As long as you think your partner owes you something, your marriage will be all about keeping score. How do you prevent your relationship from devolving into transactions and negotiations?
- Have you ever seen someone try to deal with unmet expectations by ignoring them, staying busy, or finding someone else?
- Andy mentioned that any time we face a potential conflict we should ask ourselves, “What would a humble person do?” How could this question make your relationship better?
- What comes to mind when you think of prayer? Have you ever viewed prayer as an opportunity to release your anxiety to God?
- If you hope to be in a relationship in the future, what are some ways you can prepare to put your partner first? If you’re in a relationship now, what are some ways you can practice “moving to the back of the line”?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So we are in part three of What Happy Couples Know. And so the question is, what do happy couples know? And here’s what happy couples know. That over time, and sometimes initially, but often times eventually that our hopes, dreams, and desires become expectations. And they become expectations when we take our hopes, dreams, and desires, which seems so light and so happy, and so tangible, and so easily fulfilled, and we hand them to somebody else, and it feels like that. And so, from my perspective, it’s hopes, dreams and desires, “Who wouldn’t want to organize family the way I wanna organize family, resolve conflict the way I wanna resolve conflict? I know exactly how we’re gonna do money and budgets or no budgets. I know how many kids we’re gonna have and when we’re gonna have ’em. I know I’m gonna get to keep my car and you’re gonna drive whatever, and I know where we’ll live.” And so we all come into our relationships with hopes, dreams, and desires. And from our perspective, that’s what they are. From the perspective of the person on the other side of me, or the other side of you, it begins to feel like, and look like expectations.
And then what was meant to be enjoyable, becomes transactional. And the problem with transactional is the best negotiator in the relationship always wins because it’s a negotiation, so the best negotiator continues to win. He always wins, she always wins. “I had my plan. I knew exactly what I was gonna say. I had my approach all planned out and she won again. He won again.” And the problem is in a relationship when someone wins, the relationship loses. In a relationship, when I win, we loses. When you win, we loses. But the problem is we all bring this stuff into the relationship, and we just can’t help it. It’s absolutely unavoidable, and it’s not just the kinds of stuff that you can put in a box. A lot of it is intangible.
It’s things that maybe you haven’t thought through but they’re on the emotional, intangible, relational side of things. When you think about future successful happy relationships, you think about things like this, right? You wanna be respected. I do. You wanna be desired. You wanna be admired. As guys, we wanna… Whoever we spend our life with, we want them to think that we have what it takes. And the reason we want them to think we have what it takes is because about every other hour of every other day, we wonder if we have what it takes. “But I want Sandra to think I have what it takes.” We wanna be cherished, protected, defended, wanna be trusted. “I don’t want somebody’s always checking up on me and I want somebody who’s trustworthy. I wanna be prioritized.” You don’t wanna compete with his car. You don’t wanna compete with her job. You don’t wanna compete with his income. You don’t wanna compete with her family. You wanna be pursued, you wanna be attracted. There’s all these things, and the list goes on and on and on. And these are good things. And these are good things. In fact, some of these things I think are reflection of the image of God in us. This isn’t a good bad thing. This is just a thing thing. But the question is, what do we do? And how do we handle this? This is just an ongoing relational dynamic.
Last week, we said, and the week before that as well, we said that happy couples know that in order to keep hopes, dreams, and desires, and keep them from feeling like expectations, you have to make a decision. And the fundamental primary decision that you make is “He doesn’t owe me. She doesn’t owe me. Yes, this is what I desire, but I’m not expecting him, I’m not expecting her. He doesn’t owe me. She doesn’t owe me.” Then last week, we looked at what I think is the most powerful, relational, dynamic in the whole world. The whole idea of mutual submission, mutual submission. That in a Christian marriage specifically, it is a race to the back of the line. In a Christian marriage, it is a submission competition. Everybody’s trying to put the other person first, and if you argue, you argue over, “How can I put you first,” as opposed to “How can I get to the front of the line.”
Today, what do we do with these? And the good news is Peter tells us. Now, Peter was a follower of Jesus, one of Jesus’ original followers. In fact, some of the most famous stories in the New Testament has to do with Peter, and all the cool things Peter did.
He knew what Jesus taught, but he also knew what it was like to face extraordinary hardship. And so Peter tells us exactly what to do with all of the things in our box because he gives us a relational principle that is not specific to marriage and specific to romantic relationships but it certainly applies to those as we’re about to see. Now, I had to warn you though, what Peter says is a little weird, okay? And what Peter says maybe a little uncomfortable for you. And what Peter says may just seem so religious, you’re not sure you wanna embrace it. So, I just wanna invite you, if you would, to put down your skepticism for just a few minutes, put down your objections for just a few minutes and listen to the words of a man, come on, who knew Jesus. And besides that, the alternatives to what Peter suggests, they don’t work either. What are you gonna do with this stuff? What are you gonna do with this? Just, you’re gonna ignore it? You can’t ignore it. If you just ignore it, you’re gonna become unhealthy. You’re just gonna be a pretender and pretenders are no fun to have in a relationship, and eventually the person you’re in a relationship with is gonna think you’re getting kind of weird.
And if you just give, and give and give and give and give and give and never acknowledge what’s in your heart and never acknowledge perhaps the God-given desires that rattle around your heart and your soul, eventually, you’re gonna get worn out. What is your other option? You can just stay busy, I guess? Pour more time into tennis, more time into golf, more time into work, more time into the kids, more time into hunting, something that just keeps you apart. So you just kinda show up like roommates, but that’s not what you got into this for.
So staying busy isn’t an answer. Creating your own world isn’t an answer. And besides that, this sets you up for the third option, which is, I’m just gonna go find someone else. Now, if you’re dating and you’re just a few months in, or a few weeks in, and you’re not engaged yet, you’re just kinda moving in the direction of maybe a permanent relationship and it dawns on you that your hopes, dreams and desires are nothing like the person you’re dating’s hopes, dreams, and desires, then you probably should change relationships or maybe get out of that relationship. Because there’s time and you have that opportunity and this is very, very, very important. But if you’re in a relationship and, especially and obviously, if you’re married then simply getting out of the relationship, often times doesn’t solve anything. And here’s why, and this is pretty deep, okay? Wherever you go, there you are. Let me go over that again. Wherever you go, there you are.
In other words, you go with you and whatever part of the relationship problem you are, you’re going to take that into your next relationship. And just because somebody else couldn’t fulfill your hopes, dreams and wishes, what makes you think you’re gonna find somebody else who can? But this is generally not the answer. Again, here’s an observation and I promise I am not gonna stay here too long. This is another message for another day but just in case this is for you. People don’t rush into a new relationship because they’re eager to give their lives to someone. In other words, the person that you’re thinking about getting in a new relationship with, okay, you’re not anxious for that new relationship because it’s like, “Wow! I just wanna know what his or her hopes, dreams and desires are. I need a new relationship so I can help somebody else fulfill their hopes, dreams and desires.” That’s not why you’re looking for something new, and by the way, that’s not what they’re looking for either.
People don’t jump into new relationship because they’re trying to give their lives away. The problem with my relationship is “I just can’t give my life to my husband. I can’t give my life to my wife. I just can’t give my life to my fiancé. I gotta find somebody else.” That’s not what’s going on, is it? Come on, let’s be adults. Let’s be honest. You’re hoping to get something that you aren’t getting. And you should at least know that and you should be honest enough with yourself to acknowledge that.
Which means, you’re gonna hate me for this, but, if you are dating someone who is recently divorced, time is your friend. If you’re recently divorced and you’re dating someone, time is your friend. But come on let’s be honest, why do we rush into another relationship, it’s not because we just wanna be selfless with someone new.
Is it? No. It’s because “I got this dang box and I am tired of lugging it around and I’m ready to hand it to somebody new. ‘Cause I think she’s gonna do it better, he’s gonna do it better.”
So, the question is for today “What in the world do we do with this stuff?” And as I said, Peter tells us and in one of his letters that he wrote to Christians in the first century he picks up on this “put others first” idea.
He doesn’t use the phrase “mutual submission” like the Apostle Paul did, he uses a different term so we’re gonna jump into this passage and make this super practical. So here’s what Peter says, this is powerful he says, “All of you”, that’s all of you. “All of you, clothe yourselves,” that is put on so that you’re characterized by, “All of you put on, clothe yourself with humility toward one another.” It’s a general relationship principle that we’re gonna apply to romantic relationships in just a minute. In other words clothe yourself with humility, that means go small. That means go others first, that means go to the back of the line, that means at every relationship iteration, at every point of decision, at every transition, anytime there’s a potential conflict, here’s what you’re supposed to do, you should ask yourself “What would a humble person do?”
What would a humble person do? You say “Well, Andy, I’m not really humble.” I know, that’s why we’re asking this question. [laughter] Now, let me tell you a little secret about humility. If you start doing what a humble person does, you’ll be humble. [laughter] You go “Oh no, it’s an internal thing.” It’s not. See, you read your mind, you know if you’re arrogant. But everybody else just read your actions and actions speak louder than…
Exactly. So, if you start doing what a humble person does you’ll be humble. And if you go “Oh, I’m already humble.” Now, you just reading your own thoughts. We’re reading your actions, you’re not. So, stopping every once in a while, I’m telling you, this is a relational game changer and asking the question “Okay, I know what I’m gearing up to do, I know what I normally do, I know how I feel, I know what happened last time, I know what my mama says.” But you just stop and you go “Okay, but if I were to go small, if I were to go into the line, if I were to put someone else first, what would that look like in this circumstance? What would a humble person do?” Now, before you just turn me off, listen to how Peter finishes this statement. “All of you clothe yourself with humility toward one another because… ” Why humility, Peter? “Because God opposes the proud.”
It’s like “Oh, okay. Yeah, what would a humble person… ” In other words, do you really wanna be in opposition to God? In fact some of you, you would say “The reason I don’t believe in God, I’m not so sure about a personal God.” Part of it is you stiff-armed God a little bit. And Peter, who knew Jesus who was the son of God, said that “God pulls back from proud people, that God leans away from and leans back from proud people.” And before you judge God too harshly, that’s what you do as well, right? You’re not drawn to arrogant people right? Don’t you pull back? Don’t you resist entitled people? Demanding people, people who are always trying to squeeze out of you whatever they can get out of you for their benefit and they only think about themselves and they rarely think about how their behavior impacts you? But look what he says, “God opposes the proud but he shows favor or (grace).” In fact, grace is actually a better translation of this word. “He shows grace or favor to the humble.”
Now, this is an extraordinary promise, and in an English text it’s a little hard to see how this is a promise, but here’s what this means, Peter says “That when you humble yourself in a relationship, it is an invitation for God to give you the strength you need, the endurance you need, the power you need to maintain and to do the right thing, because humility is an invitation to God. Humility is an invitation to God.” Humility throughout the Old and New Testament, humility and perhaps you’ve experienced that, humility when we go small, when we go back of the line, when we go others first, it is an invitation for God to do something extraordinary in our lives and in our relationships.
So he says this, let me say it again a different way. Peter says “Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand.” Not under God’s mighty hand like, “Gotcha.” Not that kind of under God’s mighty hand. To be under God’s mighty hand, is to be under the canopy of His protection, is to be under the canopy of His authority. He says, “When you go humble, you are basically backing into the safest place you could be because God leans into the humble.” God leans towards the person that says, “What is the humble thing to do? What would a humble person do when she says, when he says, when he doesn’t, and when she does?” And this is an imperative, it’s when you wanna power up, when you wanna get demanding, when you wanna defend, he says, “No. Ask what would a humble person do and then you just do that.”
And not only are you under God’s mighty hand, he’s about to say, “You’re also in God’s mighty hand.” So, it’s not only under authority, it’s not only under protection, it’s in a place where when God is ready, He can do something extraordinary for you. And that brings us to the second promise, that or the purpose or the result that He may lift you up because you’re in His mighty hand. “God, I’ve done the humble thing, I’ve done the submissive thing, I’ve done the other’s first thing, I’ve placed myself in your mighty hand.” And God says, “And when the time comes, when the time is right, you’ve put yourself in a position to where I can lift you up.”
Now, you hear all that and you think, I’m sure that makes perfect sense to you. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” So, I think when Peter was writing this, this made perfect sense to him because of the context, the culture that he was in. I think he’s writing this and he realizes, “Okay, this is probably way over everybody’s head. So, I need to give them some handles So, Peter gets really, really practical. So, we’re gonna look at what Peter says within the context now of relationships, personal romantic relationships and here’s what Peter says, this is incredible.
He says, “I’m inviting you because I spent time with Jesus. And so, speaking on behalf of Jesus, son of God, I’m inviting you.” Check this out, he says, “Cast all your anxiety, all your frustrations, all your, ‘he said, he said, I thought, I always thought it was gonna be, I always dreamed it would be, they promised.’ Cast all of your anxiety on Him.” Talking about God and whose mighty hand you stand and under whose mighty hand you dwell. Cast all your anxiety on Him. In other words, don’t miss this. This is an invitation for you to unload on God. Here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying, “Look, instead of trying to get your significant other, whoever it is you’re in love with, to carry these stuff around.” He says, “I want you to cast it, I want you to hurl it, I want you to fling it towards your heavenly Father.” All your anxieties, all your cares, all your frustrations, all your unfulfilled dreams, all your “he promised, and she said, and I believed, and I thought, or I thought we talked that through and I though we’d agreed upon.”
Peter says, “Okay, before you take it to them, take it to Him. Cast all of it on your heavenly Father.” Wow. Now, here’s where you’re gonna struggle with this. And so, I’m gonna bare down a little bit, okay? Maybe uncomfortably. You’ve got to stop praying polite prayers. Don’t pray polite prayers. Don’t pray formal prayers. Stop praying formal prayers as well. In fact, sometimes I talk to people and it’s like, “Well, you know, Andy, I… I used to pray. I don’t know how to pray.” I’m like, “Ugh. Yes, you do.” But here’s how I know that, because you need to pray honest prayers. And everybody knows how to pray an honest prayer. You may have never prayed one because you’re afraid or because you memorized prayers as a child, or because the only prayers you pray are behind the steering wheel, or while you’re putting on make up, or at the meal, but Peter’s like, “Okay, forget all that.” I’m talking about some different kind of praying. I want you to get honest.
In other words, here’s what Peter saying, he’s saying “Look, you’re gonna take all this energy somewhere start with your Father in heaven.” Not the guy the down the hall, not your wife in the other room, don’t wait for that garage door to open and get ready to unload your hopes, dreams and desires, you start with your Father in heaven and you pray this out loud.
Now, Peter didn’t make this whole ‘cast your cares on the Lord’ thing up, he actually lifted this from one of David’s Psalms written hundreds of years earlier. So, because I know some of you have never prayed honest prayers, again you say, “Well, I don’t know how to pray.” You do know how to pray, you just haven’t done it like this because if you’ve ever been mad you know how to pray, if you ever lost your temper, you know how to pray, if you ever told someone off, you know how to pray. That’s part of what praying is. And the thing is Peter… This is powerful, you see, one day Peter and the guys, the disciples, they would watch Jesus go away and pray and then they would pray and they would look at each other and they would say “I don’t think we’re doing it right.” And these were Jewish boys who’d memorized all kinds of prayers but they would watch Jesus pray and they were like “It’s different, it’s like He’s over there in a wrestling match. He’s kinda loud I think we should move further away. I don’t know if we should overhear this.”
And so one day they went to Jesus, this was the… Their praying and his praying were different. One day they went to Jesus… And they said, “Jesus, teach us to pray.” Which means we’ve been praying, we don’t pray like you, we don’t think we’re doing it right. So all this years… Later Peter says “Okay, I learned a few things about prayer. Unload on your Father in heaven. Cast, throw, fling it all at at Him.” So anyway, he’d lifts this little phrase out of the Psalm of David… Getting back to that.
And so what I wanna do real quickly, I wanna read you a bit of this Psalm where he got this because it’s a great example of what I’m talking about. Now when David would write, he’s a poet, he’s a warrior, he’s been covered in the blood of his enemy, he’s a king, he’s a shepherd, been there, done that, he’s an adulterer, he’s forgiven, he’s a father, he’s a grandfather, he’s all these different roles and yet time after time after time he would re-center himself on his relationship with God and he would write his prayers and his prayers were kind of like journals and prayers and rants all mixed together. And God… [chuckle] The scripture says he was a man after God’s own heart so I think we all have permission to do this.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Okay, this is David, “If an enemy, not a friend, if an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it, that’s what enemies do. If a foe were rising against me I could hide but it is you,” he’s writing this down, “But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend.” I can’t believe he would do this, I can’t believe she would do this, I can’t believe they’ve turned on me, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God. We used to go to church together, as we walked about among the worshipers and people thought “Oh, look how they’re such a lovely couple. Oh, they get along.” And it’s like “I can’t believe it’s happening to me.” And check this out, “Let death be honest Dave, let death take my enemies by surprise, let them go down alive to the realm of the dead for evil finds lodging among them.” Can you say that to God? Do you know what the English equivalent of this is? To hell with them. [laughter] That’s what that means, to hell with them. [chuckle] Okay.
He keeps going, “As for me I called to God and the Lord saves me.” Now, check this out, okay, this is so powerful, not behind the steering wheel on the way to work, not while I’m putting on my make up, not while I’m getting dressed and having a thought prayer. “Evening, morning and noon, evening, morning and noon, evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and He hears my thoughts, He hears my voice.” David said, “Sometimes, I’m so desperate and frustrated I pray three times a day and I pray loud and they are not polite prayers.” Wow.” And as a result He rescues me, He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me. It’s like a war.” He says. “Even though many oppose me, God love is God who is enthroned, He lifts His eyes off of this circumstances, off this relationships. God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change – he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God. God’s gonna get my enemies.”
And then David kinda re-gathers himself, re-centers himself, and he makes this statement, that Peter lifts up and uses in the New Testament years later. He says this, “Cast,” here it is “Cast, throw, or fling your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you, He will never let the righteous be shaken or He will never let the righteous be brought down, but you,” he’s not done, “But you God, will bring down… I might not be brought down, the righteous may not be brought down but you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay, the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days.” Uh, see that’s not nice, is it?
You know what that is? That’s honest. You ever prayed like that? I know you’ve unleashed hell on the person you’re living with or your husband or your wife or you know you just kind of, “I’m gonna tell you one more time”, you’ve done that, but have you ever talked to God that way? And I didn’t know we could talk to God that way.
Look, if you’ve never been that honest with God, my friend, you’ve never opened your heart completely to God. He doesn’t want polite, He wants you, and that’s part of humility, it’s heart wide open. “God, I am so frustrated, I am so fed up, I am so done, I am so over it. I wish I’d never met him, I wish I’d never married her, I wish I’d never slept with him.” Well there’s that. “Okay, I wish I never met him. I’m just so over it, and I need you because I don’t know what to do.” I mean, this isn’t unrealistic, we talked about this. “God, I need you.” And here’s the thing and understand this, if you didn’t have permission to be that honest with your parents growing up, especially with your father, “Don’t you talk to me that way.” You know, one of those deals. This is gonna be hard for you. And I’ve been doing this a long time, and when my kids hit that age where they just had some things to say, I told Sandra, “It’s okay. I am honored.” And I always tell them when they would just lose it at me, on me, because of me, whatever might be, I would just absorb it. And when they were finished, I would say, “Thank you, thank you for honoring me with what’s inside of you.”
And you’re thinking, “You’re making that up, you didn’t do that with your teenage kids.” Yes I did, and you know why I did it? Because I’ve known for a long, long time that my Father in heaven invites that kind of feedback from me even when I’m wrong, even when I’m misguided, even when I don’t see the world the way the world really is. And I decided a long time ago before my kids ever hit adolescence, you know what? I would rather them bring it to me fearlessly than to shut it down and let all that energy go somewhere else.
But here’s the best part of all, this is so powerful, and if you’ve been away from church for a long time, or you’ve been out of church for a long time, or you’re skeptical, I get that. If I were you, I would be as skeptical as you are. But if you’re the least bit open, this next part, this is gold, this is so powerful. He says “Cast your anxiety on Him.” Why? Because He cares for you, that’s why. The reason you can bring it, the reason He’s not offended, the reason He’s not gonna shut you down, the reason He’s not gonna be like, “Whoa, don’t use that kinda language.” Is because He cares for you.
Listen, if it’s important to you, it is important to your Father in heaven, that’s how good fathers are, right? If it’s important to you, it is important to your Father in heaven because you are important to your Father in heaven. And Peter saw this in Jesus. I mean, come on, Peter really saw it, because there at the end, Peter was exactly like the friend in David’s Psalm. He spent three years with Jesus and saw it all, did it all, walked on water, did the whole deal, and at the end, he betrayed his friend. And in the end, Jesus took him back. He didn’t just take him back, He put him in charge of the whole enterprise. Peter knew God can handle it, God can take it, you are invited to bring it. Again, you’re gonna unload this somewhere.
Your heavenly Father says, start with me, start with me. Get on your knees everyday and just give me your list, give me your box, give me your expectations, give me your disappointment, give me your heartbreak, give me all the things he or she promised or the things that aren’t working out. I’m telling you, bring them to me every single day because that is an expression of humility, and humility is an invitation for God to do something remarkable. But I gotta warn you, the first remarkable thing God does will not be in the person down the hall, the first remarkable thing God does, if you do this, will be in you. In fact, you’ll begin to see this box differently; you’ll begin to see some of the things in this box differently. Chances are you’ll take some things out of the box. You may discover that you’ve been trying to squeeze something out of your husband or your wife or fiancée that was never in them to give in the first place and that they weren’t created to give you in the first place. And you may discover that you both really hope for and dream of and wish for the very same thing. But that transformation will never happen as long as you’re taking it to them first.
And so your heavenly Father says, “I invite you. No more happy prayers, no more polite prayers, no more go through all the… Just bring it to me.” You see, happy couples know, happy couples know that hopes, wishes and dreams and hopes, dreams and desires quickly become expectations and happy couples know that they just have to decide the other person doesn’t owe me anything. Happy couples know that it’s a submission competition, that it is race to the back of the line. And happy couples know that sometimes, sometimes, sometimes you have to throw things.