Securing a 'Beyond Me' Marriage
- Monday, August 04, 2008
I once heard someone say that if husbands and wives woke up each morning and asked themselves what they could do to bless their spouse that day, marriage counselors would soon be out of business. That may not be good job-security news for marriage counselors, but it would be great news for remedying the skyrocketing divorce rate—which, sadly, is about the same within the church as it is in the world.
How can that be? How can two people who claim to love God and who name Jesus as Savior and Lord decide to ignore the scriptural commands regarding marriage? The Bible is clear that apart from specific, limited instances, divorce is not an option. And yet, is it possible that we who claim to believe the Bible actually believe the world instead?
I say this with no condemnation, since many have experienced the tragedy and devastation of divorce, sometimes through no fault or choice of their own. It is also true that there is forgiveness and restoration for those who seek it. But why does it happen in the first place?
I believe one of the primary reasons is that many of us as believers have bought into the cultural lie that “it’s all about us.” After all, that message is proclaimed on every street corner! My husband and I were recently in a hotel in Orlando, where we walked past the gift shop and saw in the window some Betty Boop memorabilia. One bright pink tray especially caught our attention, as it bore a picture of the cartoon diva and the words “It’s all about me.”
I suppose if we, like Betty Boop, are satisfied with being one-dimensional cartoon characters, that motto might work for us. But if we want to be three-dimensional, real-life followers of Jesus who make a difference in the world—including in our marriages and families—then we need to toss out that sort of thinking and never pick it up again.
“About me” thinking is one of the most dangerous traps anyone can fall into—and we do it so easily. In fact, apart from sold-out, committed lives to God, with hearts that are tuned and attentive to the whispers of the Holy Spirit inside us, there really is no other way we can be. Even as Christians, we find it a lifelong struggle to overcome such self-centered thinking, and there is nowhere we exhibit that tendency more quickly and regularly than within the most important human relationship of all—marriage. As a result, when tough times or temptations come along, “about me” thinking often runs roughshod over biblical admonitions.
So how do we make the switch from “about me” thinking to “beyond me” thinking, the Christ-honoring thinking that says “You first” to God and then to our spouse and others? One of the key points is to better understand the term “submission.”
Uh oh. Several of you—particularly women—just felt the hair on the back of your neck rise, didn’t you? But as surely as Ephesians 5:22 tells wives to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” the prior verse instructs both men and women to submit “to one another in the fear of God.” This is nothing more than a teaching on humility and servanthood, on committing to a “beyond me” existence, characterized by living a “you-first life in a me-first world.” True, this is no easy undertaking—in fact, apart from Christ, it is impossible—but if diligently and regularly practiced by both spouses, it can divorce-proof a marriage.
The key, as I said, is to better understand the term “submission.” Others cannot compel us to submit. Through force or coercion, they may be able to “subject” us to their will, but subjection and submission are two different things. The reason someone else cannot force us to submit is because submission is an act of the will—a choice we make because we want to. And when we understand that a vital component of the word submission means “to come underneath in a safe place,” suddenly we’re a lot more willing to submit, aren’t we?
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