It’s tempting to write a post like, 10 Things to do to Love your Spouse Better, or 15 Ways to Bring Laughter into Your Marriage. Or, how about this: 7 Tips for the Best Sex Ever? In the world of blogs, these “bullet point” posts are popular. We skim them. We grab what’s useful and file it away to apply later.
We like those posts, too.
We like them because we too process a lot of information. There’s a lot of information moving through our inboxes and news feeds too. We like those posts because their authors usually get right to the point. That’s appreciated when life is so busy. Writers of “10 Things” or “15 Ways” or “7 Tips” posts dole out content in small, easily accessible, quickly accessible chunks. They give us quick fixes.
Okay, you’re thinking . . . but when will you get to the point?
Well, the thing is, the good stuff, the life-changing stuff, the marriage-changing stuff—doesn’t happen through quick fixes. It doesn’t happen through a set of bullet points. You see, the change required to become a wife who loves her husband with gentle fierceness and self-forgetfulness and passion, to become a husband who loves his wife with self-sacrifice and tenderness and intention, requires new life. And new life comes only after resurrection. And resurrection comes only after death.
So, I guess if we were to write a “bullet point” post outlining our thoughts on how to have the best marriage ever, it wouldn’t actually contain many bullet points. In fact, it would contain just one. In fact, it couldn’t even qualify as a list. Are you ready? Here’s what it would look like:
Okay, so death isn’t a nice concept. Death comes with pain and struggle. We know. But take a breath and hear us out: the number one thing to make your marriage the best ever—the one and only thing, really—is to die. We all must be willing to face death; we all must be willing to embrace death.
Now, when we say “die,” we’re not talking about literal, physical death, of course. What we’re talking about is the willingness to die to one’s self. What we’re talking about is the willingness to identify what, within us, might be impeding our continued movement toward loving in a way that is pure and complete, loving like our King, Jesus Christ, loves. What we’re talking about is the willingness to be honest with ourselves. What we’re talking about is allowing the Holy Spirit to show us those things that are preventing us from loving our spouse purely and completely—maybe it’s our pride, maybe our insecurity, maybe our wounds from the past. And what we’re talking about is allowing the Holy Spirit to kill those things within us.
We can tell you story after story, in our own marriage, about each of us needing to let things die (they were different things for both of us) for the sake of moving toward Jesus. We can tell you story after story about each of us having to surrender, to allow the Holy Spirit to kill certain things. Pride was/is a big one: we always seem to think we know better than God does how to live our lives. And we never want to change—how we spend our money; how often we have sex; how much time and effort we spend on meeting our own needs, as opposed to meeting the needs of the other.
What makes all this death okay is that the things that need to die within us . . . are things that should die. The things that need to be killed within us are the false things They’re the things we’ve created to protect ourselves. They’re the addictions we’ve allowed to grow. They’re the resentments. They’re the selfish attitudes. They’re the wrong beliefs. The things that need to die are never the true things about us. So we don’t lose part of ourselves when we allow these things to die; we actually become more of ourselves. When we let the false things to go . . . what remains, our true selves, are easier to see, are easier to be.
In his book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes about a man struggling with lust. The man is offered the chance, by a powerful angel, to surrender his lust, to let it die. The angel offers to kill it. The man’s lust is represented by a red lizard, which sits on his shoulder and whispers into his ear. The lizard, the lust, feels so much a part of the man, he can hardly bear to separate himself from it. In a way, he’s become blind to it. And even when he does acknowledge it, it feels so much more comfortable, more doable, to continue to live with the lust than to let it go, than to let the angel kill it. So the man panics and promises to keep the lizard quiet, saying that it won’t bother anyone. He’ll keep it under control and no one will ever even notice that he is there. The angel pursues the man, though, urging him to let him kill it, and the man finally relents, with a piercing scream, as the angel draws a sword and slays the red lizard, saying “I promised that it wouldn’t kill you; I didn’t promise that it wouldn’t hurt.”
And what happens next? Well, if you don’t know, go and grab a copy of the The Great Divorce right now and find out. It’s stunning what happens to our sin when we surrender it and God gets a hold of it. The death to our old self is the beginning of something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.
So, go on, be willing to let these things go. Be willing to let them die. Be willing to let the Holy Spirit kill them. He will, you know. Otherwise, we’re just going to keep hurting one another, we’re just going to keep feeling disconnected from one another, in our marriages. Let’s not let another day go by. Let those sins go, the sins that prevent you from loving others as Christ loves us.
Dying. You can do it. You can die. Even when you feel like you can’t.
We’re here, rooting for you, praying for you. We’d love to hear what you think.
Also, shortly, we’re heading off to the wild for a little while and will be taking a break from posting here until then. But, in the meantime, we’ll be popping in over at Gather Ministries, on Facebook. (Have you liked our new page?) We look forward to connecting with you over there!
photo credit: picjumbo