When I got married on May 5th of 1979, I felt I was the most blessed man that ever lived! I truly believed it was not possible to love Kathy any more than I did on that day. I believed with all my heart, that our love could carry us through anything and everything, and that our days would be filled with wedded bliss! I believed that I was a mature man, a spiritually prepared man, and that I would be consistently loving, kind and Christ-like to my wife. Little did I realize then that I was in for a very, very difficult and rude awakening.
As the days and weeks progressed in married life, a new reality began to take shape for me, one I had not expected and caught me totally by surprise.
I found that there was this person, living inside of me, who was becoming my very worst enemy. I discovered there was this ugly, selfish person, who was trying every single day to dominate my thoughts, my choices, my will, and my relationship with my wife.
At first, I sincerely thought, “Boy, Kathy is being difficult! Man, if Kathy would just follow me, and cooperate, things would be so much better, and I would be happier.” This voice inside of me kept whispering inside my ear telling me about my rights and about all the ways they were being violated. This person inside of me kept pointing out to me all the ways Kathy was wronging me, he kept telling me to just demand my way more and be more assertive. I tried many ways to do that, thinking that is what I am supposed to do.
The days and weeks dragged on, turned into months, then our first year were done, and we had a new baby! There was great joy in being parents and Kathy and I did love each other. However, I began to realize that this person inside of me was going to destroy my marriage if something didn’t change.
I soon began to understand that the old Mark, living inside of me, was not a nice, good, and wonderful man. I began to see him for the selfish, wretched, ugly, destructive person he really was. It sickened me and at the same time overwhelmed me. I was not at all sure how to change, or how to defeat this wretched enemy who went with me everywhere I went, every day, 24/7! This marriage thing was turning out to be much, much more difficult than I ever imagined or dreamed it could be.
Whether you are a husband reading this, or a wife who is reading this, all of us must realize that our self-life, the selfish person living inside of us, is our marriages’ very worst enemy!
I began to understand that my greatest marriage struggle was going to be with myself, my old carnal nature, my selfish, sinful habits that just wanted his own way, his own desires. I soon realized it was going to be a fight to the death!
When I was a young man, my father used to tell me, “Mark, in this world, it is either kill or be killed!” He meant, of course, to illustrate it is a “dog eat dog world”, and you have to look out for number one. However, I began to see the deep spiritual truth in those words and that the Bibles teaches us that very same truth when it says to put to death the deeds of the flesh/the old me/the guy living inside of me, screaming for his own way!
I saw this truth in a powerful way!
One day, I was reading my Bible, as was my habit to do, and I came across this powerful verse. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains a single seed, but if it falls to the ground and dies it will bear much fruit! If you try to keep your life for yourself you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me you will find true life!”
Then it hit me like a lightning bolt from heaven!!
MARK, IF YOU WANT A GREAT MARRIAGE, GO HOME AND DIE SOME MORE!
Oh my gosh, you talk about a divine revelation! You talk about an epiphany! You talk about hearing the voice of God, Himself!
I was overwhelmed by that simple, profound truth. “Mark, go home and die some more! Give up your rights, lose your self-life, give up your selfishness, and put Kathy’s needs and interest first.” You see, I had always thought of that truth in my relationship to God and His plans for me. I wanted to live in the mountains, I wanted to live in a real log cabin, I wanted to get away from the human race and live off the land. I gave all that up when I started following Jesus 4 years earlier. I thought, “Yup, I’ve already done that for Jesus.” “I gave up my life for Him”.
I had no idea whatsoever that God would ask me to do that very thing in my marriage, that God wanted me to die to myself, to die to my selfish desires, which, honestly just seemed like my rights, that I deserved certain things in this marriage.
I began to grasp that true life in marriage, that true fulfillment in my marriage would be a by-product, a fruit if you will, of my dying to self, losing my life for Kathy’s best interests as I imitated Christ who set aside His rights and self-interest for me! I began to see it was God’s will for each of us as husbands and wives to fall to the marriage ground, and die to self, and lose our life, and only then will any of us find real, true, meaningful, fulfilling, marital life!
You are asking yourself, so what does this look like, what does it mean? I will tell you.
When Kathy and I drive in a car together, especially if it is warm outside, I tend to like a window open. I just like feeling the outside air. Kathy however, doesn’t like it. It blows her hair, it drys out her contacts, it makes too much noise. Early on, this bothered me. I thought, “Come on, come on, give me a break.” Immediately I would be stressed out, and bothered, as all I could think of was me, me, me!!!
I began to see, “Mark, die to yourself, and simply put the window back up, and don’t act like a martyr about it!”
I love (or used to love) loud classic rock music, you know, like Led Zepplin or the Allman Brothers or Lynard Skynyrd. Once in while I would turn the radio to that on long drives as it helped me stay awake. Kathy cannot stand that kind of music. It grates on her and bothers her. I would think to myself, “Deal with it. I am driving, I have a right to listen to it, so put your earplugs in.”
Now, I found that even in death to my music tastes when driving, I will find true life if I die to myself and do what is best for her.
Intimacy is often another huge issue for married couples. This was an issue for us also. In those early years, I most often approached this from my needs, my wants, and desires. This most often led to frustration or stressful disagreements. I began to apply this vital truth to this crucial area as well and said to myself, “Mark, fall to the ground and die, lose your life. In so doing, over time, God did amazing things over the years. Just as He promised, I found true life in dying to my interests and putting Kathy’s interests or preferences first.
My mouth! My freedom of speech! Doesn’t the Constitution guarantee that I can say what I want, what I am feeling at any time? Can’t I just freely express myself to you, my wife? This was an extremely difficult lesson to learn, to kill the selfishness in my speech. I began to realize my words, my emotional thoughts expressed, could be so destructive and hurtful. And yes, they can cause love to begin to die! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself through the years, “Mark, shut up! Just shut your stupid, selfish mouth!!” “Die some more!!” It took much work, but I learned to express things in a much healthier and effective way as I considered Kathy’s needs first and gave up my rights.
Even praying with my wife, which I wrote about in edition #3, started as me dying to myself. Kathy would ask me to pray with her, but I just thought it was silly. It made me feel awkward and unmanly. Looking back now, after years, and years of praying with her every single day, I can’t believe how foolish and selfish I had been! I can’t tell you how much tremendous blessing, and unity, and closeness have come between us, because I died to my selfishness and chose to pray with her every single day.
I could go on, and on, but I believe you are getting the idea.
IF YOU WANT A BETTER MARRIAGE, GO HOME AND DIE SOME MORE!
As always, my genuine, sincere desire is to help each of you men and your wives have the marriage and family God intended.
Would you please listen to this message, as I believe it will take you even deeper into your understanding of this vital, life-changing truth? Don’t wait for your spouse to start living this out before you do. Simply honor God yourself and embrace, and live out this biblical truth, starting today!
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,