I gave you a promise in my last post. I promised you that you could have the marriage you always dreamed of – no even better than that – without having to divorce and remarry someone “nicer.”
This promise is contingent on one thing.
It’s not contingent on your spouse being a Christian. It’s not contingent on your spouse changing. It’s not contingent on finances getting better. It is solely contingent on you. If I promise you that my chili recipe is the best you’ve ever tasted, how will you know unless you taste it. I can promise it and you can lean over and smell the pot, but unless you are willing to taste it, my promise won’t work.
You must do this.
A couple may be two people, but a happy marriage starts with one. Only one of you needs to decide to give this your all—to lay down your rights and privileges and give up your desires.
Listen, I know that sounds sucky. I’m aware. It didn’t sound easy or pleasant to me when I read it either. But, be realistic with me here. How’s it working out for you the other way? Are you getting somewhere in the cage? When you score a blow to nose and see blood, do you feel peaceful inside? Do you think one day it will suddenly get better and look like your parents marriage just because? If so, you think wrong.
There is a recipe for making the best chili. The recipe calls for certain ingredients that can’t be left out if you still want to call the dish “chili.” There are ingredients in a successful, peace-filled, satisfying, delightful, fun marriage.
The first one is self-sacrifice.
It’s the meat in this chili.
It’s humiliating, I’m not going to lie. To get down on all fours in the middle of the cage fight, in front of all those people, and scuffle your big hips through the tiny trap door in the corner is embarrassing. It looks to the crowd like you’re quitting. And, in a way, you are quitting. You’re quitting the pointlessness of trying to throw a kidney punch at your own kidney.
If marriage makes us one flesh, the stupidest thing we can do is fight with each other. But Satan makes stupid look smart. He makes it look important. He makes it look like the only option. Satan is like Nelson in the Simpsons. He’s a bully. He grabs you from behind and punches you in the face with your own fist while chanting, “Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”
And you are listening to him! If Bart and Lisa followed Nelson around, despite his constant bullying, we’d watch them and say, “This can’t turn out good for them.” But we’re doing that very same thing in our marriages. We’re following the enemy. We’re listening to him. And he’s beating the snot out of us with our own fist.
So let’s be practical. What does it look like. First, some Bible verses:
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
Here are five different versions of Romans 12:10. I couldn’t pick one they were all so good!
New Living Translation
Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
English Standard Version
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
New American Standard Bible
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
King James Bible
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Holman Christian Standard Bible
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
International Standard Version
Be devoted to each other with mutual affection. Excel at showing respect for each other.
prefer one another
These next verses are life-changing:
Ephesians 5:22-30 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
How ’bout the Love Chapter that someone read or sang at your wedding:
I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
We can read these verses over and over and over and over but until we put them into genuine, practical use, they are meaningless.
If I love my husband so much I would die for him, will I be mad at him for not getting me flowers on Valentines day? If you love your wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, will you call her a Bitch next time she offends you? Nuh uh. Whoa! We’re getting real now and breaking out the B word. I’m just going to assume that if you are here reading these words, you might be at the point in your marriage that swearing at each other during fights is the least of your worries.
So, to keep this reasonably succinct, here’s your homework.
PREFER you spouse.
Every single time you want something this week, put your spouse first. Cook their favorite food. Rub their back or their feet at the end of the day. Watch their favorite T.V. show, even if it isn’t a very Christlike show. You husband or wife can feel your judgement. He wants to watch “It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia” and you give him that pained look that lets him know he’ll never live up to your Christian standards. He feels like less in your eyes. He doesn’t feel respected. “Well,” you say, “he doesn’t deserve my respect.”
Likewise, husbands, perhaps you’re wife isn’t very respectful. Perhaps it’s you reading this blog and not her. It’s you who wants to have a best friend and you aren’t sure how that B word could ever be one. You must love her despite all her flaws. “Husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” You know, we weren’t the “church” before He died for us. He gave Himself for us “while we were yet sinners.”
One of my favorite books of the Bible is Hosea. God tells Hosea to go marry a prostitute as an object lesson for all of Israel. Hosea obeys. He marries Gomer (a horrible wife with a horrible name). They have three children together. It takes a long time to have three children with someone. Gomer was his wife of many years. After each child was born, Gomer couldn’t take the heat of being a wife and mother and she’d leave Hosea and go back to prostituting. Each time, God told Hosea to go buy her back. He kept having to use their funds (which I’m sure were minimal being that he was a prophet and that can’t be a high paying job) and go buy her back.
I know you don’t have it as bad as Hosea did. I know your wife ain’t easy, but she’s gotta be better than Gomer. And, just like Hosea, God is making you an object lesson to your children and to your friends and family. If you can love, truly sacrificially love, the woman you committed to love, she will become lovable. God promises this to you. By the way, Hosea’s name means “salvation.” Salvation can only be obtained through sacrifice. But you knew that.
God commands wives to respect their husbands despite their husband’s sinfulness. God commands husbands to love their wives to the point of dying for them. This is where I add a disclaimer: I’m not equipped to counsel extreme situations. If your husband wants you to watch porn with him, that is not ok. That is not what I mean. There are lines that can’t be crossed, even in love. If you’re not safe or your kids aren’t safe or your wife is a bank robber, you should find some professional help. As for the rest of you, LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.
If you won’t (or can’t) do this homework, I have little hope for you.
This is the meat in the chili. Meatless chili is just beans. Beans is not much substance. The discipline of denying yourself is the substance of a healthy marriage.
This is where I started—where the book “Created To Be His Help-Meet” told me to start. For several weeks, I treated Ron like a king. I oohed and ahhed at him. I put him just below Jesus. I rubbed his feet almost every night and the man LOVED it. I told him how much I respected him and I started noticing all the things he did that were definitely worthy of my respect.
He started to warm up like butter in my hands. He felt so loved by me it invigorated him. He felt so respected by me as I listened to how he wanted things to be done (and did them his way) that he started loving me and wanting to do things my way because he just loved me so much. That’s how it works. God’s wisdom is foolishness to man.
It feels like I’m asking you to be doormat. You’re just sure that if you do what I’m asking, that already in-grateful spouse of yours will just find more ways to take advantage of you. Nope. It’s bizarre. I promise. It will work. Love your spouse for Jesus and because of Jesus and You will win a soulmate and companion that will blossom under your love and will surprise you with each passing day.