My dad tends to be a man of few words. But when he says something, watch out. A bomb may go off in your head later. One such conversation occurred between him and me several years ago that has stuck with me to this day.
He said, “So many people enter a relationship looking for what’s in it for them. But a mature (and successful) couple starts with the mentality of ‘How can I serve my partner? And how can we serve God together?'”
That philosophy was like a ticking time bomb in my head. As I pondered his words and observed relationships around me, I realized how absolutely right he is.
Young, immature intentions in a relationship (think high school dating) is very self-serving. When asked why they’re together, the response is something like, “He makes me feel good,” or “She’s pretty.” It has everything to do with what the other person can offer them. But that mentality doesn’t necessarily stop after high school graduation. So many adults go from one relationship to the next guided simply by if it “feels good.”
However, according to my dad, who, by the way, has been happily married to my mom for nearly 40 years, says the key to success is to have a servant’s heart.
“Serve your significant other. Look for ways to bless them. Pray for them more than yourself. Link arms and serve God together in and through your relationship.” This is the wisdom of a man who has exampled how to successfully love his wife well. Almost every time I talk to my mom, she tells me how blessed and fortunate she is to have such a wonderful husband. Life hasn’t always been easy for them. But they have shown each other true love over several decades of life. And I am so fortunate to have such a great example of a godly marriage.
1 Corinthians 13 confirms my dad’s take on what a successful marriage looks like:
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 [The Message]
The love described here is selfless and vulnerable. To be honest, it sounds a little scary. If you love like that, you could get hurt. But when two people enter into a relationship in order to embody this kind of love toward each other… Everything changes. It’s pure, unadulterated love of a godly kind.
Read that passage again and imagine what a marriage would look like if both people were striving for that ridiculous, whole-hearted, vulnerable love. Can you imagine the authenticity and fulfillment? It all starts with having the proper heart posture and intention from the very beginning.
Ever since my dad presented this way of thinking, I have contemplated it at every potential relationship. I ask myself, “Am I chasing the feeling? Or is my intention to put him first, respect and honor him, and show selfless love to him?” If my honest assessment comes back as the latter, then I prayerfully consider moving forward. If it is the former, that tells me I need to pump the brakes.
I want a mature, healthy, Christ-centered relationship. Not some self-serving ego stroke or childish love driven by hormones. My mindset and approach are what effects the outcome.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 [NLT]