Like most couples, Jeff and I went to pre-marital counseling during our engagement. The pastor who married us had recommended someone he respected. And I’ll never forget our first meeting.
After the introductions, I noticed the many books sitting on his shelves. To my delight, I had read quite a number of them. I wanted to make a good impression, so I started book-dropping. That is, I casually pointed to the binding of several books nearby and mused aloud that I had read them.
I kept going too, until I came across one book that gave me pause. I had read it years earlier, but I never liked it at all. Something about the book’s premise never sat right with me. But I was young, and I didn’t know how to articulate what I really thought of this book’s message. Besides, this particular book was a major Christian bestseller. What did I know? So I kept my opinion about this book to myself, and I mentioned that I had read this one too.
Then the counselor kindly interrupted my self-aggrandizing monologue and said that he believed the book was counter to Christ’s teachings. I was shocked. Counter to Christ? As in opposed? I asked the counselor, “How do you mean?”
“Well,” he explained, “I try to read every book on the topic of Christian marriage that publishers release, but I was disappointed to find that this book focuses on the different ways that husbands and wives can, and should, meet their spouse’s needs.”
Right. I knew that already. But why is that counter to Christ’s teaching?
The counselor went on to explain that Christ was God (I knew that already too, but I guess the counselor wanted to start with the basics). Jesus could have demanded that people worship Him. He was God in the flesh after all. But that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus laid down his rights to the throne. Jesus came to serve, to give His life for ours. Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .”
I knew the counselor was now quoting the second chapter in Philippians. It’s one of my favorite passages. But as he continued, it was as though I was hearing the familiar words for the first time.
“. . . And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
The counselor didn’t finish until he had quoted the entire passage. I stood there motionless. The words flowed from somewhere deep within him. And they were more than mere words. They were Truth. And Truth resonates in our spirit.
Marriage, as our counselor explained, is not about giving 50/50. It’s not a you-scratch-my-back-and-I-will-scratch-yours kind of relationship. Marriage is not meant to be self-serving. It’s not solely about having your needs met by your spouse. Yes, we have God-shaped needs. And, yes, the marriage relationship is designed to meet some of those needs to some degree.
But only God can fill the deepest longings of our soul. And God wants us to look to Him as the ultimate Source to fill those vacuous places that ache within us. If we go into marriage expecting our spouse to meet our every need, we will be disappointed. No human spouse can do what God alone can do.
That first pre-marital counseling session was life-changing for me. The counselor put into words what I knew deep down to be right. And he helped Jeff and me to build a solid foundation for our future marriage – one that requires selfless sacrifice and service, not selfish demands and expectations.