True Christian marriage is an offer, not a request. ~ Gary Thomas
Today’s “Me First” Culture
Living in a world that focuses on a “Me first” mentality encourages people to vie for power, position, and possessions. Within their homes, even married couples get caught up in the “What’s in it for me” attitude. These mindsets undermine marriages and destroy families.
This form of selfishness can create an emotional and relational disconnect, an isolation. Eventually, the desire to win becomes more important than the people—killing relationships.
The more I learn about sacred marriage, the more I believe many people marry out of selfishness and divorce out of selfishness. In other words, many go into marriage with a “What’s in it for me?” expectation and leave when they don’t think they’ve received what they deserve.
My first post of this Sacred Marriage series considered that we get married for selfish reasons. Years ago, I was no different. Before Andy proposed to me on bended knee at the Children’s Chapel in Rockport, Maine, I considered what I might get from the marriage, rather than weigh out what I had to offer him. Thankfully, my thinking—and heart—has changed.
If we want to make a shift in our marriages, we have to start asking ourselves a different question: Do we focus on what we can receive from our spouse, or what we can offer our spouse?
Gary exposes the truth when he says, “A true Christian marriage proposal is an offer, not a request.”
Rather than say, “Will you do this for me?” the real question should be, “Will you accept what I want to give you?”
Shifting to Servanthood
When Jesus started his ministry near the river Jordan, what was the first thing he did? He served. In the same way Jesus laid down his life for us, we are to lay down our lives for others—starting with our spouse.
Gary writes, “Marriage creates a situation in which our desire to be served and coddled can be replaced with a nobler desire to serve others—even to sacrifice for others.”
True service is performed with the spirit of a willing and loving heart. Looking back, I think of times when I served with—and without—a willing heart. Serving with a heart of desire left me feeling blessed and joyful, while acting from a begrudging heart left me feeling bitter and not very noble or good.
Furthermore, I have learned it is noble and good to allow others to serve us when they offer. Until recently, I had never considered my acceptance of someone else’s service as a form of servanthood. Gary suggests “Service isn’t just washing someone else’s feet; at times it’s letting your own feet be washed.”
Sometimes when Andy offers to massage my back, vacuum the house, or iron the clothes, I reply with, “That’s okay, I’ll do that.”
How many times have I overlooked that receiving what Andy has to give me is also a form of service to him?
Be the One to Serve First
When Andy and I recently exchanged ideas about serving others, he said, “Servanthood is the greatest form of love we can express without using words.”
One year ago, we were blessed to have served on a mission trip in Guatemala. Each day we witnessed how the language of love was expressed through actions, not words. Likewise, we can express our love through acts of service to our spouse.
Acts of service don’t have to be newsworthy grandiose productions; they just have to be genuine and loving. We can start by being our BEST every day of the week by remembering this acronym:
Bless – Honor and Respect
Encourage – Exhort and Inspire
Share – Nourish and Care
Touch – Embrace and Comfort
Here are a few ways we can be our BEST, starting today:
Turn off the phone. Close the email. Disconnect the Internet. Turn off the television. Use this time to be together.
- Be slow to speak and quick to listen
Shakespeare wrote of the “disease of not listening.” Active and intentional listening can immunize our marriages from this malady.
- Do the little things
Women: Shave your legs. Initiate sex. Surprise him by arranging a date. Flirt with him. Surprise him by doing one of his regular chores. Maintain a positive outlook.
Men: Massage her back. Prepare a meal. Engage in conversation. Make eye contact. Remember important dates. Clean her car.
- Ask, “What can I do for you?”
This question alone conveys caring and the desire to lessen their burden.
- Work on projects together
Yard work, spring-cleaning, and home projects are so much more enjoyable when done together.
- Take interest in your spouse’s interests
Support what they like to do.
Women: Go fishing, 4-wheeling, or to the shooting range with him. Men: Go shopping, to the gym, or watch a chic flick with her.
- Take care of them when they’re sick
Nurse them to recovery, whether it is from the flu, surgery, or cancer.
Be an Overflow of God’s Love
Last fall, Andy and I spent a glorious October day visiting local apple farms. As we travelled one particular country road, he pulled into a small gravel parking area alongside Long Pond in Belgrade, Maine.
Puzzled, I asked him what he was doing and he said, “You’ll see.”
He walked toward the trunk and pulled out a cooler filled with all the fixings for a cozy picnic, then proceeded to set the picnic table (table cloth and all). He even brought out a bottle of Riesling and plastic wine glasses.
As we sipped wine and nibbled on melon and berries, he explained that he slinked around the kitchen and packed the cooler while I was in the shower earlier that morning.
He confessed, “I was nervous you’d catch on!”
Sandwiches and fresh fruit never tasted so good!
Last spring, I had plans to nest in the warmth of home on a windy raw day. My idea of a perfect morning was to read in my recliner. I imagined my body heat trapped under my lap quilt as I buried myself into my book. The most exerting thing on my agenda: maybe take a hot bath and then spend part of the afternoon writing.
Andy aimed to spend the day at the outdoor shooting range.
He took inventory of his ammunition while I peered out the kitchen window, taking stock of the bare tree limbs, leaning and swaying in a ruckus.
“Have a good time,” I offered, as I turned away from the cold window.
Then he asked me to go with him.
Ready to resist, I diverted my attention to the dormant mound of clean towels in the dryer. Halfway to the laundry room, my heart changed, and I said, “Ok, I’ll go.”
Isn’t it funny how the times when we least expect to have fun turn out to be the best? And I learned I’m a pretty good shot, too!
Authors Gary and Betsy Ricucci wrote, “Merely being faithful to your spouse is quite a testimony in this society. But as you go beyond that to communicate love for your spouse in a consistent, creative, and uninhibited way, the world can’t help but notice. God will be honored.”
We are learning how selfless servanthood—communicating our love in consistent, creative, and uninhibited ways—is an overflow of God’s love in our hearts.
Servanthood offers a magnificent place where God and a married couple meet.
Would you scroll down the the bottom of the page and comment on this week’s questions?
What are some of the world’s messages that keep men from serving their wives?
What are some of the world’s messages that keep women from serving their husbands?
Next week I’ll highlight Chapter 13, Sacred Presence: How Marriage Can Make Us More Aware of God’s Presence.We have to start asking ourselves a different question: Do we focus on what we can receive from our spouse, or what we can offer our spouse? Click To Tweet We are learning how selfless servanthood is an overflow of God’s love in our hearts. Click To Tweet Servanthood offers a magnificent place where God and a married couple meet. Click To Tweet
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