniving or prowess. Never once did Jesus coerce or manipulate his disciples to follow Him. Neither should spouses coerce or manipulate each other. The Son of God, our model character study for our time here on Earth, acted humbly with the intent of creating a desire on our part to follow Him. Shouldn’t it be that way with our marriages?

As we make our character more like what He wants (think about the fruits of the Spirit), it’s self-evident that we become more pleasing to Him. But it’s not a one-way street where we are the ones carrying the burden of the relationship. We certainly don’t have the right to feel resentful for our service toward Him, and neither should we feel that way toward our spouse. We serve both because we have their interests at heart, not our own.

Jesus Christ has the right to say “Come on here, I went through all that on the cross, and this is what I get in return?” And yet He doesn’t. He is longsuffering, not willing that any of his disciples should perish. He keeps adding meaning to the relationship, even when we don’t deserve it--as if we ever did!

As we become more like the Master, we ought to become more and more in awe of our relationship with the Son of God. How could He love us that much? Why is He so patient with our faults? And so the relationship takes on newer and deeper meaning over the years, bringing to life the words of the old song “Sweeter As the Years Go By.” Shouldn’t it be that way with our marriages?

This is why I think marriage was intended by God to be a little slice of Heaven. The apostle John emphasizes repeatedly that God is love. God created and blessed marriage between men and women whether they acknowledge Him in their lives or not. Of course, the more they acknowledge Him, the more blessed the marriage will be. But men and women who learn in some measure to selflessly love their spouses have learned by that same measure something about the God that created them with that awesome capacity for love.

And don’t think that love won’t be returned in far greater measure.

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