First, disclaimers. This is a simple post on how to have a happy marriage. It is not about culture wars, it is not about gender roles, it is not about finger-pointing or blame. I have a happy marriage. My wife and I just celebrated our 11th anniversary. I have one secret. Here it is. Enjoy.
Recently I encountered one of the best articles I’ve ever read about how to have a happy marriage.
Now understand: my wife and I work hard to have a good marriage. We regularly take time alone together, we’ve read books, we’ve gone to classes & retreats, we’ve used therapy when needed. We are each other’s top priority. All of that is important, and any one of those is potentially a good blog post, but none of it is “the secret”.
For all of the sound and fury coming out of the church these days over the state of marriage, the place I found the purest distilled essence of the Bible’s advice on marriage was in a secular article by a guy whose marriage failed, reflecting on the reasons why. It was called, “She divorced me because I left dishes by the sink.” It’s about how to sacrificially love your spouse.
What is love?
Our society gets all twisted up about love. “Love is romance,” we think, or “love is a feeling,” or “love is sexual passion.” All of that is nice, but none of it is the real point.
Here is the point: Love is a decision. Love is sacrifice. Hollywood shows us a naked couple on the screen and says, “This is love,” but the Bible shows us a naked man hanging from a cross for our redemption and says, “This is love.”
- This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
- For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son…
- But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
As long as something else is more important to us than the well-being and growth of our beloved, we have not truly loved. Especially as long as “holding to our own” is more important.
How to love
The number one thing you gotta know about Christ is, he didn’t insist on his rights:
- “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Yet I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet…
- Christ Jesus had equal status with God but didn’t cling to the advantages of that… he set aside the privileges and took on the status of a slave.
- The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Much heat nowadays centers on the passage in Ephesians that says “the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church”, across the whole spectrum from those who want women to submit, to those who would rather see the Bible discarded. In either case, the passage is read without much reference to Christ, as if it could interchangeably read, “…as a general is head of his army.” The husband makes the decisions, gives the orders, and the wife says, “Sir, yes sir!” From a Biblical perspective, though, that is nonsense.
To emulate Christ in anything is to take the lowest place, the servant’s place, to empty one’s self of privilege. Here are some tips for Christlike leadership from my own marriage:
- Walk the dog
- Change the baby
- Buy the groceries
- Fold clothes
- Do the dishes
- Take out the trash
Important in all of this is the spirit of loving gift. A loving marriage is not made by simply sharing responsibilities or “doing stuff”. It is made by accepting our Lord’s invitation to beauty, in the bearing of one another’s burdens, by acts of Christlike splendor and Christlike grace.
In so doing, we are given the privilege of glimpsing God’s own love for us. More than any other metaphor, scripture likens the love of Christ to the love of a husband for his bride.
(This week’s post is dedicated with much love to our friends Neal & Mandi… Congrats you two!)