Five Lessons in Marriage (Part 1): "It's Not About Me"
In fifty years of marriage, I have learned many lessons. One lesson I’ve had to learn is that “It’s not about me.” Our Lord said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I use this now to end every wedding ceremony. This is the call to self-denial in all of life for the benefit of those around us. It is part of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is the very epitome of Christ’s earthly life:
Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Our expectations of a happy marriage, whereby we are benefitted by the other, may seem to be rational and normal, but they are destructive to true happiness in marriage. James asked and answered:
James 4:1-2 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”
When a husband focuses on his expectations of the wife fulfilling his desires, he is taking his eyes off his responsibility to be so giving at all times that he does not have time to become “hurt” because of his wife’s failure to love him as she should. It is more “blessed” (happy) to give than to receive, says our Lord, especially when you remember that you deserve nothing from God or man in view of your own sins:
Lamentations 3:39-40 says, “Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.”
Some may think this commitment to giving, no matter what you receive, is too “pietistic” or unrealistic to live by in the real world. Surely we should desire to receive something in marriage. But let’s remember who said this. Our Lord Himself gave this declaration of absolute truth, and He lived by it. That is how He saved us. He is the epitome of giving Himself to bless others when they could not bless him. This is the heart of grace, and it is why we love Him. It is the model of a husband’s love to his bride.
When a man accepts that his role is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; when he accepts the God-commanded responsibility to initiate and maintain love in marriage at all times as Christ first loved him — then perhaps he will begin to find the joy of the great Giver who found the blessedness of giving to the guilty while being nailed to the tree.
At the foot of the Cross, I have had to learn that it’s not about me, that I deserve nothing but God’s wrath, that I have been given everything I need in Christ for this life and the next, that I have been called by Him to give blessing and love to my spouse, no matter what I have received from her or desire to receive from her. This mortification of my selfishness at the foot of the Cross, this view of the absolute selflessness of Christ to suffer all to make me His, this call of my Savior and Lord to give as He gave and still gives, all this shows me that if my dear bride were perfect in every way in her love toward me, I still would never be happy in marriage until I committed myself to the unselfish mission to give love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control to her, no matter what.
Is this how you think about your relationship with your wife? Is it the desire of your heart to bless her by giving, instead of demanding that she give to you? Do you see the blessedness of giving that is greater happiness than receiving all you desire? Do you see that this is Christlikeness in marriage?
I have had to learn that its not about me. That it really is more blessed to give than to receive. Jesus said so.