“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. […] ‘For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.’ […] ‘If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’” John 13:1–5, 15 & 17 (NKJV)
We all have this drive that gives us an edge—this desire to win. If you’re in business, coaching your kid’s sports team, or even just at a couples’ game night, you want to win. It’s human nature. But when you get married bearing that same mindset, you can sometimes tear down the other person to build yourself up.
A healthy marriage is about shifting that mindset from “I want to win” to “I want to win in the right ways.” You can win in marriage using John 13 and our Savior as a model. We see Him washing His disciples’ feet—that’s Him winning by laying down His life for the ones He loves.
But how do we do that for our spouse? We serve them to the best of our ability, and instead of tearing them down, we build them up so we can win the right way—together.
I Want to Out-Serve My Spouse
It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to express your feelings to someone who has hurt you. Often, when we should be listening to our spouse and hearing how they feel, we’re determined to prove we’re right and “win” the conversation.
But what if we tried to win at out-serving our spouse instead? In our more than 20 years of marriage, we’ve learned that one of the ways we can serve each other is to just hear the other person out. Rather than try to walk away from the issue victorious, we remember that our real objective is not to win but just to say, “I’m sorry.”
If we want to win at this marriage thing together, we have to remember that whenever we’re battling an issue or going back and forth over something trying to “just get the point across,” we have a joint objective. Our goal isn’t to win by tearing our spouse down—it’s to out-serve them in this moment.
Jesus’ entire earthly ministry hinges on this concept. He seems to be saying, “You want to live a life that’s blessed? You want to live a life that brings me glory? You want to live a life that pushes my kingdom forward?” There are many things connected to having a truly blessed marriage, but serving one another is right smack dab in the middle of it. It’s you and your spouse being willing to take off your outer garments—pride and insecurity—and be willing to wash the feet of the one God brought into your life.
That change tears down strongholds and mindsets, opens up hearts, and creates a beautiful intimacy in your marriage.
Your Growth is My Goal
In Texas, we sometimes say, “Bless your heart.” It’s a nice/not so nice way of saying, “You’re an idiot.”
In marriage, we can’t get away with fake encouragement. As a husband, as a wife, we need to be the ones to tell our spouses, “I want to build you up. I want to help you become all that God has destined for you to be. Every single thing that God placed on the inside of you when you were in your mother’s womb—I want to make sure all of that comes to life. I don’t want to tear you down. I want to build you up!”
The heart of what we’re saying is that we need to be each others’ biggest fans and make sure that our spouse realizes that with God, there’s no ceiling on their life. If your husband is starting a business, make sure you tell him, “You’re going to be the best business owner ever. You’re going to be a model for other businesses when you retire. Honey, this is going to be the best season of your life!”
When your wife is getting ready for her day, make sure you tell her, “There’s nothing God can’t do in you and through you. I’m for you. I believe in you. I see the hand of God upon your life. When you leave for work, you go crush it. May you have great clients. May you have great breakthrough!”
You have the ability in marriage to be an incubator of encouragement. Without a doubt, you’ll still see all of each other’s flaws and shortcomings and help each other grow the most. There’s truth in fixing flaws. When an individual makes a mistake or messes up, it should be fixed—we need to attack that stuff! But we need to attack it with grace. In a healthy relationship, you have to have both encouragement and grace. Unfortunately, sometimes we’re so focused on the “truth” and on being “right” that we forget grace—the key to that incubator of encouragement and empowerment. You can still be each other’s biggest fan—the one to pour so much hope, so much life, so much vision, so much strength into your spouse, and to be the first one to say, “Hey, I believe in you,” every day.
Your spouse doesn’t really care about the exact words you use. If you can be their biggest fan and help them realize all that God has put on the inside of them, even while gracefully helping them grow, that is the strongest empowerment they will ever receive.
Won’t He Do It?
Many of us can walk into a home and know what needs to be remodeled and even see the vision for it right away: take down that wall to the kitchen, change out the floors, new cabinet knobs here and there—we’re visionaries. But sometimes, we turn that gift off when we go home, and we don’t have a vision for our spouse or kids. But God does supernatural renovations in families just like we do in homes.
Do you feel like this season of your marriage is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom that needs a lot of renovation, and you have no idea if grace will even fit through the front door? Ask God for fresh eyes, for a vision of the future for your spouse, your marriage, and your kids. He can give you fresh coats of paint, new floors, and new hardware in the spiritual realm. Before you know it, people will be complimenting you both saying, “Look at this marriage! It’s stunning—I want to grow and learn from you!” And you’ll have your amazing testimony to look back on—that there was a day when the floorboards were coming up, flood damage everywhere, when the paint was peeling, and you had to remediate the mold. But then, God gave you a fresh vision and fresh perspective. You’ll be able to say, “Just look at what God has done!”