If you knew me at all, you would know that I am the last person on earth that thinks he is qualified to give marriage advice--and that is not what this is by the way. I am, however, blessed with an incredible wife and a wonderful marriage (33 years in August), but very little of that has anything to do with me. My recipe for a great marriage involves a wonderful wife and tons of God's grace.
I have begun to notice something about relationships recently though. It is something I have seen for years in myself, and have recently begun to notice it in the lives of the people I love as well. And it has to do with what goes on in our hearts and souls when relationships function, and don't function, the way they were designed to. What I have noticed is that in any relationship--particularly marriage--there are two options that we face regularly as we attempt, by God's grace, to love each other. The first option is that I can choose me. And the second is that I can choose you. It's really pretty simple. Years ago a wise man said that, at all times and in all places, we can either choose to minister to people or to manipulate them. It's kind of the same thing that I'm talking about here.
In any situation or interaction in my marriage (or significant relationship) I can either choose myself, or choose my wife. And one would think that after these 30+ years I would have figured out that when I choose me (my agenda, my way, my comfort, my ease, my will) it almost always turns out badly. Because when I choose me, rather than choosing her, it does something deep in her heart and soul, something that I can never completely undo. It cuts into her and how she was designed and leaves a bit of a mark or a scar. It is almost as if when I choose me in our relationship something dies inside of her, something that I cannot fully resurrect or heal. Oh it might be a small thing, and it might be a little "dying," but still something does indeed die within her. And that is a tragic thing. Why in the world would I ever want to do that to the person I love more than anyone in this world? The person that scripture tells me that I have become one with. The person that God has given me to take care of her heart and to present her without mark or blemish back to him.
The reason that something dies deep inside of her when I choose me is that deep in her heart and soul there is a burning desire to be chosen. It is how she was made. It is just woven into the fabric of her being. In fact, one of the deepest questions of her heart is, "Am I worth (beautiful enough, captivating enough, alluring enough) being chosen?" And when I, even in a very small way, choose me instead of choosing her, it cuts her to the bone. It tears at that image of God that is fashioned deep within her. It tears at her identity the same way the question, "Do I have what it takes to love you?" tears at mine.
And the really sad part is that once the damage has been done, it cannot be taken back. You have probably seen it as well as I have...You are in the midst of some discussion or debate or argument and the next thing you know you choose yourself instead of choosing to love her; and you can immediately see it in her eyes. There is a deep pain. A significant wound. The slow dying of a soul and spirit. And it cannot be taken back. It is like toothpaste that has been squeezed out of the tube. There is now a permanent mark, a scar, on the heart of the one you love the most. And you are the one that left it there.
The good news is that the opposite is also true. When I chose her, instead of choosing me, it brings something beautiful to life within her. Her eyes light up. Her soul leaps within her. She is like a flower coming into full bloom. Beauty begins to radiate forth from her. That is what being chosen was meant to do--bring her to life. But why is it so hard to remember that, and even harder to choose that, in the heat of the moment? Most likely that has to do with perspective. Maybe if I could step back and keep the bigger picture in my heart and mind--the one where I was given this tender, vulnerable, beautiful heart to nurture and treasure and take care of and then present back to God unmarked and unblemished--then maybe I would have enough wisdom to know the power I hold in my hands (or more accurately with my words) to bring life to the heart and soul of the one I love most deeply. Then, just maybe, as the bullets are flying and chaos is reigning, I will have the grace to step back and hear the voice of God within me, reminding me to say to her, "I choose you."