“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
The biggest threat to marriage is not same-sex legislation, or income-withering taxes, or the frenetic pace of life. It’s not the insidiousness of the internet. It’s not the secularity of the culture. It’s us. It’s our flesh. It’s the idol of self. It’s the little god me. Each of us is the “I” of the storm. All marriages fail, at root, because one spouse, or both, fails to die to self, daily. Such thinking is not in vogue. It is not promoted or celebrated – or even acknowledged, other than by ridicule – in a culture of narcissism. It sits at odds with the dominant values of our age. It whispers, almost inaudible, in the din of our times. But dying to self is the deep wisdom, ancient and ever new. It is a rule of life basic to the flourishing and longevity of your marriage.
So get this straight, in fact say this out loud – it’s not about me!
Believe that, live that, practice that, and almost everything will fall into place. Doubt that, defy that, ignore that, and prepare for a bleak marriage, if it survives at all. The Bible is filled with holy paradox: the first shall be last, the last first. The least of these are the most honoured. The poor and the hungry and the persecuted of the earth are the most blessed, and the big winners in the end. And this: those who daily wake to a fresh dying are most fully alive. Those who choose the way of servanthood and sacrifice, who follow the example of Christ in the Spirit of Christ, are the ones who find deepest courage, taste greatest joy, walk in richest love. And have the best marriages.
What can you do today to value your spouse above yourself? To put him or her before yourself? To look to their interests, not just your own? This is not an invitation to some false act of self-effacement. It’s not asking you for some gaudy noisy martyrdom. It’s about dying to whatever in you is just plain selfish and vain – and then choosing humility. Then find some simple tangible heartfelt ways to honour the other. Don’t make today about yourself. Make it about your significant other. Devise ways to make their joy complete.
But don’t be surprised at how glad it makes you feel, too!