Over the last couple days, I’ve been writing about the lies we tell ourselves about marriage—lies that, unless corrected by biblical truth, will ruin our marriages. In the first post, I considered the lie that tells us marriage is about my happiness. In the second, we looked at the notion that marriage is supposed to be easy and saw that this lie quickly evaporates when we begin to look at marriage from God’s perspective.
In this final post, I want to look at one more lie that ruins our marriages:
Lie #3: My spouse is the problem
I remember some of the first fights that Emily and I had as a married couple. Most were over pretty silly things… but not always. One evening, I came home after another frustrating and unfulfilling men’s ministry play date (there was no real “ministry” happening; it was just a bunch of dudes whose wives signed them up to get together). Emily could see that I was annoyed (I don’t like using my time in unproductive ways) and she wisely told me the truth:
“You need to quit.”
I didn’t take this terribly well. I was sure that I could turn it around and start some real ministry that would see lives changed.
I was wrong.
She drew a helpful diagram that illustrated why the ministry wouldn’t work (one of the significant problems in it being, of course, my role—I’m far more gifted in teaching than building systems and structures). Nevertheless, I launched into a completely ill-advised and frankly idiotic diatribe about how she wasn’t supporting me, and blah blah blah.
Did I also mention that she was pregnant with our first child at the time?
Walking away from the conversation, I thought, “Man, if she would just support me, then everything would be fine. Then I could do the things that I think God’s called me to do.” Little did I realize that I’d bought into one of the most damning lies about marriage of all—that the problem was Emily’s fault.
This, sadly, is an all-too-common experience among humanity—in fact, blameshifting is among the oldest of sins. Think back to Genesis 3 for a moment. Remember what happened after Adam and Eve sinned? Eve ate the fruit and gave it to her husband to eat, then they knew they were naked and felt ashamed for the first time. So they hid themselves, making coverings out of fig leaves. Then God shows up and they attempt to hide from him, just as they’re hiding themselves from one another.
But notice what happens when God confronts Adam:
…the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:9-12)
Whose fault was it, according to Adam? His wife’s. And not only her’s, but God’s. This is set in motion a pattern of blameshifting and a refusal to take responsibility that still grips the hearts of men to this day. When we see issues in our marriage, what do we do? We blame our spouses.
How many of us have said something like, “If she would just…” or “You know what his problem is…”?
How does that square with Peter’s command for husbands to live in an understanding way with their wives, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”? (1 Peter 3:7) How dare we be so foolish as to actually think that treating our spouses without love, honor and respect will go well for us?
Want to know the truth? The problem is us. We are our own biggest problem. Many of us simply aren’t self-aware enough to see it. But think about how Paul describes himself to Timothy:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12-16)
Paul’s Spirit-enabled self-awareness is humbling. He knew his own heart well and didn’t shy away acknowledging the truth that he was indeed a sinner. Indeed, he considered himself the foremost of sinners.
Paul, author of half the New Testament and one of history’s greatest missionaries, the same man who said that for him to live is Christ and to die is gain—that man calls himself the worst of all sinners.
Why? Because he recognized his complete dependence upon the gospel. Imagine what would happen in our marriages if we did likewise? Imagine if our focus wasn’t on “fixing” our spouses, but our energies were spent dealing with the sin in our own lives, striving to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, as God works in us?
The lies we believe about marriage ruin a chief way that God intends to sanctify us, to grow us into the image and likeness of Christ. May God give us the grace we need to cast aside these lies, that marriage is about our happiness, that it should be easy and that when there are problems, it’s our spouse’s fault. May we turn away from these falsehoods and see our marriages bear witness to the gospel—submitting to one another as we submit to Christ to the glory and praise of God.