Recently during my devotional time, I was reading Philippians 2:3. It states, “Don’t be selfish;
don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (NLT) After reading this and self-reflecting on it for a few moments, I thought to myself, “God, this is a tall order for me individually!” Then I really got scared when I thought, “This is even more important (and harder) for me to do in my marriage! Lord…HELP!!!”
Fortunately for me, God heard my plea and began to reassure me that, with His help, I could surely fulfill the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian Church both as an individual Christian and as a married Believer. Here are some insights for marriage from this singular verse. May they bring expression and expansion to your union!
Don’t Be Selfish
In all honesty, of the three admonitions that Paul gives here to the Philippians, this is easily the most difficult one for me to do by a long shot. I am absolutely sure that my wife, Tracy will agree with me on this point! In her new book, “Marriage Is Killing Me! The Process of Dying To Self In Marriage” (available at www.themarriagebuilders.com), Tracy discusses how burying our individual selfish desires will literally transform our marriages into something totally different than what it may be currently. This transformational process, though painful, is necessary in order for a marriage to become everything that God intends for it to be. Most marriages start out under the wrong premise: “What can this marriage give me?” If we like the answer to this question, then we will get married. However, this is the wrong perspective to have prior to getting married. We should be asking the inverse, “What can I give to this marriage?” and consequently, “How do I do that successfully?” In our hyper-selfish, me-focused, self-centered, individualistic society, this is a truly radical concept. But, it is what lies at the center of any healthy, growing, and enduring marriage.
Don’t Try To Impress Others
The tendency in marriages is the need to make people on the outside think that our marriage is “perfect.” We want others to look at our marriage and be elated, enamored, and maybe even a little bit envious. We want to be the couple that everyone else in our circle (single or married) wants to be like. Here’s a newsflash for you: those types of married couples do not exist! While it may look like it does to some, that is a mirage, a ruse, an illusion, a hoax, a phony, and a fake. There is no such thing as the “perfect” marriage. How can two flawed human beings come together to produce perfection? They can’t! God puts a man and a woman together in His Sight to become ONE…not to become flawless. A good marriage is “perfectly imperfect.” This means that they are not interested in “keeping up with the Joneses” in order to prove to the rest of the world that their marriage is wonderful. Marriages that pursue this goal may appear to be wonderful on the outside, but they are privately miserable on the inside from the stress and strain of trying to be something that are not (and never will be) in order to impress people that don’t matter anyway. Unfortunately, a common place to see this fallacy in action frequently is the local church. Early in our marriage, Tracy and I subconsciously fell into this trap (because we saw other couples doing it). Before we even realized it, we were creating this facade about our marriage so that no one in our church would EVER dare think that there was something wrong with our marriage and by extension something wrong with either of us as a spouse. Eventually, we learned to be free from the bondage of MOPE – Many Other People’s Expectations! Since then, this is one of the first things that we counsel couples about when working with them (especially premarital or newly-married couples). Be free in your marriage…be YOU in your marriage, problems, idiosyncrasies, issues, and all! These are the things that make your marriage unique and usable by God to help others. Don’t be ashamed of your marital scars, they can be instruments of healing for other marriages.
Pride is another issue for me. I can’t count how many times I have turned down help, especially from Tracy, because of my vanity, fear of embarrassment, or desire not to look a certain way in the eyes of others. But, because my wife is very well aware of my struggles with pride, she almost always pushes through my objections, refusals, or dumb reasoning to make sure that I get the help that I so desperately need in a particular situation. I don’t know how it works for wives when they get together, but I do know how it works for husbands when we are together. In an effort to look like we are in charge, running things, the boss, etc. we tell fish tales about how we handle our wives, about who has the final authority, who makes the decisions in the home, etc. This is the opposite of humility and most, if not all of the time, is a lie. For most men, we are brought up from the time we are little boys to think that there is no one better than us! While this mode of thinking may be useful in some contexts (like athletics & academics) in order to develop the level of self-confidence necessary for a male’s success, it is entirely useless in marriage. We are instructed to take the exact opposite approach towards our mate in order to be a good spouse. This approach is the example of what it means to be humble. 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (NLT) God intentionally blocks the blessings of any spouse who walks in pride, but bestows a special grace upon any spouse who walks in humility. This grace then flows into the marriage. In the similitude of the late President John F. Kennedy, we are to ask not, “What can my spouse can do for me?” But, “What can I do for my spouse?” This is the right question to ask yourself when it comes to your marriage, and when you ask the right question, you get the right answer.