**********RELATIONSHIP RELEVANCE********** I think that this post is relevant to all relationship stages, but most useful before marriage to help get a good understanding of marital commitment before going ahead to make that commitment. It might be especially useful to consider this when you are engaged, and in the throes of excitement and anticipation, to maintain a realistic expectation of life within marriage itself.
The timing of this post is kinda cute because I have actually just been to an “eat as much as you like” buffet. Each time I go to one of these places I vow that “next time”, I will be responsible and adult and moderate in my eating….then “next time” comes along, and I forget these promises to myself! So as I write this I am still groaning slightly – even though it has now been 3 full hours…ooh!
However, the idea for this post actually occurred to me a few weeks ago. The idea is this: Even as a Christian, I have imbibed (or swallowed!) the very false idea that marriage is a place where I can essentially “eat as much as I like” in terms of getting my needs met. This is a subject I have written on many times before, but considering it in this new way helps me get further understanding about it.
A big lie:
A big lie that society spins for us is that relationships are a place where you can get your needs met, that you can take as much as you like or as much as you need.
The Christian version of the lie:
The Christian version of the lie is very similar to the regular version of the lie. The only difference in the Christian version is that we expect to get married first, and then to proceed as above!
Without realising it, I have essentially been looking forward to my marriage essentially as an emotional “eat as much as you like” buffet. Needless to say, this has been a very exciting prospect! I’ve been eagerly looking forward to how all those emotional needs are finally going to be met, dreaming of those endless hugs – it honestly can’t come quickly enough!
But then, thinking a little further about unconditional love, this occurred to me: if I plan to love my husband unconditionally in marriage, then it follows that my marriage will not be an “eat as much as you like” buffet for me, but rather a “serve your spouse all that he needs (or even all that he wants)” workstation – even with the understanding that he might not serve me back. So it is like an eat as much as you like buffet, but I will not be the one doing the eating. Rather I will be like one of the waitresses there. And then it is not even like he will be walking up to help himself. Rather I will be the one preparing the food and cooking it from scratch, and then I will even metaphorically be taking the food to him. And then after doing all this, you kinda smile optimistically in the hope that he might reciprocate a bit in serving your own needs. But then there is always the possibility that he might not be inclined to serve you back at all. But you still have to be committed to serving him.
I think that that is what true unconditional love looks like in a marriage. In a way it is outrageous. However I am thinking that only that would truly constitute unconditional love to the level required by marriage. I guess this is what makes marriage so hard. We all dream of getting those deep needs of ours met, only to find out that our spouse is happy to make those deep requests of us, without necessarily investing everything necessary to meet our own needs.
All this time I might be crying out: “Lord I get hungry too! Father, I also need him to serve me!” I was reflecting on this earlier on during the day. Unconditional love means unconditional gentleness and grace to my spouse, even when trying to communicate to him the fact that he is not meeting my needs, even when I know perfectly well that he knows what he is doing. Because I am a human being, and moreover because I am me, I know that I might often fail when trying to remain gracious and gentle. However, that grace and gentleness have got to be my aim and aspiration, for which I’ve got to seek empowerment from God.
The fact remains though that I do have needs, not just wants, and if he is my husband, then he is the only one through whom these needs can be met. However if he is refusing to cooperate, then that puts me in a big quandary: facing the reality of my own needs versus the fact that the one person who is able to meet those needs, will not. And then I can’t withhold his own needs for the sake of forcing him to meet my own. I have no choice but to go to God, to cry out to Him, to seek His intervention. But even in that I have to be patient. In a way, it is similar to the way I’m being patient now, as a single woman, in that my needs are currently not being met because there is no husband to meet them. Within marriage, it might still be the same thing that my own needs are not being met, just that at that time I will be investing all my own effort to meet his own needs!
In all this, I am not hoping or anticipating that this will be the case in my own marriage. I am just trying to understand for myself that this is the worst case scenario that I have to be ready to deal with in my marriage.
All of this is so big. This is why I believe that we have to take the time to get to know people that we are committing to before we go ahead to make the commitment to them. By marrying someone, I am potentially signing up to give him absolutely everything of myself, while receiving absolutely nothing back in return, while submitting all my goals and plans to him, and then I’ve got to be ready to possibly do this for the rest of my life! This would be a hard marriage for me, or indeed for anyone. This is why I’ve got to evaluate him; to evaluate for myself the probability that he would act that way in marriage versus the probability that he will also commit to loving me unconditionally.
Turning the question on its head
On this blog, I always find it easy to imagine the worst case scenario for my husband. But it does work both ways. If he commits to loving me unconditionally, then that means that even when I am not loving him back, or submitting to his husbandly authority, he will still continue to love me. I hope it is fair to say that I would never reject my duty of unconditional love towards him. But that is the beauty of unconditional love – knowing that my spouse is committed first to Christ, then, because of his commitment to Christ, committed to me, even where I’m failing to keep my own end of the covenant. If for whatever reason I refuse to love him, if I stubbornly refuse to listen, hopefully only ever for a very short period of time, then what security it will give to know that he will continue to keep loving me, to keep wanting the best for me, to keep praying for me, just as he knows that I would do the same for him (praying that we don’t both embrace stubbornness at the same time!)
Ultimately I guess we are supposed to show unconditional love to everyone. However each person’s character will determine the degree of vulnerability to which we can expose ourselves regarding them, or the degree of sacrifice that we can commit to regarding them. Of all human interactions, marriage requires the highest level of vulnerability and sacrifice, after our commitment to Christ. (But committing to Christ is in a sense “easier” because God and Christ are both perfect, which will not be true of our spouses.) For marriage to truly work, and to work beautifully, my spouse and I both have to be truly committed to that deep level of vulnerability and sacrifice regarding one another. Otherwise it will quickly start resembling a one-sided nightmare. This is why I have to make sure that the man I am committing to will be just as committed to me, and this deep level of commitment to one another can only come from an even deeper mutual commitment to Christ.
1 Corinthians 13v8:
Love never fails.
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
[I know that this verse specifically refers to brotherly love, whereas this blog is all about a different kind of love!]
Photo of Indian Food Buffet from Pixabay