The longer I am married—27 years now—and the more my wife and I minister to couples, the more I realize a glaring point about us as guys and also God’s perfect wisdom—nothing will change us faster into the image of Christ like living in a covenant marriage with a woman. No other human process or church program could create faster opportunities for spiritual growth as this union. The daily commitment and choice to be focused, faithful, and fair to one woman, no matter what, puts the sandpaper to our very rough edges on a continual basis.
I fully agree with author Gary Thomas on his book entitled, Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy. Happy is good, but is that really the end goal? Our happiness changes by the moment, while holiness changes us.
In doing pre-marital counseling, always in the final session, I read Ephesians 5 aloud. Then I look at the soon-to-be wife and say, “Your role to your husband will be to live for him.” Every time, the about-to-be groom lights up. A goofy grin washes over his face as if to say, “Oh boy! That is so awesome! Thanks for telling her that!” Then I look at him and say, “The Bible is clear on your role too. While she is to live for you, you must die for her. Be willing to put your wants and wishes aside and do what is best for your bride—always. Just as Christ did and does for His Bride—the Church.” Every time, his face falls. “Die? Did you say die?” The high-fives suddenly stop.
Let me introduce a new code into your man-language now. If you meet with a men’s small group, I encourage you to insert this. Let the Holy Spirit soak this into your spirit . . . Ready? Look for the “DTS” moments in your marriage. The “Die to Self” opportunities. They come every day, threading in and out of work, kids, hobbies, and all. Rookie moments like, “Honey, can you take out the trash before you watch the game?” Then there are the mid-levels such as, “I know you’re super busy at work, but can you see if you can leave early to pick up the kids?” And finally, the potential game-changers, “Some things are really bothering me about our marriage and I think we need to talk tonight.”
Now, I’m not talking about becoming a doormat or an errand boy, I’m talking about being a servant leader. You know, like Jesus. Put your life aside to take care of her, support her, listen to her . . . be married.
Is this hard for all of us to do? #@&! yes, it’s hard! Crawling up on the altar to be a living sacrifice can stink when you want to ignore, hide, rest, or flex the flesh. Now let me bring this thing full circle. DTS—dying to self on a regular basis will make us into the image of Christ faster than anything else. Isn’t God clever? It’s really brilliant when you think about it.
So, the next time you hear, “Honey!” think to yourself, “DTS, dude!” The next time you hear, “Can we talk?” . . . DTS. “But I really wanted to . . . “ DTS. God intends our marriages to not simply survive, but to thrive in His abundant life. Ironically, this is exactly where He is found.
The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing . . . Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her . . . And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage . . . And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her . . . —Ephesians 5:22b-23, 25-26, 28b, 33 MSG