Marriage, most often, starts with love. Love of self and what that other person brings to the table. Another way of stating this is well known in counseling circles, relationships are about expectations.
When I do marriage counseling, I will ask the doe-eyed couple, “Describe for me what you think the day after your honeymoon will look like.” No one has a ready answer. After a confused pause the guy will say, “Well, I will be going to work.” If the new wife isn’t going off to a job I will ask, “And what will you be doing?” They are both just staring at me.
I follow with: Will she be making breakfast for you every morning? Will he be calling you on his lunch break? What will your evenings together be like? Are you hoping for intimate encounters often? Who will be scrubbing the bath tub? Will you have long, extended conversations? Will you be using birth control? How often do you plan to host dinners with others? What is for dinner anyway? That again? Fine, then why don’t you cook? Well maybe I will! You could help with the dishes sometime? Who do you think took out the trash? Yeah, that takes all of two minutes; when you remember!
Whoa, sorry, I kind of got caught up in scenario. But the above does represent the Normal in Married life. Not the Desired or the Possible but the Average.
Marriage is selfishness moving out of their parents home and into their own place to play house. Soon, the marital tensions that the newlyweds observed growing up are their own dilemma, even though they swore to themselves, and to each other, that they would do better. But they keep failing until they stop trying to manipulate their spouse and start serving the other by surrendering themselves first to God.
Years ago, a friend of mine received some of the best marriage advice that I have ever heard. A counselor he was seeing told him to read Romans 12:1-2. You and I know these verses well:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
It was pointed out to him that life as a living sacrifice is a connotation of all of life as worship. “You must approach your relationship to your wife as an act of worship to God,” he was told.
This was revolutionary in his life and after he shared it with me it has been the catalyst of my own perspective and the ongoing downfall of pride and self-centeredness. Furthermore, when you obey God and live your life as He designed it, it is remarkable to see and experience how Surrender is everything that Control isn’t.
Now back to scenario: Husband arrives home weary from the commute after a trying day at work to find Wife also tired from caring for the children and attempting to finish dinner. The kids greet their dad with energy that he cannot match and volume that slams his exhausted senses as he adjusts to service rather than being served.
He gives his wife a kiss (rather than taking one) and leads the little ones into the living room to hear all about their day while the mom finishes the meal without distraction. This is the beginning of his “reasonable service” to God.