The Selfless Call of Marriage

Arlene Pellicane
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With a swipe of the finger, the modern man or woman can go to an online dating site and find the “perfect match.” For many of us, this professional service didn’t exist when we got married. It’s possible to think if I had just married a more compatible person, I would be so much happier. But I like how Charlie Shedd puts it: “Marriage is not so much finding the right person as it is being the right person.” Don’t focus on what your spouse isn’t. Focus instead on something you can control—what kind of spouse are you?

Be a Selfless Spouse

James and I have a friend who has been a family lawyer for more than forty years. I asked, “Is there a common thread in the clients you see who get a divorce?” His answer was simple. “The spouse stopped putting the other person first. They asked, ‘How can my spouse serve me?’ instead of ‘How can I serve my spouse?’”

“You can be the one to take the first step toward your not-so-perfect spouse.”

A woman who read one of my books emailed me this: “I have been happily married to a wonderful man for fifty-four years. I got your book 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife for my girls and myself. I am always wanting to learn more!”

What a difference in perspective. Here is someone with more than half a century of positive marriage experience, and she is still looking for ways to improve her most important relationship! She wants to be an even happier wife to her husband of fifty-four years. By the time James and I have been married fifty-four years, I’ll be eighty-two years old. I hope I’ll still be picking up marriage books in my eighties to learn just a little bit more and serve my husband better.

If I had to boil down a successful marriage into one sentence, I think it would be, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33). Let’s be honest. There are many teachings out there about husbands needing to love their wives unconditionally. You’ll find it more challenging to locate messages and books about wives showing unconditional respect to their husbands. What if the husband is acting irresponsibly? What if he is lazy or mean-spirited? Is she still supposed to respect him then?

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs responds in his book Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs: “A husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband. There is no justification for a husband to say, ‘I will love my wife after she respects me’ nor for a wife to say, ‘I will respect my husband after he loves me.’”

Husbands are called to love wives. Period. Wives are called to respect husbands. Period. You can be the one to take the first step toward your not-so-perfect spouse. Why not make it easier for your spouse to obey this marriage booster from the Bible?

Job 31 and Proverbs 31

In Job 31, Job’s description of his attempts to remain righteous point out several ways to be a respectable man. Here are a few:

  • Be faithful to your wife. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (31:1).
  • Be honest. “If I have walked with falsehood . . . let God weigh me in honest scales” (31:5–6).
  • Be just. “If I have denied justice to any of my servants . . . what will I do when God confronts me?” (31:13–14).
  • Be a giver. “If I have kept bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless . . . then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint” (v. 17, 22).

Ladies, we can look to Proverbs 31 to find characteristics of a wife who is easy to love. Here are a few:

  • Be trustworthy. “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (31:11–12).
  • Be industrious. “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands . . . she provides food for her family. . . . She considers a field and buys it. . . . She sets about her work vigorously” (31:13–17).
  • Be attractive. “She is clothed in fine linen and purple . . . she can laugh at the days to come” (31:22, 25).
  • Be wise and kind with your words. “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (31:26).

Men, make it your goal to become more respectable to your wife with each passing year. Women, become more lovable. Put away complaining and put each other first. Manage your household well and laugh more.

For Further Reading:

Parents Rising

by Arlene Pellicane

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