Monday, March 22, 2010

Success and Marriage

This morning in my reading and study time I came across a startling sentence. I'll modify it just a bit so that it applys to everyone. "[A person] owes [his or her] success to [their] first [spouse] and owes [their] second [spouse] to [his or her] success." What are you succeeding at? And, are you spending your husband or your wife to achieve that success?

The bible doesn't hide the scars of even it's greatest heroes. There's a story in the life of Isaac and Rebekah that is a repeat of Isaac's parents'. This account from Genesis 26:7-11 takes place when Isaac and his wife moved to a new community called Gerar. Here's what it says, "When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.” But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah.
Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, “She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
“Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,” Isaac replied.
“How could you do this to us?” Abimelech exclaimed. “One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.”
Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: “Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!”

When you put your spouse at risk in order to protect or even promote yourself you demean his or her worth and exalt your own. While we may not face the seemingly life or death circumstances of Isaac and Rebekah, Our selfishness and insecurity can drive us to try to make impressions on people at the cost of our spouse. Are we putting in too many hours to make an impression while neglecting our spouse and children? Are we determined to make people like and respect us so much that we hide our relational poverties by drawing attention to the weaknesses and sins of our spouse rather than our own?

I've seen it from both men and women. Today's Christian woman has the pressure of displaying a piety and heightened spirituality that far surpasses the bumbling spirituality of modern males. I've seen and heard it from bunches of people, and the spiritual expectations for men are so low that any woman who isn't "suceeding" at being more spiritual than her husband faces great pressure to promote herself and deminish him in the sight of her girlfriends.

Though I've taught it for years, I'm guilty of breaking the charge I always give to men, "Don't blame your wife for your problems." Since the Garden of Eden, this has been the sinful pattern repeated by generations of men to the present day. Men try to look good too. They are driving and forceful, often very competitive. They too often point to their wife as the reason they are being held back from achievement. Men, your wife is not an "achievement hernia!" She is God's gift to partner with you for the very most important life successes. It's about faith and family. My favorite quote from a very old book on family relationships says, "This is the work of all our life that is the most divine."

Husbands and wives, I'm hoping and praying for you today. Sadly, I've played the part of the "old man" too many times. I've followed the sinful patterns of the old way of doing business as I've sought ways to promote myself. The "neu mann" is called to be different. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he or she is aiming to succeed at serving God and others. This type of success eases the burden of "impression pressure". Who needs to self-exalt? The Bible teaches us that humility is nearly like a lightning rod for the grace of God. I can't even be the neu mann apart from His grace at work in me.

I began with some very hard words, and realize how fortunate I am to have such a godly wife and partner. It makes me think that I don't want to succeed at anything more than faith and family. I know without question that I would owe THAT success to my wife. But I also know that rather than cost her, it ought to bless her. Any of us could easily fail at marriage. If you are on your second, third, or whatever marriage. Now is the time to live the neu life and build where you are to make the partnership of your current marriage the one that will mark success for you and your spouse in all the most important of life's successes. It is not good for a person to go at it alone. In marriage, God has made a helper to match us on earth as He helps us from heaven and from within.