Last week I mentioned that a few books have helped us create the foundation for marriage. Today we are going to highlight one of those books: Sacred Marriage. We were introduced to this book after several years of marriage, and it has become the foundational principle to all else that we think and write about marriage.
I suppose that is a redundant phrase: Selfless Service. But I think it is important to use both words, because too often even our service to others is rooted in selfishness. The thought, down deep, is “I will do this for her because of what it will get for me.” We may not even be cynical or calculating – sometimes it is just a simple reality. “If I don’t do the dishes, she will be grumpy. And that is slightly worse than doing the dishes, so I will do them.” The point I am trying to make is that Gary Thomas turns marriage inside out with this question:
“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
As you may guess from that line, this is not a quick and easy read. A random sampling of just one chapter gives you an idea of how much it challenges you to give up on the idea of an easy, self-centered approach towards marriage.
“Grasping for power or recognition is natural. Servanthood is supernatural.” (pg 182)
“What are you doing each day for your wife that is costing you something?” (pg 185)
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that ‘…Christian marriage is marked by discipline and self-denial…’” (pg 186)
“Pray that God might use them to root out your selfishness and to teach you to become gentle, forgiving, gracious, and kind.” (pg 196)
So why on earth would anyone read this book? This is a great book to read if you feel like your marriage has drifted into a stagnant place. Not bad necessarily, just blah. Maybe you have left behind the excitement of the newlywed stage and have become too comfortable. Or you feel like your spouse has. Whichever direction, this book will help you to change your focus. This focus change is a powerful way to find true joy and contentment in your marriage. Focusing on Dana’s needs, not mine, allows me to take a positive step forward in improving our relationship. And it brings more joy. Instead of being fixated on the pain and frustration of my needs not being met, my focus is outside of myself. And by meeting my wife’s needs, it helps her get to the place where she can then have the strength and courage to meet my needs.
This perspective change is the path to true joy and fulfillment.
I have read a lot of books on marriage and have attended a lot of seminars. Each of them has had a lot of tips and tricks, and a lot of solid principles. But no other book more clearly lays out the bedrock foundation of marriage: serve your spouse unselfishly.
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