I recently moved my office out of the basement of my in-laws home in order to increase my phone reception and decrease the noise factor, both mine and my kids who would often run around the basement and play with their new Legos. The best room for my move was the extra bedroom two flights upstairs that is currently full of sewing materials, Mary Kay products and a crib. Some days I think I should be making clothes for American Girl dolls or pushing mascara at the next women’s luncheon at church, but for the most part, my new office is cozy and comfortable to get my work done until we move into our new house in a couple weeks.
On top of the old bureau I’m using as a desk sits a few pictures of family weddings, one being of my wife and I. We married on a beautiful June day coming up on 14 years and several gray hairs ago, and it’s stunning how much my wife hasn’t changed. She was a knockout when we met in college 22 years ago, and she is still the most beautiful person I know, both in appearance and in character. She loves endlessly without complaining, and she is the biggest cheerleader of our family.
As I sat in my chair this morning staring at our wedding photo and thinking back across the vast memories we’ve created, one thought stuck out. It was a thought I’d hoped to never have, but, unfortunately, it was true. It was eating me up inside, as I came to terms with the fact that I have taken for granted someone with whom I was so desperate and incredibly fortunate enough to marry those many years ago. She has blessed me beyond measure.
I remember in college, when I met my wife for the first time, I was sure she was flirting with me. Turns out, she doesn’t even remember that moment in the evolution of our relationship, so I may have remembered that incorrectly. However, over the course of the next three years, we became great friends, and I remember often thinking, “If I could marry someone like Tammy, I’d be doing quite well for myself.” I never thought I had a shot with her.
Fast-forward five years and, somehow, someway, I found myself standing at the altar, watching my fiancee walk down the aisle towards me in a stunning wedding dress, sporting her infectious smile I fell in love with. I married my best friend that day, and we started a life together that has been full of adventures, many laughs and indelible memories. But somewhere along the way, I slowly began taking for granted the person I committed to love and cherish for the rest of my life. I found myself seeking my own desires at the expense of our relationship, as I subtly placed the burden of supporting and maintaining our family squarely on her shoulders. I was trying to live my dream, not ours.
As I sat in my chair today, a wave of appreciation washed over me, cleansing me of the selfish desires I’ve held onto for so long, and reminding me of what’s truly important. As a husband, my job is to lead my family to reach its fullest potential, through love and encouragement. My charges is to be a servant to my wife, first, and to our kids, second. It should be my privilege and honor to support my wife in her endeavors, not expect her to support me in mine. It should be my distinct honor and privilege to sit down with my kids when I put them to bed and talk about their day, listen to their dreams and help them through the tough moments in their lives. It reminded me that God gives us our families for one primary purpose: to make us more like Jesus.
See, God is good. He tricks…I mean, He entices us to get married with the thoughts of guilt-free sex, comfort, financial and emotional stability, and probably many other reasons as well. And these are certainly wonderful benefits of marriage, no doubt. But these are merely the things we see on the front end of our wedding day. On the back end of our journey together is the purpose for which God brought us together in the first place: to learn to be a servant; to learn to be selfless; to learn to love others more than ourselves; to learn to give up our lives for someone else. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians when he talks about husbands and wives:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” ~Ephesians 5:22
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” ~ Ephesians 5:25
Submission, sacrifice. These aren’t words people use on dating sites and in wedding brochures, but these are the qualities God wants us to learn through marriage; qualities that make us more like His Son, Jesus. Paul also wrote this little nugget to the church in Philippi:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” ~ Philippians 2:5-8
Submission. Sacrifice. This was Jesus’ way, and this is what our Father in Heaven wants all of us to learn, husbands and wives. Submitting to one another. Sacrificing for one another. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
The same principle goes for being parents. Think about it. Why do couples have kids, anyways? Oh, they’re so cute with their fat cheeks and dimples. They have cute little clothes and soft skin, and little hats and shoes to wear. Besides, this is what we’re supposed to do now that we’ve been married a year or two. And then, quickly we realize there is more to it than soft baby butts and cute outfits. Loss of sleep, messy diapers, throw up like it’s coming out of a hose, decreased social life, increased expenses, did I mention the filthy, poopy diapers and no sleep? Again, not exactly what they put on the promotional materials for having kids.
And as much as we truly do love our kids for no other reason than that they’re ours, God has a greater purpose for becoming parents: to learn to love unconditionally, to understand how God loves, to learn to sacrifice what we want for that which they need, to have the self-control to correct and train them up in the ways of the Lord without embittering them, which is definitely a skill I am continually learning. Again, it’s not a task for those who are weak in the knees.
My prayer for each one of us is that we would lean in to what God wants to do in our marriages and in our families, even though it’s not easy. And that we would appreciate the incredible gifts God has given us in the relationship we have with our spouse, and the adventures we are fortunate to share with our kids. The same God who gives us nourishment through food and allows it taste good also loves to give us good gifts in the form of our spouse and our kids, and He uses those amazing gifts to teach us what is most important this side of heaven: learning to live and love like Jesus.