When my best friend and I entered our college dorm room for the first time and began unpacking, I am sure she had no idea what she was getting herself into. You see, Ashleigh was a very organized, neat, and clean person (still is for that matter). Her side of the room was always well kept and tidy, mine was… well, let’s just say…. not. She was the epitome of structure and I was the poster child for procrastination. Every morning she followed the same well-worn routine of waking early to spend time in the Word, showering, brushing her teeth and heading off to class. I, on the other hand, would quickly roll out of bed throw on a hoodie and make it to class with seconds to spare (and hopefully a clean set of teeth).
We had our share of confrontations when it came to keeping our tiny bedroom orderly. My messiness would annoy her and (as sad as it is to say) her orderliness would annoy me. As time went on some of her good habits seemed to rub off, but I am sure not to the extent that she would have wished. If it hadn’t been for the love we had for one another and our love for the Savior, it would have made for a terrible three years! If it hadn’t been for the powerful work of the Holy Spirit conforming us to the image of Christ we never would have been able to overlook each other’s offenses and strive to put the other’s preferences ahead of our own.
Fast forward to married life, five years down the line, three children later and the same temptations to take every shortcoming as a personal affront still exists (though I’d like to think I’ve become slightly tidier over time).
You can’t live with another person without seeing their shortcomings, without noticing their bad habits, without getting irritated with their particular idiosyncrasies (even if it is simply because they are different than your own). By nature we are selfish, self-pleasing creatures who get perturbed when our own preferences, time, or energy are infringed upon. We are often very concerned with how the other person is affecting us, rather than with how we may be affecting them.
Each time I come to an empty toilet paper tube and must change it out myself I am tempted to feel personally offended.
Every time my husband finds the tooth paste haphazardly squeezed from every and all directions rather than neatly from the bottom up the hairs on the back of his neck bristle.
As we each go about our daily business we leave messes behind–messes that the other person is often left to deal with. Whether it is a late bill, dishes piled high in the sink, or a basket of unfolded laundry (getting wrinklier and wrinklier by the minute), often we are left to pick up what the other has left behind. Each day we are given opportunity after opportunity to react in a joyful, serving way or a selfish, unloving way. Most often the natural response is to claim rights that we feel are owed to us. We think things like, “I can’t believe I have to do this again for him” or “My life would be so much easier if he would just remember to do this.”
As Christians, however, we know that we have given up all rights to our own lives and as wives, we have vowed to love, honor, and respect our husbands until death do us part–even when they run a “load” of laundry containing one piece of clothing.
Two verses that have been challenging me in these practical areas of life are quoted below. They emphasize the importance of humbling ourselves and serving those around us rather than looking for ways to serve ourselves and make our own lives more comfortable.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2: 3 ESV)
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10 ESV)
So what does it look like to practically “count my husband as more significant than myself” or “outdo him in showing honor”? On one hand it means picking up his dirty sock and putting it into the clothes hamper without ever mentioning that it was left out, or replacing the empty toilet paper tube with a full one without ever complaining, or allowing that very small load of laundry to get washed and dried without sighing in exasperation and glaring at the full basket of clothes that still needs to be washed. On the other hand it means looking for ways to make his life easier and happier like squeezing that toothpaste tube from the bottom and making sure that his dress shirts are ready and ironed for work so that he doesn’t have to quickly see to that task as he get ready in the morning. It means putting his desires and priorities ahead of my own.
Living for another person is hard work. It is impossible without Christ’s sanctifying work taking place within you, but as the Holy Spirit develops within us the mind of Christ, he will help us to give up more of our own rights and selflessly serve our husbands. May it be our prayer every day that we be conformed to the image of Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)