I have to admit, I’m writing this post out of personal experience. It’s not that I’ve mastered the art of servanthood (in any form or any situation), and now I’m imparting my awesomeness on anyone reading this. Not even close to the truth! Over the course of my life I’ve failed way more than I’ve succeeded. At serving, at loving, at giving. That’s why I’m so grateful for grace.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my marriage, when it comes to grace. I’m blessed to have a wife who loves Jesus and is a living example of amazing grace. She’s taught me a lot about servanthood. Just recently, in fact, I was asked a big question by a couple I was marrying and I was able to share some of the wisdom my wife and I have discovered over the course of our 16 year marriage.
Their question was this- “How do we have a successful marriage?”
Frankly, that’s a fair question in this day and age, even if it’s simple and fairly obvious. But with the divorce rate exceeding the marriage rate, it’s in the hearts and minds of every couple that sets out on this journey together. Lets be honest- no one walks down the aisle on their wedding day and thinks to themselves, “I only want to be married for five or eight years and then get divorced.” Or, “We’re getting married now, but I don’t see this lasting forever.” That would be crazy!
So, I answered their question with an answer that I’ve come to understand (and am still learning) after many years of marriage. I said, “Submission!”
Ouch! That’s kind of a four-letter word these days! Submission. Kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you say it. The reason why is that we, as a culture, have used that word as ammunition to get what we want, or worse, some husbands have used this as justification to make their wives do want ever they want them to do. Truthfully, in the past, when I’ve talked about this, it never fails- I either have husbands nodding at me smugly or wives shaking their heads as if to say, “Oh no, here we go. I’m going to get a psychological beating!”
Fact is- both of those reactions mean one thing: there is a grave misunderstanding of what submission really means.
In Ephesians 5:22-24 the Apostle Paul says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Again, this stings! Seems 1-sided and cold. For decades preachers and counselors have used this verse as a weapon, placing a target on woman, as if their lack of submission is the problem in the marriage. It’s unfair and inaccurate. Don’t get me wrong, this verse is truthful. But it’s not the only verse concerning submission that you find here.
If you read on in Verses 25-27 this is what you also find- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Wives- submit. Yep! But husbands, die. Absolutely! That’s what Paul is getting at in this verse. Submission is a 2-way street. The other verse that is often overlooked is Verse 21- “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words, serve one another!
Now I realize that some reading this may not subscribe to the Bible as the ultimate authority over our lives, and that’s okay. Even if you took the “Jesus” or “church” part out of this passage you would find this- “Submit to one another. Wives submit to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives, and be willing to give yourself up for her.”
Back to my life lessons for a moment. In 16 years of marriage, I’ve screwed this up royally at times. I’ve been selfish, arrogant, belligerent, un-loving and self-serving many times over the years. I admit it, I’m far from perfect. I will forever be a work in progress. We all are until we breathe our last breath. But there’s one thing I’ve discovered as a husband, in particular: when I choose to serve my wife and put her needs above mine, I experience an abundance of peace and fulfillment. When I don’t, we are at odds, and there’s unrest. Same applies to her. This goes both ways and applies to both marriage partners.
So my answer to this couple’s big question was simple- “Submit to one another. It’s not 1-sided. It’s a 2-way street. Put each other’s needs above your own. Choose to serve each other every single day and you will have marital success. It’s that simple!” They took it to heart. In fact, they even asked that I include this verse and explanation in the ceremony. I’d say it resonated, wouldn’t you?
Be a spouse that serves.
Mike Berry is an author, blogger, speaker, adoptive father, and former foster parent. He is the co-creator of the parenting blog, www.confessionsofaparent.com which is read by more than 100,000 people, in 15 different countries, monthly. In 2014 he authored the eBook, 7 Hills Every Parent Should Die On, and the empowerment PDF, Your Ridiculously Amazing Year: 15 Ways To Make 2015 Your Family’s Best Year Ever! Both are available as free downloads on his blog. Mike has been married to Kristin for 16 years and they have 8 children, all of whom are adopted. They reside just outside of Indianapolis, IN. To learn more about him, follow him @itsmikeberry