Have you ever heard the misguided adage that marriage is a 50-50 affair? Think about that for a moment! Can you imagine if you merely put 50% effort in your home, work place, school house, or any other endeavor in life? You would surely come up short. So why would we apply that percentage to something as serious as the marriage relationship. The hard part about marriage is that it really takes both partners to put in 100 percent daily--and that is work. Perhaps that is why that same number--50%--is the rate of marital failure.
So why is it so difficult? Because the truth of the matter is, we are all born selfish and that selfishness is easily exposed in marriage where thriving depends on each person deferring to the other. The blending of two lives (heart and soul) takes a deliberate plan of collaboration and commitment to the end goal of becoming one. “And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:8).
In fact, marriage is a good litmus test to one’s selfishness. You never really know how selfish you are until you are required to share time, space, possessions (and actually all of life) with another person. Becoming one flesh might be instantaneous spiritually speaking, but it certainly takes time practically. Like what do you do on the days you just don’t feel like deferring? The days you’re tired and not up to the 100%?
Sarah and I have been married for almost 5 years, and we are still figuring each other out. The daily grind of meshing our two selves into one flesh, operating with oneness of mind and spirit, through the power of the Holy Spirit, takes discipline, diligence and effort. We delight--and sometimes fight--this process, but having a spiritual foundation to conform into the image of Jesus makes it more attainable.
Now, let me shift gears and add another ingredient that throws a wrench into the selfishness equation. And that is the readjusting that takes place when a child enters into this union. In our case, it was the recent entrance of our Willow Joy to our world. Because just when you understood how marriage exposes your selfishness, on the opposite end, a new born baby has a way of expelling selfishness. Suddenly sleepless nights, bouts of crying, non-stop diaper changing, endless interruptions and 100% dependence has us both pulling together, and birthing a selfless love, that endures and sees only a precious new life blessing our lives. Parents you know what I am talking about.
And the more “parenting 101” we cover by experience, the more we begin to see our selfishness diminishing and our selflessness increasing. When I watch Sarah lovingly and patiently tend to this child, my love increases. And when I feel the root of protection and provision growing within me, as I watch them both, I see how God designed the family unit as a crash course in sacrifice.
Non-stop tending to this sweet child, has put every other aspect of life into the proper perspective. I used to spend hours a day reading or studying for my primary responsibility as a minister—to preach the Word. And though that office is still very crucial, I realize I am a father first and foremost, and my time spent “reading or studying” my child is the most important role I will ever fulfill.
I am so grateful for the institution of marriage to expose my selfishness; and the office of fatherhood to expel my selfishness. Only God could come up with such a balanced plan.