Pulpit Reflections By Pastor Steve Ford
Grace Baptist Church This week my wife and I celebrated 25 wonderful years together. It's the together that has been wonderful, not necessarily the years. Some years have been for better and some for worse: some for richer and some for poorer: a few seasons in sickness, most in health. Circumstances have been up and down, but the roller-coaster ride has been happy and fulfilling because we've had each other and held each other through it. Our great years together haven't come naturally. Like all people, we both have flaws that work against good relationships. Fortunately, it doesn't take perfect people to have a great marriage. God's design for the marriage relationship accounts for and overcomes human flaws. I've heard it suggested that a good marriage is a 50-50 proposition. This sounds good, but I don't think it will ever work. After fixing bowls of ice cream for a late-night snack, I've found myself holding a bowl in each hand, weighing them to make sure I keep the heavier one for myself. After all, I'm the one who got up to fix the ice cream, right? This kind of thinking is as human as it gets. Thrust into a relationship where we're trying to share everything equally, we are naturally inclined to guard and protect our share to make sure we're getting 50 plus, not 50 minus. Overcoming this natural selfishness is inherent in God's design that marriage be a 100-100 proposition. In God's plan a husband and wife each focus on serving the other's needs and desires ahead of their own. Ephesians chapter 5 encourages wives to demonstrate their love by submitting to their husbands, while husbands are called on to show their love by laying down their lives for their wives. Now I know the mention of "submission" and "laying down your life" may raise a red flag for you, and for good reason since these concepts have often been abused. Mutual, loving submission is in mind here. This is not a call to resign yourself to misery so your spouse can have everything. It is a call to joyfully choose your spouse's needs and desires first for his/her good. This choice is the essence of genuine love. The Bible tells us that God, who is love, demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He died for us because that's what we needed in order to be set free from sin and guilt. He put our needs first, for our good. God's love is not a response and is not limited to keeping the score even. God's love is proactive, sacrificial, unconditional, and boundless. If we'll let Him, he will empower us to love each other the same way. Imagine this kind of love in a 100-100 marriage. A husband and wife each striving to see things from the other's perspective. Each one's needs being met, yet neither burdened by the guilt of manipulation. Each one satisfied, yet no one keeping score. It's the kind of relationship O. Henry penned for Jim and Della in his popular story The Gift of the Magi. For the same Christmas, Jim sold his prized heirloom watch to buy combs for Della's knee-length hair while Della cut and sold her beautiful hair to buy a gold chain for Jim's watch. They sacrificed prized possessions and received useless gifts in return, but their marriage bond was solidified in the selfless love they exchanged that Christmas. Now, you may be thinking that this kind of marriage can only happen in storybooks. It certainly is a lofty goal. My wife and I haven't perfected it, but we've sure had a lot of fun trying! Do you want to add some spice to your marriage? Practice looking at life from your spouse's perspective. Think of some creative ways to put her/him first. And don't keep score. With patience you'll likely find that this kind of love is contagious. All along the way, ask God for help. He's always in your corner when you're trying to love someone else.