A couple of weeks ago our church started 10 days of prayer. For 10 days members showed up at the church every night to pray for about an hour and a half. We prayed for our members, for our church, for ourselves. We even prayed that God would help us when we didn’t want to pray. Interspersed with the prayers were verses to help focus us on specific topics. One of the verses that came up, while focusing on Jesus’ sacrifice for us was:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
So, I’m going to turn this on it’s head, because I hear a lot of spouses saying “Oh, I love my spouse, I’d die for them if needed!” and I believe some of them would. However, these same spouses often will balk at a life change for their spouse. Dying, it appears, is easier than living, or at least more appealing…
For example, in my coaching practice and from people who email me from the blog, I often talk to spouses who have a complaint about their marriage. They want something fixed, they want their spouse to change, or they need an outside perspective on something. Generally they know what they need to do. We email back and forth, or talk about it on Skype, and once it’s all out of their head, they know the next step.
And this is where a lot of them stop. They know what they have to do, they know the changes they need to make, in themselves, but “it’s just too hard, so we’re going to get a divorce“. They’re willing to die for their spouse, but living for them…well, that’s just too much. But, this is a fundamental principle of Christianity. In a sense, it is dying. It is laying down our life, to pick up Jesus’ life.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
I think this generally gets put out there, by pastors and such, that this is a salvation issue. But I argue that this has far more to do with living here on Earth, than it does with salvation. After all, we cannot even begin this process until we have accepted Christ, which is really the salvation issue. The transformation that comes afterwards is, dare I say “extra”, oh, but what an extra.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23
These principles we find in the Bible, of laying down our life, of picking up the cross, of dying to self and living for Christ, I wonder how many think of this in terms of their marriage. I think this is generally compartmentalized into “live like Christ: stop sinning”. But it goes far beyond that. Jesus led a life of service, and this call is one of service. Not only to others, in our church or in our communities, but it starts at home. Start with your spouse.
Of course, the push back is generally “You want me to serve? But, what kind of life will I have then? Do I have to give up who I am?” Yes, and no.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:35
Something that begins to be apparent when you start this transformation, of exchanging your life for Christ’s is that…your life is not quite as good as you thought it was. The closer to get to God, the more you realize just how wretched an existence you have been living, if you are living for yourself. But, once you start to change, you start seeing the potential. You get glimpses of this new life. When you serve, you feel this joy that surpasses the joy of selfish desires. It may not be as intense or exciting, but it’s deeper and more fulfilling.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
This change progresses, this transformation. While it is true that your old self does slowly die away (and be careful, because it will fight to live!), you are not losing yourself, but rather, losing those parts that keep you from a greater potential.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24
And this change will reap benefits, not only to your spouse, and to your family, but to you as well. You learn to “be content in all circumstances” (Philippians 4:12) and to feel joy and peace, perhaps for the first time. I know there are a lot of you out there without this joy and peace that God promises. I know, because I’ve been there, and I’m telling you, there’s a better way. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer, every day. This isn’t something you master, it is something that you practice, day in and day out, getting better at dying, so that you can really live, a little more, every day.
So, I ask you, you may be willing to die for your spouse, but are you willing to live? Really live?
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