Almost a month ago, Lifeway employees from all over the country gathered at Brentwood Baptist for a couple of days of meetings to hear from our leaders and be together in person now that we are a fully remote workforce.
I think all who attended would agree one of the best parts of our time together was hearing from former president of Lifeway, Dr. Jimmy Draper. All of what Dr. Draper said was helpful and encouraging, but he gave one particular piece of wisdom that I’ve continued to turn over in my heart and mind.
When asked about what advice he would give to those who are married, he ended his answer with a reminder to us to approach marriage with gratitude. With the excitement of a newly married man, he shared how thankful he was for Carol Ann, his wife of 65 years, and shared several stories of how they expressed their gratitude for one another for completing the most mundane chores like making the bed or taking out the garbage.
I’ve thought about Dr. and Mrs. Draper’s example many times in the last few weeks and felt challenged to apply their wisdom into to my own decade-old marriage.
Here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve attempted to shape my own marriage with gratitude.
First, apply the “one anothers” of Scripture to your marriage.
The New Testament epistles are filled with practical instruction about how Christians should relate to other Christians. Many of these passages are easy to identify because they include the words one another. When these commands are taught, they’re often aimed at people outside our homes. We neglect to consider how they might apply to the believers in our homes or the other Christian within our marriage.
And, yet, consider what would happen in your marriage if you committed to:
- Take the lead in honoring one another (Romans 12:10);
- Pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another (Romans 14:10);
- Welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, to the glory of God (Romans 15:7);
- Bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2);
- Encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11);
- Not criticize (James 4:11) or complain about (James 5:9) one another;
- Clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5).
These are just the few. The list could go on.
Obeying these commands in the context of marriage cultivates a heart that is bent on meeting the other person’s needs above our own and gives us the Spirit-guided ability to turn our best intentions into action. Moving in grace toward our spouses shifts our perception and allows us to see them the way Christ sees them—with love and gratitude.
Secondly, don’t pass up an opportunity to show gratitude.
Said another way, when you see your spouse doing something you’re grateful for, say so.
Our marriages hit a stride where each spouse knows their responsibilities and begins to do them in an automatic—albeit thankless—way. Taking the time to notice what your spouse is doing and thanking them will bear immediate fruit. Most people perform chores out of necessity, not a desire to be thanked. However, everyone values being seen and appreciated.
Imagine what would change in a marriage if you were thanked for every household task you performed during the week. Hopefully you feel appreciated without the extra recognition, but at worst, gratitude will improve your relationship. It lets your spouse know that you see them and care about them in that moment. Taking the time to thank one another regularly increases the emotional bond and relational strength of your marriage and draws both of you closer to Christ. It models the kind of self-sacrificial service that marriage was designed to demonstrate.
Lastly, seek to serve one another well.
My wife and I have a saying—be helpful in a way that’s helpful to the people you’re trying to serve. When we got to the age where our friends started having babies, we noticed that lots of well-meaning people do lots of well-meaning things that aren’t helpful to the people they’re trying to help.
The same can be said in our marriages. There’s a way to be helpful that’s self-serving. We should seek to be helpful in a way that is self-sacrificing. This happens when we see needs as they are and address them in a way that serves the other person first. It means embracing tasks you don’t enjoy or noticing when your spouse is feeling worn down and being motivated by gratitude to meet their needs. As this becomes commonplace in your marriage the level of gratitude will increase with the level of service.
None of these tips are particularly pithy or unexpected, but neither was Dr. Draper’s advice. After 65 years of marriage, his advice was the kind of thing a person in any stage of marriage could take up and embrace. And that’s the beauty of gratitude, it’s a simple posture that yields immediate results. As you spend this week considering all the things you’re thankful for, don’t neglect to show honor and gratitude to your spouse.