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