LAST week, I lamented that many couples think 50%-50%. The husband gives 50% to make the marriage work and the wife provides the other 50%. The problem is that what constitutes a spouse’s 50%. And what if the other spouse is not bringing up his or her share of the 50%? Therefore, couples should think 100%-100%. Each spouse gives his or her all to the marriage. The whole marriage then runs on 200% capacity!
What’s a good way to make 100%-100% a habit? It is to see it modeled by godly couples. That is why it is wise to be part of a couples’ small group led by mature Christians. Sure, no couple is perfect. But when we observe God-fearing spouses serving each other, it creates a good kind of envy. It makes us say “I want to be like them” where we are considerate, even sacrificial, to our partner not because we are told to or have to, but because we want to. If this is cemented with a desire to please God, then the spirit of servanthood in marriage is assured.
The last principle is love is a verb. Thus far, we have laid the foundation which is to let God be the ultimate satisfaction of our hearts. This frees us to serve our spouses. Then we have the paradigm of 100%-100%. It’s not the question who serves whom. The default is always “I will serve you.” Now we come to where the proverbial rubber meets the road. The practical application is: live to serve, not to be served.
Years ago, Lucy and I spent time with a couple in crisis. The husband lamented, “How can I continue living with my wife when I don’t feel I love her anymore. Isn’t that being a hypocrite?” I said something like, “No, marriage is not dependent upon feelings. It is serving one another even when we don’t feel like it. When we continue to do this, the loving feeling will return.”
The reality is that many times we don’t feel like serving. If we are honest with ourselves, we would rather be the one served. Takes no effort. What would happen if we don’t go to the office because we don’t feel like it? We would soon be unemployed. The same thing is true for marriage. What would happen if spouses don’t serve each other because “they lost that lovin’ feeling”? Then the fear of lovelessness will be a self-fulfilled prophecy.
This is why I insist on 100%-100% thinking. Perhaps the supreme example of “love is a verb” is when Jesus Christ ransomed His bride, the church. Paul put that as the gold standard when he exhorted husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Conclusion. A marriage falls on the rocks when both spouses seek to be the master. But it flourishes when both seek to be servants under the umbrella of the Master. To do this, we need to draw our utmost satisfaction from God, from which we are free to serve our spouse without constraint and regardless of how we feel at the moment. Every day of waking up next to each other no longer becomes a chore. It becomes a celebration.