Welcome back to the End Average Fundamentals series! If you are new to this, please begin reading the series from the beginning by clicking HERE. Although the messages work on their own, there will be more context for you if you follow them in sequence. Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter and I’ll send these directly to you so you never miss a new post. You can sign up right on the EndAverage.com homepage. Now let’s get right to it!
Relationships are a tough subject to talk about in a simplistic way. Relationships are complicated. Relationships are essential. They can be wonderful parts of our human experience, but they can also be very painful. While thinking about how to break this down, I thought about all the different versions of relationships: our relationship with our parents, siblings and relatives, your spouse, your children, your bosses and employees, your church family, your friends, and your neighbors. What does every one of those relationships have in common? That’s right, YOU! So I’ll come right out and say that if you’ve got a string of broken, toxic, or nonexistent relationships you might want to take a look inward. The weak link on the chain might be you. So that’s the bad part. The good part is that you can change yourself! Over the next four sessions we’re going to break down the fundamentals for the most practical kinds of relationships we have: marriage, raising children, friendships, and mentorship (or discipleship) relationships. We just got through the fundamentals of faith. (You should go check those out before reading this.) Your faith and your personal walk with God, your most important and valuable relationship, will dramatically affect how successful you are at becoming the husband your wife deserves, and the father your kids need, and the person God intends you to be. Let’s get to it.
I owe a lot of who I am now to my relationship with my wife. I probably owe my life to it, actually. Before my wife and I started our relationship I was a typical soldier in the Army, macho-frat-boy mentality. Sure I identified as a Christian, I’d grown up as a missionary kid after all. I could talk the talk to blend in at church with the best of ’em, but my life definitely didn’t reflect the values and beliefs I loosely held. It was early on in a deployment to Iraq that my mom emailed me and let me know that she had run into my childhood friend, my now-wife Jenna, at church. She also went on to let me know that she had grown up and gotten hot! Thanks, mom. So long story short, we started talking and I quickly fell in love. We spent a grand total of two weeks together in person when I had a mid-tour trip home, and then the day I got back from tour we got married in the courthouse. So there I was, married, reintegrating into normal life, and I had a fresh start. I quickly realized that I had married up, and I had a long way to go to become the man my new wife deserved. The following are the four key areas I discovered would be critical for our marital success.
The simplest way I can explain this is that I have had to learn (and am still far from perfect here!) how to embrace servant leadership in my relationship with my wife. In Ephesians chapter 5 Paul writes, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” and then “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy“. Now before you grab your pitchforks and go on a rant about gender roles being different now than they were back then, know this, Paul was definitely not saying that all a wife should do is smile and nod when the “supreme leader” husband speaks. The opposite is true – the call here is for the husband to lead and care for his wife by giving himself up for her. In practical terms, I try to live this by knowing my wife’s deep needs, and even her desires, and I seek to become who she needs me to be to fulfill those needs. Being the spiritual leader for her means that I am responsible for keeping up family habits like Bible reading, prayer, and making sure we’re involved in good stewardship of time, talent , and resources. The directive Paul gives is heavier on the husband’s shoulders, as he also compares this sacrificial relationship to the sacrifice Jesus made for the church – that’s a tall order to live up to, men.
Love your spouse
Seems obvious right? Well, it’s not. Ask me how I know. There’s a book I highly recommend you pick up whether you’re married or not, called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The lessons I learned from this book are, no doubt, the most valuable lessons on marriage I’ve ever gotten. The five love languages are essentially the “languages” that we all give or receive love. My wife might respond well to gifts or quality time spent together, so if I am trying to show her love for years by doing acts of service for her (my language for expressing love) I won’t actually be communicating my love correctly. It’s an amazing book and I want you to go get it and read it with your spouse. I have four kids, so I kinda know what I’m talking about 😉
When it comes to security within a marriage there are several kinds of security, but in my relationship with my wife the most critical kinds of security are physical, financial, and relational security. Physical and financial are pretty self explanatory – I will protect her from any threat I can possibly protect her from, and more importantly, she will never have to worry about defending herself from me. Financially, I make sure that she always knows exactly where we are with our money and we make our plans and goals together. Being on the same page lets us both feel confident that we’re going to be mutually supportive with money matters. Relational security is a big one, and could be a whole series on its own. But for now, the practical ways I show my wife relational security is to live by a code of standards that allow me to stay above reproach. An example is that I won’t go into a neighbor’s house if their husband isn’t home. Not because I might cheat on my wife, but because I don’t need that seed of doubt to enter someone’s mind allowing rumors to start and trickle back to my wife! Another example is that we never keep password protected anything on our computers – again, not because I don’t trust her, but because I want us to be completely transparent with each other. The only way to prove this commitment to her and to grow her confidence in me is to actually do those things continuously. Talk is cheap – especially if you have to make up for lost ground if you’ve made mistakes in this areas before.
Again, this seems obvious. But it cannot be stressed enough. Remember that chatting about what’s happening in your favorite TV show doesn’t really count as marriage-enriching communication. I’m talking about that intentional time set aside where you talk about each others’ dreams and expectations, or air out the emotional dirty laundry that might have built up over time. Jenna and I take long drives as a chance to really dig into our expectations for the future, how the kids are doing, planning, etc… We daily bounce our schedules off of each other, but because our life is busy it could be weeks in between these check-ins. We have to make sure to schedule date nights, or we take long walks while the kids ride bikes and use the chance to really communicate with each other. I always leave these talks with my wife feeling invigorated and recharged, ready to lean into whatever plan we caught up on.
There is no life-hack to a healthy marriage
In the end it’s simple, yet hard at the same time. I wish I could say that we’ve got a perfect marriage, but I can’t. What I am confident saying is that our marriage is growing in depth and fulfillment even though we’ve got four crazy kids running around, a full time job, a growing ministry, and all the other waves life throws at us. The secret? The secret is that there is no secret! Growing the strength of a marriage is entirely up to you and your spouse living up to the fundamentals of faith in your own lives, and then bringing each other up by working on the few things I mentioned above. Do them, adjust, keep doing them, adjust, and keep on going. I know you can do it!
Let’s end average together.