Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24 (ESV)
When I heard this Scripture verse from the sermon this morning at our church I knew that the message was not going to be one of those feel good ones that reassures us that we can be happy and secure and comfortable. If I had any doubts all I needed to do was register the expression on Nan’s face. But as I listened it in it’s entirety it was also a message of hope – and it inspired me to apply the verse to relationships.
Marriages are unending opportunities to test out the verse
I want my marriage to be fruitful. I don’t want to just lope along trying not to get into too much trouble. That usually means that I am avoiding engaging at a very deep level. But I also know that swimming in the deep end of the emotional pool can be risky. We could end up sharing some really good intimate moments, but we could also end up in painful conflict.
These times of conflict challenge me to put my faith to the test. Will I power up on Nan or will I “die” to self? I can tell you what I feel like doing (and it isn’t admirable). But the verse tells me that if I don’t make the sacrifice I will remain alone and nothing good will come of it. Of course Nan has the same choice too, and I reluctantly (sheepishly) admit that over the years she has probably done a better job than I have. Call it male pride or immaturity. They both fit.
What kinds of sacrifices do you need to make in your relationship?
- Your finances?
- Your ambition?
- Your anger?
- Your time?
- How about your contemptuous, critical or sarcastic attitude?
- Do you need to give up your right to your opinion all the time? That was and still is a really hard one for me. I always want the last word.
Some couples will never make it unless they both are willing to die to self. There has been so much damage on both sides that they have built emotional fortresses and engage in a contest to see who can come up with the longest list of perceived offenses. The blame game becomes a highly skilled sport for them. But this can be a fight to the death of a marriage.
But the verse brings a message of hope. Jesus sacrificed Himself so that many could live. We make sacrifices so that our relationships can survive and even thrive – and not just marriages, but also parents to children, friends to friends, and communities to communities. There is joy in this kind of surrender because it often brings peace and harmony. And that produces a feeling of satisfaction – not from the temporary loss, but from the expanding gain that follows.