Sacred Marriage: Confronting our Selfishness

We begin our seven-week series on Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas with Chapters 1 and 2. Today, I have chosen to write about expectations and selfishness. Feel free to comment on any aspect of the material.


“Why did you get married?” Andy asked the other couples in our living room.

“To be happy,” one friend said.

“To have children.”

One of the men exclaimed, “Because she was hot!” His wife blushed pink and we chuckled.

Our conversation recovered and revealed some personal discoveries about expectations. Is it possible that motivations for marriage could be selfish?

In his book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes:

A wedding calls us to our highest and best—in fact, to almost impossible—ideals. It’s the way we want to live. A marriage reminds us of the daily reality of living as sinful human beings in a radically broken world.

Andy and I were at our best on our wedding day and expected the best. Months after the honeymoon, the reality of life—blended family challenges, scheduling conflicts and differing opinions—shrouded our dreams. Those impossible ideals—or expectations—seeped to the surface and threatened to take over.

In a sermon series at our church on expectations, our pastor proposed that as married people, we may expect too much from our spouses and our marriage.

The word expectation means to consider something probable or definite. It demands things to be a certain way. How long before this attitude morphs to a higher concern for self—at the expense of our spouse?

I am guilty on those pre-dawn mornings when I tiptoe through darkened shadows of our bedroom, toward my slumbering spouse. I lean in to kiss the curve of his bare shoulder and whisper of the day’s beginning. “I’m heading down to exercise. You coming?”

He rolls toward me, exhausts a long breath and says he’s staying in bed a bit longer. Would I wake him up at 6 o’clock?

During those solo treadmill workouts, I stew. My feet hammer firmer and faster; my arms flail. I fester over his repeated refusals.

Because I didn’t exhaust my frustration during the workout, my words take off where my thrashing arms left off. I met him in the bathroom before he entered the shower. “I feed the dogs, exercise, make breakfast AND do a load of laundry before your feet touch the floor.”

“We have to look at our disappointments, own our own ugly attitudes, and confront our selfishness.” – Gary Thomas

(Gut punch.)

In Andy’s defense: he prefers evenings as much as I love mornings. He never complains when my 8 p.m. yawns signal the end of my day, even though he still has a lot of his day left in him.

As Sacred Marriage calls me to tackle my expectations and confront my selfishness, I think of Henri Nouwen. A Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, Henri published over 39 books. In The Return of the Prodigal Son, he wrote:

The leap of faith always means loving without expecting to be loved in return, giving without wanting to receive, inviting without hoping to be invited, holding without asking to be held. And every time I make a little leap, I catch a glimpse of the One who runs out to me and invites me into his joy, the joy in which I can find not only myself, but also my brothers and sisters.

I’m learning marriage has a sacred purpose: to make us holy as we make little leaps of sacrifice and catch a glimpse of the One who invites us into his joy. Through marriage, God shapes me more into the image of Jesus.

I ask for Andy’s forgiveness for my selfishness.

“We can use the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations of marriage to draw closer to God and to grow in Christian character.” – Gary Thomas

As I draw closer to God, I love my husband more.

A few weeks ago when I was working out on our elliptical in the basement, I heard the tap-tap of Andy’s shoes descending the wooden stairs. He wore sleepy eyes and sweatpants.

I asked him what changed his mind.

He said, “When I was a teenager, my grandfather would tell me, ‘When you get married, you give and give. Then, you give some more.’ Invariably, Granddad warned, ‘if you go into it (marriage) thinking about what you’re going to get out of it, you might want to forget it.’”

He kissed me, handed me my water and stepped onto the treadmill.


Would you answer a question by leaving a comment?

What are your thoughts about Gary’s idea that God designed marriage to make us holy?


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As I draw closer to God, I love my husband more. Click To Tweet Through marriage, God shapes me more into the image of Jesus. Click To Tweet When you get married, you give and give. Then you give some more. Click To Tweet


Next week we’ll discuss Chapters 3 and 4.  Join me when we’ll talk about learning to love.


Read more:

Sacred Marriage Series: An Invitation


Check out Sacred Marriage Session 1 video



  • 7 years ago

    I hadn’t thought about this concept until today. It’s true that if we shift the focus from us to our spouse we become less selfish and selfcentered. As I have grown closer to God , he has transformed how I interact with my spouse, changing it to be a more loving, humble manner. This then spills over into other relationships leading us to be more “like Jesus with skin on”. Marriage isn’t a score card of who has done more or less ; which I think we forget when we get caught up in our agendas vs taking the time to pause and view the whole picture. Praising God for becoming my filter so I don’t need to wear those rose colored glasses.
    Thank you for sharing this blog with me. I look forward to next week’s post. My book arrived late yesterday.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      7 years ago

      Lou, I love what you wrote: “Praising God for becoming my filter so I don’t need to wear those rose-colored glasses.” He is our lens through which to see everything. You make me smile. :)))

      Glad your book arrived.
      There is so much more in it than what I will cover through my highlights, but I am sure other aspects of the book will emerge through our conversations.

      I love what Gary writes: “I need to learn to love with God’s love instead of just trying harder.”
      Thanks for coming along.

  • 7 years ago

    Oh, Sharon, after one of the hardest weekends with my husband (of 22 years), I traded Sunday night’s tear-soaked pillow for Monday morning with God’s Word. And boy-howdy, the conviction of praising Him in everything, although it seemed nonsensical at first, turned out to be a huge heart-changer. I changed my sad and bitterattitude toward my husband into a focus on Christ as I recognized and remembered and relearned who I am in Him.

    For each thing I felt I wasn’t getting in my marriage, I praised God: for His forever love, for His guidance, for His strength, for His grace, for His mercy, for His leadership. After all these years I knew for certain that even if (and especially when) I’m not offered these things from my husband, my Father God fills the gaps. And it’d be a good idea for me to let Him continue doing it!

    As a result, I was able to have a couple of conversations with my husband over the last two evenings. From my collection of marital guidance books, he agreed to read through “Keep Your Love On!” by Danny Silk. It’s a start.

    Thanks so much for doing this series. (And for asking the questions to prod me along even if I’m not reading the book right now.)


    OH! To answer your question, yes, we are called to be holy – even when it seems our marriage might be going downhill. We are responsible for (and accountable to God) our actions, thoughts, and words. For ours. I feel a shift when I focus on my heart and attitude. It’s not up to me to change my husband, it’s up to me to let God change me.

    • Sharon A Gibbs
      7 years ago


      First, I want to embrace you for your raw honesty (((hugs))). What a beautiful example you are—a real person sharing real life.

      This quote in Gary’s book stood out to me. “[Marriage] is the merciless revealer, the great white searchlight on the darkest places of human nature.” – Katherine Anne Porter

      We all have dark places that need light.

      As I go deeper into Sacred Marriage, I learn that marriage is a ministry—one of the most challenging ones we’ll face. It’s critical to look at our disappointments, our own ugly attitudes, and confront our selfishness. When we clean away what darkens our light, we can become the light that shines the brightest. By looking at ourselves first, and turning to God to remember who we are in Him, everything changes. I think you’re on your way, Friend.

      I’ve had my share of gut punches as I relearn marriage relationship skills—over and over again. It requires an intentional daily practice to maintain the heart needed to have a Jesus-focused marriage.

      Further, when we realize that our spouse is not just our spouse, but also God’s child, we can learn to treat them accordingly. Imagine—God is our father-in-law! It has changed how I view my husband.

      Congratulations for 22 years of marriage, Darlene.

      Thank you for sharing Danny Silk’s book, Keep Your Love On. I had to check it out, and it may be one of my next purchases.

      Also, I appreciate you taking the time to follow and comment on this important issue. I look forward to hearing more of your wisdom.

      With love, S

      • 7 years ago

        Thank you, Sharon. I’m amazed (& very thankful) for how God wove our pasts together and brought us to this place – where you are helping to fill a gap (of a godly role model woman) that I’ve so needed.

        May God bless you as you shine His light.

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