The other day, I found myself excitedly planning several things I wanted to do to surprise my husband. I quickly made a mental checklist of what I needed to make it happen and then quickly realized I was unintentionally planning things I could ask for in return for my “kindness.” If I made his favorite meal and dessert, maybe I would not feel guilty asking if he would watch the baby for a few hours for me to get in an intense and sweat-infused workout at the gym. If I surprise him by washing and vacuuming out the car, maybe, just maybe, he would surprise me with a Starbucks coffee on his way home from work.
God quickly revealed to me that this is one of the issues in dating and marriage relationships. We often do things with the “strings attached” mindset.
We often do things so we can receive back. Sometimes we give so we don’t feel so guilty receiving or asking for something in return. We often do things so they can be marked off a checklist rather than our hearts genuinely desiring to serve and sacrifice for our spouse.
Jesus showed us, on numerous accounts, the ultimate example of loving others and sacrificing without the intent of having favors returned. He loves wholeheartedly, sacrificially, compassionately, and purely. What an example to apply to marriage and relationships in general.
“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.” —Gary ThomasTweet this!
If we want our marriages to not only last but THRIVE, there are several things to consider so we don’t live with a string-attached mindset:
1. Marriage can teach us so much about sacrifice.
Too often, we focus on all of the things we are doing within the walls of our marriage that we forget to look up to see the sacrifices that our spouse makes. We want our spouse to invite us on dates, send us flowers just because, thank us for all of our hard work, appreciate our child-rearing, yet we forget that marriage is two-sided. Marriage IS sacrifice. Sometimes we need to start the conversation we are waiting for them to start, do the anonymous act of love we keep hoping for and kiss them first ‘just because.’ We can’t wait for the first step to be theirs if we want God’s best for our marriage. God desires our hearts to be so focused on Him that we desire to serve our spouse nonstop. God’s desire is for our marriages to thrive and flourish, which means a life of sacrifice that brings insurmountable joy and too many blessings to name.
2. If we serve without expecting favors, our marriages can change drastically.
Instead of hoping my husband returns the favor when I go out of my way to serve him, I need to be more focused on my intent to serve. On who I am really doing it for. If my intent is self-seeking, then my heart is in the wrong place and will probably not produce the results I am looking for (or rather, the results God hopes and plans for my marriage). Selfless acts of service can change the entire theme of our households. It has unlimited and unending ripple effects. It will change the dynamics of the relationship with our spouse, it will change the way we parent, and it will change the way our children view service, marriage, and a relationship with Christ. The results are limitless. To serve is to demonstrate deep, genuine love.
3. Speak life.
An overlooked element that is crucial to our marriages and the no-strings-attached mindset are the words that come out of our mouths and what we communicate with our body language. Speaking life to and about our spouse will change the course of how we serve one another within the walls of our marriage. Are we always negative when we communicate with our spouse? Do we always have to point out the things they do wrong when they try to serve us? Do we make them feel like they are never doing enough? Do we tear down everything they try to do? Positive, life-giving, healing words can change the entire course of our hearts, marriage, and home.
Today, I challenge you to join me in taking steps toward serving and speaking to our spouses with a no-strings-attached mindset. We should serve, not because we want something in return, but because our hearts, minds, and actions want to embody the likeness of Christ within the walls of our marriage.