Recently I received a message from one of my daughters-in-law that I'll long remember:
Wow—in the last 30 minutes with all kids home, we've addressed tattle-telling, being patient while waiting to speak, not competing with each other, and loving others like God loved us. At least Ashley (name changed to protect the guilty) can diagnose her problem. When I asked her who she cares about, she honestly and happily admitted, "I care about Ashley."
I couldn't help but smile when I first read our little granddaughter's response to her mom: "I care about Ashley." But the more I thought about it, the more I recognized the overarching truth of her words: Ashley's a little sinner, and so am I.
We are all born with a selfish nature. We want what we want, and we want it now.
Have it your way
Marketers know this. Just look at the advertisements that bombard us daily: Have it your way. You deserve it. It's all about you ... We are encouraged to fulfill all our desires. Thoughts that begin with, I deserve my hamburger to be exactly like I want it, can quickly grow into a belief that I am the sun and you are the earth revolving around my every whim.
And what happens when I buy into what the world says about my marriage? Today people view marriage as a means to personal happiness and fulfillment. Often my actions say to my spouse, "I deserve marriage my way. You should make me happy. Our marriage is all about me. You do your part and I'll do mine."
I've been guilty of speaking to my husband and children in a manner that says, "I deserve to express all of my feelings" no matter how I make them feel. I've found myself thinking, This is not fair! while doing something I didn't want to do.
Can you identify?
They failed the test
"The first purpose of marriage," Gary Thomas says in his book Sacred Marriage, "... is to please God." It's not to please ourselves.
This requires selfless living, Thomas explains. Instead of asking "What will make me happy?" he says we should ask, "What will please God?"
The first people to fail the test for selfless living were Adam and Eve. They were created in a perfect world and had intimate fellowship with almighty God. Despite this, they doubted the Lord's good plan for them.
Noting God's command not to eat the forbidden fruit, Satan told Eve, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5).
Eve listened to Satan's accusations about God. She wondered. She questioned. Was there indeed something better? Was God holding out on her? Were the words of a serpent more trustworthy than the words of her Creator who had brought her only good?
Eve was at a crossroads in her life. She chose her own way. Genesis 3:6 says, "... she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate."
Life was changed forever. Sin had entered the world.
"Sin is crouching at the door," God warned Cain in Genesis 4:7. "Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."
And thousands of years later, sin is still crouching at the doors of our hearts and homes. I don't know about you, but it's time for me to:
- Remind myself, before my feet even touch the floor every morning, that I am in a spiritual battle for my marriage and home. I want to begin asking myself, Who will be at the center of my marriage today—Christ or me? (James 3:15-17)
- Remember to intentionally follow the words of Philippians 2:3: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (NASB). One way I can put my husband's desires ahead of my own, for example, is by watching an entire football game with him instead of reading or surfing the internet.
- Recall that I am a sinner, saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), and so is my spouse. I should always offer my spouse the same unconditional forgiveness that I want him to give me.
- Rely on the Lord, and not my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5, Ephesians 5:22). There are times in my marriage when I just have to trust my husband's God-given leadership, instead of my heartfelt desires.
- Review my day based on the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
Questions that must be answered
My husband, Jim, and I recently noticed a license plate that said: I AM NO 1.
"Wonder what that means?" Jim said. "Does he think he is Number One, or that he is 'no one'?"
"Number One or no one?" Now that's a question worth pondering!
Through my actions and responses, am I saying to my husband, "I am Number One"? Or, am I following Christ's example and humbling myself? Am I putting my husband's needs above my own—as though I am "no one"?
If I want to "do marriage" God's way instead of my way, then these are questions that require answers ... every day ... every hour ... every moment.
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