"How to Live Poured Out for a Marriage That Fills You Up"
“… 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 2:7-8 (ESV)
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional.” Those are the words I spoke to my counselor after my wife, Wynter, suddenly passed away in my arms 15 years and one month after we made our marriage vows.
Her death was sudden. It was unexpected. And it was the last thing I was thinking about when I repeated back to the minister, “until death do us part.”
I knew that day would come, but I would never have imagined, nor would I have been able to comprehend, that it would arrive so soon. My daughters, ages 14, 11 and twin 9-year-olds, and I were left in a world of pain with a depth of loss that was unimaginable. They lost their wonderful mom. I lost my best friend.
The only thing that carries us daily is the grace of God manifested in different ways and through His people.
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional” were words I uttered for a very specific reason. I was acknowledging the reality every married couple faces on a daily basis — imperfection. Wynter and I entered into our marriage with pretty glaring blemishes.
We were 23 years old when we married. We brought our past and all its layers of complication right in to our first apartment. The more time we spent together and the more we weighed our marriage against God’s Word, the more we realized things would have to change.
And that’s what I meant by the second half of that phrase — “we were intentional.” Our imperfections received season tickets into our new life together with free renewal every year, unless together we decided differently.
We weren’t naïve to think we could obtain perfection on our own, but we were both committed to pursuing what God had in mind when He created marriage in the first place. Oneness was our goal, and teamwork was our strategy.
I thank God now for the Holy Spirit’s strength to carry out those intentions, day by day, as His perfect grace covered our failures and honored our desires.
Intentionality looked different every day. Some days, it was me apologizing. Another day, it was Wynter telling me to go play a round of golf because she knew I needed the rest. Or I might tell her to go lie down while I cooked dinner or took the kids out to give her a few quiet hours. There were even days when she chose not to overreact to my grumpy and tired attitude, giving me grace to apologize before she brought it to my attention.
Among our most memorable moments were when we shared sushi on the couch for a TV binge session after the kids were in bed.
In every instance, it looked like deference. In every purposeful act, we chose to honor one another above ourselves, committing to lay down our own desires for our spouse’s needs. Often, it looked like giving up what we wanted for the good of each other. In our intentionality, we grew up together in Jesus and in friendship.
The day Wynter died will forever be stamped as a day of great paradox. Wynter passed from death to life around 7:45 p.m. that Tuesday evening, but in God’s great sovereignty, at 3:45 p.m. earlier that same day, I hit send on an e-mail to our publisher to approve the final, edited manuscript of the book that would document our marriage story. In it, we describe the only word that adequately explains the intentionality we sought in our marriage: emptied.
In Philippians 2:7, the Bible says Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” With perfect intentionality, in His love, Jesus gave up everything for you and me, even to death. His intentional emptying of Himself resulted in our perfect filling. Because He died, we now live. Because He emptied Himself, you and I can now be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Imperfectly but consistently, Wynter and I attempted to model our Savior. We daily chose to empty ourselves for each other. We gave up what we thought we were owed to give the best of what we had to offer. In that consistent intentionality, our me became we.
I’m reminded that only God gets to decide when our “book” will end. I’m not sure how long your book is, but I encourage you to make it a good one. Remember each day that the next is not promised … and the one you have right now is the best one to experience the fullness of a poured-out marriage.
Heavenly Father, most days I’m more concerned about being filled than being emptied. Help me to see the great joy found in emptying myself for my spouse. I pray You would use my emptying to fill them up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Hebrews 12:2, “… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)