“The fair only comes once a year, and it isn’t October so stop moaning,” my elementary teacher used to say to us when we were complaining about something not being fair. I have this pesky little problem with wanting fairness. I’ll find myself in a foul, snippy mood and realize I’m counting what I’ve done compared to my husband to see who’s pulling more weight. I, of course, find hundreds of noteworthy things for my side of the list. But then my memory conveniently fails me when it comes to his side. Marriage being this 50/50 relationship makes sense in addition, but it doesn’t work. And it’s not what we are called to.
This morning I was reading in Esther. The short version of the story goes like this. Esther is queen, and her uncle Mordecai overhears about an assassination plot against the king. He alerts Esther who alerts the king. Meanwhile, bad guy Haman, who works for the king, notices Mordecai isn’t bowing down to him like he’s supposed to. Haman’s pride runs rampant, and he plots Mordecai’s gruesome death and the death of all Mordecai’s (and Esther’s) people, the Jews. Esther goes before the king to save her people, and the king asks her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you” (Esther 5:3).
This is how kingdoms and kings and queens worked, a tenuous balance of egos. Because any more than half would have made her more important than him. The balance of power would have been thrown off. And it seems this is how many of our marriages are functioning, each of us making our demands and offerings up to half the kingdom. But a King would come later who wouldn’t look like any king prior. He would look like a man sawing wood. He would look like a man breaking bread. He would look like a man washing feet. He wouldn’t look like a king. He would look like a servant. And he wouldn’t act like the kings they had known either. He would be powerful but self-controlled. He would be just but always loving. He would come not to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28). He would come to give his life away–all of it, every last dying breath. Not up to half. No, God would give everything, His one and only Son. And that Son would give everything–every right, every shred of dignity, every last drop of blood for us.
And then after the Son was resurrected, and He returned to the Father sending the Holy Spirit to dwell within believers, Paul would put the pieces together for us in Ephesians 5 and forever raise the bar for marriage.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
That’s not a 50/50 arrangement Paul is speaking of, and there’s no half my kingdom going on. That’s two people breaking every selfish desire and pouring every ounce of their service into another person, two servants forming one body.
It takes no effort at all for me to be selfish. (Exhibit A: my grumpy attitude when I get woken up in the middle of the night by one of our children, but he sleeps peacefully right beside me never hearing a thing. My true colors are usually very clear.) It takes daily time in His Word and prayer (and for this very stubborn person, a lot of learning the hard way and saying I’m sorry) to love with a love that is patient, kind, and does not envy. A love that does not boast and is not proud. A love that is is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. A love that keeps no record of wrongs and does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. A love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. A love that never fails (1 Cor 13). This is way more than half the kingdom.
I mess up (a lot) but God is faithful to transform our hearts when we bring our hearts to Him. There isn’t a day that goes by that God doesn’t show me some area of selfishness. I never like it when I see the ugliness in my heart, but I’m glad He brings it into the light so He can mold this messed up person into something beautiful. Every time I pray Scripture for my husband, God binds my heart closer with his. Prayer makes saying I’m sorry easier. It makes forgiveness easier. It makes holding my tongue easier. (Notice I said easier, not easy. The struggle is real when you’re feisty and stubborn like me.) I love looking back at the prayers I’ve prayed for Matt and seeing how faithful God has been. If you aren’t already, could I gently nudge you to claim a verse and pray it over your husband today before you close your eyes for bed? (If you don’t know which one to choose, you could start with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.) Take a picture of the verse, and make it your lock screen on your phone. Write it on a sticky note, and stick it in your wallet. Use a dry-erase marker, and write it on your bathroom mirror. Pray that verse every single day for him. God promises us that His Word will not return void. I’m convinced our greatest act of service to our husbands is to pray for them. Not halfhearted prayers, but prayers from a heart surrendered completely to the One who first loved us.