This afternoon, I asked my talented chef husband what he needed me to do for Easter dinner. He told me to snap the asparagus and get it ready for cooking. That was pretty much it, although I did help make the bread earlier in the day. Knowing asparagus takes about 8 minutes, I asked, “Do you mind, since it’s a while before we’ll eat, if I do the asparagus a little later?” He said he was fine with that.
I got on the phone with my mom, and while watching him busy himself in the kitchen, I talked with her. After a little while, I noticed an old and familiar feeling returning… guilt.
Exhausted from a training I’d been doing on the West coast for nearly a week and still in the wrong time zone, I sensed an internal pressure to get off the phone and get busy. Then I noticed a second unhealthy temptation: a slight irritation toward my husband, who was just minding his own business, bustling around in our kitchen. In that moment, I sadly realized how deeply influenced by our culture I really am.
I put a stop to it all. I told the voices of the “Perfect Christian Wife Culture” and the “You Can Do It All Secular Culture” to shut up. And then, I said to myself, “I am emotionally, physically, and mentally tired. It’s okay for me to rest. If he wanted me to do more, he would have told me, and even if he didn’t, that’s not mine to own anyway. I’m allowing myself to rest, and I’m going to stop owning how he may or may not be feeling. I’m done with this unhealthy thinking.”
I took a nap.
It was great.
So was dinner.
Often, when I see couples in crisis, the wives have taken the phrase, “submit” to mean, “become invisible,” or “exist only for husband’s and children’s purposes.” Yes, we need to “die to our selfish desires,” but that doesn’t mean, “serve so that no one else in your house lifts a finger, or you pass out from exhaustion, whichever comes first.”
From what we’ve seen, to make a marriage not only work, but be successful, we have to be adults. That means taking care of the temple of the Holy Spirit. That is us. Taking care of ourselves, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – in other words having a healthy “self relationship.” Only then can we exist as a separate entity that is responsible for his or her choices, and doesn’t take responsibility for the spouse’s choices. Owning another person’s feelings, attitudes, and behaviors will wear us out. We can’t control them. We can control our choices, however. It’s also being confident enough to clearly ask for what we want from others, (and being healthy enough to respect “no” for an answer). When I conducted business training courses, I used to label the unhealthy opposite of this behavior, “management by mindreading,” meaning “let’s let people around me guess what I want.” It’s an immature, deceitful behavior that errodes trust, damages relationships, and creates dysfunction in relationships.
It also is disrespectful of the temple.
From what I can tell, God’s Word recommends much healthier behaviors. Two people who take responsibility for their actions, plus one God = something amazing. And those couples that figure out the many healthy communication patterns involved with being a mature, responsible (but not for other’s choices) adult, end up creating a marriage that represents Christ and His church. The problem in stems from forgetting three things:
- Not remembering or not knowing how much we mean to God,
- How we are are each made with a specific purpose in mind (yes, ALL of us – see Jeremiah 29:11), and
- The preciousness of others (to God) in our lives.
God’s math on marriage:
1 emotionally healthy, preciousness-understanding, maturely behaving adult + 1 emotionally healthy, preciousness-understanding, maturely behaving adult + 1 Creator of the Universe (at the center of their marriage, but more importantly, in relationship with each of them) = 1 healthy marriage that represents Christ and His Church. So, 1+1+1=1. Hmmm…sounds like the Trinity.
What’s interesting is that when we mature in how we respect ourselves and others, the people around us also begin to respect us. And themselves. Which matters greatly to God. It’s the foundation of this thing we call, “Becoming a Relationship Architect.”
So, maybe John MacArthur is right: …so by your marriage, you are either a symbol or a denial of Christ and His church. (MacArthur, J. The Fulfilled Family. Chicago: Moody Press) And maybe we can impact that symbol by actively persuing respect – not just for our husbands, but also for ourselves, out of recognition and appreciation for the temple He made us to be, and for the others in our lives, because they are precious, too.
How can I fix my marriage? Start with respect. God, self, others. Then love will flow into you because you’ll accept the love of the Father. And then it flows out of you – and then we start changing the world.
Isn’t that the point?