I had an interesting dream last night. It went like this:
Our family was somehow gathered along the lip of a huge cliff. I don’t know if we had climbed there, but it was a long way down – like Wile E. Coyote kind of long way down. As we all moved carefully, Ally teetered at the edge of the cliff and then fell off. I quickly assessed the options. Along the ledge was a small parachute that, for some reason, I knew would only work for someone below 120 pounds. We had no other parachutes or ways to save her as she plummeted to certain death. I grabbed the parachute, leapt over the edge, caught up to her, strapped the parachute on her, told her I loved her and that she shouldn’t worry, then pulled the cord for her and let go. She immediately slowed and floated to safety as I gained speed in a plummet that could only end badly.
The nice thing about dreams is that you get to be the hero, and you don’t even have to really get hurt, so I didn’t have to think twice about diving off to save Ally, even though I knew it meant I wouldn’t make it. I’d like to believe I’d make that sacrifice, if necessary, even if it wasn’t a dream.
In real life, we often say we’d die for someone we love. I guess the question should be whether we’re willing to die to self for someone we love. I’m thinking specifically of the marriage relationship. Since I don’t face actual life-and-death marriage situations (at least, not so far in 17 1/2 years), saying I’d die for Maggie is really a somewhat cheap expression of love. It would be much more meaningful to her if I would die to myself for her on a daily basis.
What do I mean by that? I mean I would die to myself by putting her desires above my own. I would die to myself by seeking ways to lift her up and encourage her. I would die to myself by focusing my attention on her rather than on pursuing my own entertainment. I would die to myself by handling all the annoying little things to make sure she didn’t have to deal with them. I would die to myself by speaking her love language rather than my own.
If you are married, I hope you will really consider this approach. Many marriages end in divorce, but I believe most divorces can be prevented with a proper focus. Being “spiritual” doesn’t do it. You have to be intentional. There is no greater evidence of intentionality in a relationship than being focused on and attuned to your partner.
We know that when we’re dating. The world revolves – perhaps too much so – around this wonderful person. But we tend to become more and more self-centered after marriage. “She doesn’t make me happy anymore.” Really? When was that someone else’s job? And, by the way, how are you doing in terms of “making” her happy?
But there is a way out that will make you happier than you would have thought possible. Die to self. Show her you really mean it when you say you love her and would die for her. She’d much rather you live for her than die for her (at least, most of the time!).
And, to be clear for those who may object to saying you should “live for her,” I’m not talking about putting anyone else in God’s place. But note the truth above applies to our relationships with God, too. Die to self. Live for him. No wonder Christ chose marriage as his primary illustration of our walk with him.
So, try it. You may have to dive off a metaphorical cliff or two, but it’s not as far as it seems. Make a real commitment to reinvigorate your marriage by focusing less on yourself and more on your spouse. Die to self, live in love.