Our pre-marital counseling didn’t go so well.
After one session, our pastor sent us home with the instructions to complete Norman Wright’s classic workbook, Before You Say “I Do.” We made it through Lesson One.
I remember it quite vividly. We had good intentions of completing it, but Lesson Two stopped us in our tracks. Ironically, in a discussion about acceptance in marriage, I erupted in anger and marched out of the room.
We never did finish the book. We lacked a lot of things in those early years of marriage – one of those things was humility.
At the root of most relational warfare is the sin of pride. “Pride,” as John Stott wisely noted, “is more than the first of seven deadly sins: it is itself the essence of all sin.”
Colossians 3:12, teaches us that in order to defeat pride, we must dress ourselves in humility:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
So what does humility do? What does humility look like in action?
The following are five marks of humility:
Humility is other-centered and not me-centered. – Humility exchanges “me” for “you” in a relationship (Philippians 2:1-4). The relationship doesn’t revolve around my needs and desires. Instead, in humble love, I look to the care and concern of my spouse first. The paradox of Christianity is that there is greater joy in giving than receiving. Humility gives without demanding.
Humility sees my sin first, and the sin of my spouse, second. – Self-righteousness can make you blind. Those who always think they’re right are usually blind to what others see with great clarity. Humility is not denying someone else’s sin; it’s dealing with your own sin first.
Humility is quick to listen and slow to speak. –James 1:19 commands us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” If we fail to be humble, we will not honestly hear and understand where our spouse is coming from or where the real source of conflict is. Pride not only makes us blind, it makes us deaf. Humility leaves open the option that we are wrong. Listen long before speaking lightly.
Humility is trust and not just tolerance. – Humility recognizes that God is at work in your spouse to shape them into the image of Jesus. The timing of this process belongs to God. It is not about tolerating your spouse’s weakness, as much as it is trusting that God’s Spirit is at work to do His will, in His way (John 16:7-9).
Humility makes space for growth. – Humility does not demand perfection in someone else but makes space for growth. As a couple, we rest in the grace and perfection of Jesus. Because he has loved us with patience, mercy, and humility, we do the same for our spouses (Philippians 2:5).
In Jesus, God dressed himself in humility, to restore and reconcile a lost relationship. The joy and intimacy we now enjoy is the result of God humbly moving toward us in flesh and in love. He “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” May His example motivate you to move toward, and not away, from one another in greater intimacy and delight.