Now, why is he or she the most important person to you? And “because he or she’s my ________” isn’t an acceptable answer. Why is that person important to you?
As best as you can remember, when did you realize that something had changed in your relationship? Was it a dramatic change or did it happen more gradually?
For the next few months’ worth of Wednesdays, we’re exploring how a living relationship with Jesus affects every part of our lives. We’re going to start with the most important human relationship in our lives right now. For many of us, that’s our spouses, and that’s where the principle focus will lie today.
For others of us, though, that’s not the case. No matter what your current situation is, the bigger question remains: How do you show the love of Christ to the most important person or people in your life?
As we learn to share our lives in Jesus with those people, we begin to understand how to share it with others as well—and our most important relationships become deeper and more intimate as a result. Loving those closest to us the way Jesus loves them is something we all need to learn more about. Read, then reflect:
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is great – but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33, NET).
This passage tends to elicit some strong reactions, so let’s not ignore them as we break this passage down further. And to be clear, these questions are for both sexes:
• What’s your reaction to the word “submit”? What personal experiences—positive or negative—does it bring to mind?
• Think about a time you submitted to your spouse (or again, another important person in your life). Why did you choose to do it? How did it affect your relationship?
• What’s the connection between submitting to someone and loving someone? How are they different? How does submitting show the other person how important he or she is to you?
If that important person in your life is available right now—or you’re able to remember this entry long enough afterward to attempt this—I’d like you to try a little experiment in submitting. I’ve seen this do some powerful work in a small-group context, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work in the privacy of your own home/coffee shop/workplace/etc. …
Sit down with that person. Let the younger of you two take three minutes to share something you’re currently struggling with outside of your relationship. It might be a work situation, a problem with a family member or neighbor, or something you’ve really been wrestling with God over. Tell your partner what you really think about the situation, and if possible, how he or she could help. Be sure not to direct any criticism or blame as you describe your situation.
Those of you listening: Do nothing but listen. Don’t suggest. Don’t commiserate. Don’t get defensive. Don’t do anything but listen.
After three minutes, switch roles. And again, as your partner shares, be quiet and don’t interrupt. If nothing else, this is a good opportunity to talk about something you’ve been wrestling with—and to practice your listening skills! Afterward, reflect together:
• Which was easier for you: talking or listening? Why?
• How do you feel honored when you know someone’s really listening to you?
• What are some other ways can you can submit to and honor the person across from you?
Communication foster intimacy, and as Bill Hybels says, “For a marriage relationship to flourish, there must be intimacy. It takes an enormous amount of courage to say to your spouse, ‘This is me. I’m not proud of it—in fact, I’m a little embarrassed by it—but this is who I am.’ ”
So either on your own, or together, reflect on these questions. Again, substitute “most important person” for “spouse” as needed:
• Within the past month, was there a time you let your day get so full that you barely had time for your spouse?
• Have you recently ignored your spouse—even for a minute—because of something you were watching on television, a computer screen, cell phone, or iPhone?
• Within the past year, have you let work get in the way of a time the two of you had planned to be together?
• Within the past six months, have you let a dispute over children, friends, or activities come between you?
• Have you ever let a hobby or other interest consume so much of your time that your spouse felt neglected?
• Let’s look at the positive side now: What’s one way your spouse has shown that you take priority in his or her life? How has that helped you “return the favor”?
• What’s your biggest challenge in giving priority to your spouse? What’s one practical change you could make to overcome that?
Be sure to put your answer to that last question into practice. And may God bless each you as you take your relationships to the next level.