Has Selfishness Moved into Your Marriage?
I often dream. But I recently had an unusual one. It was unusual for three reasons. One, I was exercising in it. Never happened before; hopefully never again. I woke up tired 😊. Two, the dream was filled with people I had only recently met. I’ve never had a dream about acquaintances, I typically dream about families and friends. And three, when the dream ended, I was disappointed. I actually woke up crying. Never had that reaction to a dream before. I feel as if the dream has significance, if for no other reasons than I felt my faith challenged on several levels and God was glorified. I’d like to share with you one of my takeaways today from that dream. This nugget of truth applies to Christian marriages, and I hope it will be the encouragement you need to stick through the tough spots of marriage. Keep reading, friends.
In my dream I am running with my husband down a familiar street in our hometown in North Alabama. It is very dark. He looks over at me and barks, “We need to look like we are exercising.” I make a snarky reply that for me running at any time of day or night is exercise. We continued running to an acquaintance’s house that we had visited only once before. When we arrive, we notice that the lights are all off. I look down at my watch and said, “Sweetie, it is 10:00 p.m.; I am sure they are asleep.” Confidently, yet softly, Jody whispers in my ear, “The FB message said that the secret to weight loss is running; I’ve already lost 10 pounds off my back side.” Again softly, he said, “No one would ever post about something as silly as weight loss, it must be the clue … run to their house at 10:00 p.m. and come in through the back door.” We walk around their house and try the back door. It is unlocked. We walk in.
There was indeed a prayer meeting going on, quietly in a candle-lit room. I recognized the faces of all the people in the group. As the group started, it became clear that my dream was about the persecuted church here in America. Separation of church and state were no longer tolerated. In my dream, Congress had eliminated the church, closed every church door and declared it illegal to be a Believer. So, we were meeting underground, so to speak. During the meeting, the leader asked everyone to share a “high and a low” from the past few days. One man shared something selfish about how he wanted to personally use a $400 bonus he got at work. Instantly, every man in the group stood up and challenged him. The group obviously had a well-known monetary need for a member of their group who was too sick to be at the meeting. The group leader even went so far as to say that the smell of this man’s “selfishness stunk up the room.” It was very dramatic. The man who had made the selfish statement immediately dropped to his knees and repented. As the meeting went on, more was shared and each statement was supported, questioned or rebuked according to God’s word.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
This group of people were truly living as the body of Christ. They were deeply interconnected as their lives depended on each other and in turn on each of their individual dependence on Christ. They were transparent, not for the sake of a ‘Kumbaya” moment, but vulnerable for the glory of God. Each was easily convicted, earnestly sought God’s plan and lovingly invested in their fellow believers. As a member of many different types of small groups with different churches through the years, I was blown away.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”“that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Many other conversations happened. Many detail to support the above conclusion, but too long to share today, maybe another post.
The bottom line today is this: I want to be a part of that group of Believers! In the dream there was the warm glow in the room; a joy even in obvious times of trouble. By the end of the meeting, the room was in one accord. What an amazing feeling! The Family of God.
Prayer and praise lasted until the wee hours of the morning; then we all slowly left in a staggered fashion; jogging back to our respective homes.
When I woke up, I quickly nudged my husband. I asked Jody if we had run over to our friend’s house the night before. He replied, “No,” with a quizzical look on his face. Then I knew it had only been a dream. My heart sank. I went to my study and wrote down as many details as I could remember of the dream … because I wanted to be able to remember that feeling of “one accord.” I wanted to be able to share the feeling of being the family of God. It was awesome, something I crave and want in my life!
I then went back to bed and contemplated the impact of persecution on the American church, family and marriage. I have decided that if the church were to be persecuted and forced underground, marriage problems would disappear, and Jody and I would be out of a job 😊! No more marriage counselling, mentoring and late-night crisis sessions - because all marriage crises have one thing in common – selfishness. Selfish thoughts and actions are the basis of most marital discord. If I had a penny for each time we said, “love each other (1 Peter 1:8)” to Christian couples who wanted to punch their spouses light out, we would be millionaires!
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.
God is not surprised with our selfishness!
Over the years we, the world and sadly the church, has subtly decided that there is a better plan – equality, with every person fighting for their own agenda and desires. No one compromising, everyone afraid of losing their self or giving up valuable territory within their marriage. Sad, but true. If you have ever thought “this is not fair,” you have also bought into this “new plan.” This self-serving plan can lead to the destruction of your marriage or to a coldness that cannot be tolerated without additional sins to “comfort” you. Hear me clearly, friend – this “pursuit of equality” is the wisdom of the world. Let’s reject this approach and look to God and His word for the answers in our marriages. God’s word points to selfless love; demonstrated by the sacrifice of Jesus (John 3:16, 1 John 3: 16-18), denial of self in the pursuit of the kingdom (Luke 14:27) and love that doesn’t quit (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).
We must realize that as believers if we cannot live in one accord inside our marriages and tap into the power of the Spirit, we have no hope of living as the true body of Christ. These two institutions are linked by God for a reason. (Ephesians 5:22-24) Marriage is a microcosm of the church. I think this truth is why I was so grieved when I woke up and realized the dream was not my new reality. My desire is to live with brothers and sisters in Christ as Jesus demonstrated and Paul penned (Ephesians 5:23). I do not want the stench of selfishness to exist in my church, my marriage or my heart. I only see this changing in the body of believers if we live out the Gospel in each of our individual marriages. It cannot happen in marriage if we do not stamp out selfishness in out hearts.
We cannot treat marriage as the world does. We must hold our behavior to a higher standard – God’s standard. We must forgive and repent (Matthew 6:14-15), pray for our spouses even when they wrong us (Matthew 5:43-48), speak truth in love (1 Corinthians 13:5), and let nothing separate us from the covenant we made in front of God. This is the ammunition that will defeat self-centeredness. These spiritual disciplines are a must in every Gospel-centered marriage. Where these actions thrive, love and honor will happen naturally. Persecution may be the necessary catalyst, but I am praying for a revival that will open our eyes to our own sinful hearts. But I’ll take whatever God graciously allows.
I pray that this post has challenged your faith and your view on living in unity in your marriage and in the body of Christ.
I have enjoyed our time together! Stay in the Word, on your knees in prayer and chasing after Jesus hand-in-hand with your spouse! Allow the Holy Spirit to point out your selfishness and cleanse your heart. Your marriage depends on selfless Christ-like love!
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”
”Love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).”