By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
A friend's husband ordered a monogrammed cup with some really strange initials on it. They weren't the initials of his name, favorite team, or even of anyone in his family. She was so puzzled about his choices and had to ask what is DTS all about? He answered by explaining that he got DTS monogrammed on his favorite cup, so every time he took a sip, he was reminded to die to himself. She was blown away by her husband's response. His eagerness to serve God over himself touched her heart. Don't we all need DTS plastered in our favorite places as that continual reminder that it's just not all about us!
Marriage is one place where it's especially easy to forget that it's not about getting all our own needs met. It's actually about serving each other and following the example of Christ. Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Jesus is our example of how to treat each other in our marriages.
During Jesus' life, he served, loved, and even sacrificed His life for us. That's not an easy example to live up to, but it does put into perspective the expectations we have for what we "get out of our marriages." We have to die to ourselves in order to be the kind of spouse that follows the example of Jesus.
What are some practical ways we can put the needs of our spouse and family over our own? Here are a few ideas for you to ponder:
1. Committing Yourself to Pray for Your Marriage
Starting our days with prayer is one of the best ways to be reminded to live our day for Christ and not solely for our own gain. Practically living a life of faith means inviting God into our every interaction. When we check in with Heaven before jumping into meeting earthly needs, we invite Jesus to be with us throughout the day.
Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." These are words we can pray over our hearts and marriages. May God give us His heart for our partner. May God give us the strength to serve our spouse lovingly. May Christ be evident throughout our actions towards our husband or wife.
Daily, we need to humble ourselves before the Lord alone and alongside our spouse to ask God to help us serve each other with love each day!
2. Practice Communicating Often and Clearly With Your Spouse
Clear communication is essential, so we don't overlook our family members' needs. We can't serve if we don't know the needs of the ones we love. We only discover the needs of our spouses by asking them. When we assume we are helping without asking if what we are doing is helpful, we can miss out on doing what is really needed.
This happens a lot with my husband and me, mainly because both are very stubborn and independent. We want to feel like we are in charge of executing the best plan for the day and forget that we need to consult each other before making the plan.
For example, I know my husband loves to exercise. If he misses several workouts, I start pushing him to go because I think that will make him happy. Rarely though, do my efforts to bully him into "doing what he likes" work. I don't do this because I have evil intentions. In fact, I justify my stubbornness because I think it's for "his own good." Yet, my efforts always fail because no one wants to be told what to do. Most of the time, what my husband really needs is for me to listen to him vent about how hectic his schedule is and how much he misses exercise. Maybe then I can encourage him to get back into it or remind him that this too shall pass. It is never helpful for me to try to persuade him into compliance.
Marriage takes work, and most of that works like being intentional about how we communicate with one another. We need to pause long enough to truly hear and see our spouse amid the craziness of life. It's important that we talk before we act so we can stay on the same team, no matter the situation.
3. Consider What Love Looks Like for Each Situation
Dying to self looks like continuously asking, "What is the most loving thing to do in this situation?" When we operate from a place of love, God best shines through our lives. Consequently, that is when we are the best spouses too!
God encourages us not to grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). Marriage is a long road, and it is easy to get weary of each other. We combat that weariness by investing in ourselves so we don't get so burnt out that we don't have space to love our partners well. We can't ask what the most loving thing is when we are living moment by moment, barely hanging on ourselves. Dying to ourselves is not the same as neglecting ourselves. We love best from a place of abundance.
Being able to ask what love looks like means we have to make sure we are putting effort to stay in love with our spouse. It's so much easier to give of ourselves from a genuine place of affection than from a place of doing it because we should. Staying in love as a couple looks like committing to spend time together, laughing together, being intimate with one another, sharing openly with one another, and doing things that keep you connected. As the years add up and the responsibilities grow, staying in love as a married couple can get increasingly challenging, but it is not impossible!
One of the most beautiful functions of marriage is that God uses it to refine and grow us! As married couples, we are given an opportunity to serve each other every day. Many days we mess this up, but when we remain committed to the journey, growth begins to happen in our lives. God starts to shine through more and more. He creates something beautiful between us through our imperfect commitment to love each other for a lifetime.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/XiXinXing
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.