Marriage is a Ministry- Part 2
A post on the value of service in a marriage.
In part two of posts on Marriage is a Ministry, we continue exploring how to strengthen the spiritual life of marriage through attention to protection, service, and submission, as our unions can have a mighty kingdom impact when founded on the principles of Christ.
Often, the word “service” has a negative connotation in marriage. Perhaps it's because there's a fear that if you serve your spouse, how can you be sure they will meet your needs? While this is a risk, focusing on fear paralyzes growth, so let's explore the reward of adopting a servant's heart to activate faith and reinforce unity.
It should be unsurprising that Jesus was the ultimate servant ( Luke 22:27). He humbled himself in service to the Father, showing us the grandest love by dying on the cross for our sins. He made a way, thus aptly referred to as THE WAY, for us to receive salvation and spend eternity in heaven ( John 14:6). The Bible tells us to model our marriages after Christ and the church, embodying his principles of service and submission.
To have an orientation of service means to die to yourself, which, interestingly enough, is what it means to be a Christian ( Luke 9:27). Service lived out loud is to have a more excellent vision for others over your immediate desires. You may be reading this thinking, “Well, I do that, but my partner doesn't… and frankly, I'm tired of giving everything and getting almost nothing in return”. I get it. And there's nothing more painful in relationships than giving your all and not seeing your efforts appreciated or reciprocated.
However, consider this: service in marriage isn't just about what you do. It's also not an excuse to entertain unacceptable behavior or to ignore healthy boundaries to serve your partner. Jesus Christ was not a doormat, so be assured that people-pleasing and voicelessness in a relationship is the opposite of living like Him. Jesus' service was, and is, reflected through His heart for us ( 1 John 4:19). During His ministry on Earth, Jesus served by healing, answering questions, preaching, and driving out demons because He has a servant's heart toward saving the lost ( John 6:38). Even now, seated at the Father's right hand in heaven, He continually intercedes through prayer for us ( Romans 8:34).
What if we took the same posture towards marriage? That is to have a servant's heart toward your spouse— to anticipate needs and be a partner in the relationship. It looks like putting your pride aside to apologize to your spouse when you're wrong, because this consistent behavior lays a foundation of humility in your relationship. None of us always get it right, and it strengthens emotional safety in our relationships to not behave as if we do. Service, for example, is knowing that your spouse's needs might look different than yours and making space to help meet them. If you spend 3 hours out with friends and your spouse is home with the kids, what does it look like to support their opportunity for the same quality time away, as you both are human and need time to rest and recharge? If you know there's a stressful time a work coming up for your spouse, where can you function as a gap to help with stress and see their work succeed?
Service isn't just about doing things for your partner; it's about creating an environment where love is in action. If you don't have a marriage like this, start first with your own heart. Where have you experienced brokenness? Refrain from sweeping under the rug the emotional load of carrying the burden of consideration within a marriage. Resentment and bitterness grow like weeds, taking root in our hearts and popping out throughout the landscape of marriage in places you never expected. Suddenly, there's a spirit of “tit for tat” in your relationship, and it doesn't serve you or your partner, nor does it reflect the love we are called to show our spouse in Christ.
If service is frustrating, explore why. Identify your participation in patterns with your partner, and you may engage that situation differently in love ( check my earlier post out boundaries). Then, take these heart matters to the Father in prayer and explore the Word on the subject. After all, service originates in the heart. Pray for your heart and your spouse's heart. Commit yourself to a spirit of love towards them, even if they haven't started with you. Pray diligently for their hearts to change to be more like Christ and to change toward you.
Notice how we're not just “praying about it.” Indeed, prayer is powerful and should be part of our everyday day, but faith is worked out through your choices. If you've committed to having a spirit of service towards your spouse and marriage, your behaviors will reflect it. As you tag-team prayer and action towards your partner, expect to see how their hearts ( and service) change toward you. Our lives are to reflect the love of Jesus, and our marriages are no different ( Romans 12:2). Suppose everyone outside your home experiences you as loving, generous, a good listener, kind, or helpful, but your spouse cannot say they experience this version of you. Consider then how to engage in service behaviors toward your spouse to strengthen the ministry of your marriage.