“Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” 17 And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.” -1 Corinthians 7:4a, 17 [MSG]
I read a book this summer called The Marriage Builder by my favorite Christian Living author, Larry Crabb. As always, Mr. C. really hit the nail on the head. I came away from that book having a new understanding of what my role in marriage is supposed to be. Is it really new? Obviously not, because several months later, I’m reading Corinthians and, woop bang, it knocks me over the head with the same concept. The concept is this: Don’t put your self worth in your marriage, put it in Christ. Novel! But how many times can I catch myself putting my spouse above all? Even above Christ! I am constantly having to cut my identity out of the “being married page” and paste it back in Jesus.
The new concept that was revealed to me in this book and scripture has everything to do with selflessness. That if we are treasuring Christ above all else, then our marriage relationship looks different. I can serve my husband in love all the time, regardless of what he does in return for me. I think this was so poignant to me because we always refer to being married as a give and take. And yes, that definitely helps the relationship grow in depth and meaning. But what if my spouse says “gimme” and doesn’t “gimme” anything in return? Is it means for me to quit loving him? The truth is, if my husband chooses not to give back, it is that much more important that I continue to give. This is the ultimate vision of Jesus. He loved us and gave himself to us and we didn’t accept it. So is the marriage relationship.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
Even though this is excruciatingly difficult and I continuously fail at doing this, it’s the truth. Even if I am mistreated, it’s not an excuse to mistreat in return. The picture of Christ crucified is displayed when I humbly serve even if my service goes unnoticed.
I can completely relate to this right now, recalling just a few days ago a time when my expectations were clearly unmet at the Henry home. I got home from work, noticing that [Logan] hadn’t done the laundry, the chicken I had told [Logan] to set out for me to cook was still in our freezer, and several other [Logan] tasks weren’t done. So I lovingly went ahead and completed all the tasks. When Logan got home, I expected him to notice. He did not. But I thought to myself, it’s okay, I am a selfless martyr. I will not say anything. Until.
That night we were going to bed. Logan usually is a thoughtful husband and will plug my phone in on my side of the bed so it’s ready to wake me up in the morning. But sometimes he forgets. And that night, he did. It must’ve just been a rough day for this guy, but man, I expected more out of him. I wanted him to serve me. And I told him about it in a sad, demanding way. Then as we talked, I realized something about myself. Where many times Logan is a willing servant to me, I had come to a point where, figuratively speaking, my arms were on my hips and I was tapping my foot, anticipating his acts of service and becoming pretty impatient and unlovingly when my “needs” weren’t met. This scenario forced me to revisit what I had learned about marriage in that book.
In marriage, I have no “rights.” Even when my “needs” aren’t met by my husband, I can still rejoice, because my treasure is not in him, it is in Jesus. Luckily, this virtue covers all relationships with people. If I start building my treasure in friends, they sorely disappoint, and I am let down and quite often, ticked off. If my hope is in Christ, I can see people for the broken vessels that they are and never be too expectant of them to fulfill my desires.
Just like the old hymn says, our hope is built on nothing less (i.e. people, possessions, ideas) than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And if it is, woe is life! Help me, God, to treasure you above Logan, above my abilities, and above the people around me.