Why did you get married?
What were your expectations when you got married?
What did you think your role as a wife would be?
If I look back and am honest with myself, I got married because Dave satisfied desires that I thought were needs. He met my desire to be accepted. He met my desire to be myself without criticism. He met my desire for fun. He met my desire for good conversation. He met my desire to feel beautiful. And so on.
I thought that was my husband's role in our marriage. To meet those "needs".
I can tell you that he married me for many of the same reasons. My role, in his eyes, was to meet his "needs".
Having been married for 9 1/2 years, I can openly admit that those were the absolute wrong reasons. And although I love Dave and I'm very happy with him, we are both failing to meet each other's needs. And that's ok.
The purpose of marriage is not to meet another person's needs. Consider what Tim Keller says in his excellent book The Meaning of Marriage:
What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us (p.120).
Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse should then give him or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory (p.121)
Romance, sex, laughter and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement, glorification. Those things are important, but they can't keep the marriage going through years and years of ordinary life. What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse's holiness. You're committed to his or her beauty. You're committed to his greatness and perfection. You're committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God. That's your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you're just playing at being married. (p.123)That's it! That's what we mess up on!! It isn't just an issue of semantics - meeting needs and being a vehicle for sanctification are two very different things! God, in his sovereignty, has chosen to use people to refine other people, to speak the gospel into each other's lives, to point out sin, to build up and encourage each other. That means that if I struggle with wanting to be accepted, my husband can model that in love towards me, but the goal is to do that in order to demonstrate what Christ has done for me. Christ has accepted me! I don't need to be accepted by my husband!
If we place ourselves in the role of "meeter of needs" for our husbands rather than a vehicle for his sanctification, we place ourselves in the role that is reserved for Christ alone. As a flawed, sinful human, you can never satisfy another flawed, sinful human. You can't do it!!!
I think that part of the problem here is that none of us truly grasps the full implications of the gospel for every aspect of our lives. This all sounds so cerebral, so academic, so theological, so serious. The gospel absolutely permeates every single aspect of our existence but we just don't see it. What I was smacked in the face with at that biblical counseling conference that I attended last month was that I don't get the gospel. I don't mean that I'm not a believer. I am a believer and I have been blind. I think the gospel has just become such a habit to me over the years that I need new eyes.
So if we're not supposed to make our goal to meet each other's "needs", and if we shouldn't place expectations of having our "needs" met, then what? Well, then, we remember that Christ has called us to love. He has called us to serve others, to prefer others above ourselves, to lay down our lives for each other, to admonish each other, to forgive each other. We live out the gospel and our calling as believers first within the context of marriage (and without). We serve each other because that is obedience to Christ. We give the gospel legs within the marriage relationship. For example, when I struggled with postpartum depression, my husband was a vehicle of Christ's love for me. He was being a physical replica of Christ's love. He was love in action. That is a much higher goal than simply meeting someone's desire for affirmation and giving them momentary peace. We may find our true, godly desires satisfied when Christ is demonstrated to us through the love of others. In other words, it is a by-product. While we are serving and while we are being served, we may find our desires satisfied, but then again we might not. That isn't the point. The point is to serve, not to be satisfied.
Am I making sense? We just do not understand how the gospel impacts our real life. And my prayer is that we start to get it. We so desperately need to get it. We will never live fully without getting it.
If you need a big dose of your eyes being opened to the gospel, obviously the Bible (Galatians for starters) is the first place to go. But here's a few suggestions of books that might help you:
Comforts From the Cross - Elyse Fitzpatrick
Comfort From Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time - Elyse Fitzpatrick
How People Change - Tim Lane/Paul David Tripp
A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love - Milton Vincent
Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life - Elyse Fitzpatrick
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