Making someone or something look good or great is in itself not a bad thing. But, when people are expected to put themselves out – sometimes to their own detriment – for the sake of the company, organization, community or individual, something is definitely not right about it.
Something is definitely not right when we lose ourselves in order for something or someone to look good or great. It is certainly not a Christian value and should not be mistaken for the sacrificial life. In the life of sacrifice, we give up something by choice in faith for what is right according to Scripture. That is an integral aspect of Christian living. In the endeavour to look good, however, the focus is that thing or person – not God. But the most important reason why it is wrong is that the people who are pulled into the effort to look good or great do it not by choice but by expectation.
They are expected to make this thing or person look good even if they don’t want to but they subjugate their feelings for what is projected as the greater good or, worse still, as God’s will. Nowhere is this more evidenced than in marriages.
The husband is the “greater good”. He is the head, the provider and promoting him in that capacity – even at the expense of the wife’s own growth – is considered a virtue. But, secretly, wives in that position die a little every day until they want out because they can take it no more! This is not a Christian expectation; it is how men have interpreted the wife’s role.
Women have bought into this expectation of the wife’s role through the mental reinforcement of cultural tradition and religious obedience. But, it isn’t what Jesus wants.
Referring to his followers (sheep), Jesus says in His own words in John 10:10 (NIV): “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus came to give us life to the full. His objective is that we should have fulfilled lives in Him. That life demands some sacrifices but never to the point that it destroys something about ourselves that leaves us unfulfilled.
A life in Him, even when it costs, is fulfilling. But, when it costs and we feel used and spent, it is not a life well lived, and certainly not a life lived in Him!
Silently, wives live such unfulfilled lives because consciously or unconsciously they think that is what is expected of them. They want more but they don’t get it because men have convinced them that what they are getting is enough. The cars, houses, diamonds, designer clothes and accessories and a few kids and provision for their future all reflect their love for their wives, they are told. Yet, something deep is still missing. Some women can come to terms with it while others opt out and move on, often never regretting. They find fulfillment in the things they once sacrificed and that makes up for the emotional loss.
The key is personal fulfillment. In the husband and wife relationship, it is the woman who gives more, emotionally, but what she gets back is often less or nothing at all. Having sacrificed the other things that would have fulfilled her for the sake of her husband, she remains in her role as the emotional giver and an unfulfilled person.
The men, on the other hand, are fulfilling their roles accomplishing things as husband, provider, father, leader at work with the help of the wife, but, emotionally, he gives little. But, he is more fulfilled that his wife.
I want to encourage women, especially if they are reading this article, that the life in Christ also means personal fulfillment — that they are free to find that fulfillment in any way they want to. The only constraint is that they can’t sin.
The unfulfilled life is not and should not be the Christian experience because Jesus gives life to all, men and women. When Christian men and women find fulfilled lives in Christ, they grow into being the person they were created to be. They should be allowed to develop in the specifically individual way they were created. This kind of thinking is rarely taught in Christian circles. As a result, Christian women think that their emotionally unfulfilled life is their lot. This imbalance in emotional giving can only be corrected when both husband and wife can grow: he, emotionally, and, she, in all the other areas that she had previously sacrificed.
When fulfilled people marry, one party is less likely to feel oppressed by expectations that are unbearable to them. They will be able to confidently navigate through the emotional scheme of giving and taking. Sometimes, one gives more but by choice by faith in Christ. Even if it involves sacrifices, it is still fulfilling.
Growing emotionally for men begins with emotional honesty. Growing in all the other areas that make us fuller people for women begins with the desire to step out of the mould. The end result will be confident, fulfilled people enabled to take on the challenges of relationships and of life.
A marriage of fulfilled people is a powerful relationship that is empowering and enabling. It is a true reflection of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church, His Bride.