For Women, Purpose

When Your Serving is Motivated by Fear

man in white crew neck t-shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on white sofa chair

Early in our marriage, I set out to win the “Best Wife in the World” award. I was certain if such an award existed, I would not only be a top finalist; I would take home the gold for sure. I would be the kind of wife that other women would dream about being. I would be the kind of wife who would make any husband happy. I would model what a perfect wife looked like.

A few years into this game of trying to win the award, I conceded to the fact that the award was indeed fake. I had been its sole originator, judge, presenter, and smiling recipient. For years I thought to myself, “You will not find a better wife on the planet,” and I made it my mission to keep living up to this self-proclaimed standard year after year. 

There were many problems, however, with what I was doing, as I’m sure you can figure out on your own. On the plus side, I WAS A REALLY GOOD WIFE. Couldn’t argue that. But on the negative side, I was forcing myself to keep winning this make-believe award every single year.

Or else.

Or else what? you might ask.

Or else Aaron would leave me. 

The biggest fear in my life

That was the kicker. I needed to be the best so that he would have no reason to look outside the home for a new woman. I know it may sound crazy to you, and I can admit I, too, now find it crazy; but to me, at the time, it was as real as real can be. It was the best motivator I could think of to make sure Aaron and I didn’t become a statistic of infidelity in our marriage. Because that was my biggest fear in life: the fear that my husband would wake up one day and decide he wanted a new wife. A new sex partner. A new best friend. A new woman to chase God with. It plagued me so much that I started living the kind of life I thought would guarantee it would never happen. I would serve Aaron in whatever way he wanted serving so that he would have no cause for leaving me.

He wanted a guy’s night out? And I was exhausted from solo-parenting all day? No problem.

He liked the bedroom to look a certain way? No problem.

He had a plan for something he wanted to spend money on and what he wanted us to be saving for? No problem.

I did whatever it took to make him happy.

Drained, fake, afraid, and suffocating

As you can imagine, this was draining to me, and the worst part is that it was fake to Aaron. From the outside—even most of the time from the inside—I did look like the perfect wife. But at what cost? I was serving my man for the primary purpose of keeping him from leaving me. It was sick, and it was suffocating me.

I’ll never forget a conversation one day with my friend Tiffany. She knew about my fear of Aaron leaving me, and I suspect she saw me working really hard to make sure he didn’t have a legit reason for cheating on me. She looked me straight in the eye that day and said, “You know, Jamie, you can’t keep Aaron from making those choices.”

I was floored by that. Tiffany was obviously not as good of a wife as I was, or she’d have known better than to say stuff like that. Or was she?

These words of hers echoed in my brain and heart for months, until finally God broke me. I started to see that the way I’d been living, loving, and serving my husband had actually become detrimental to our marriage. I was giving Aaron so much of me, but it was all built on fear, not love. My reason for striving after this “Wife of the Year” award (which, again, is fake and does not exist) was all to protect my heart. It had nothing to do with him, with his heart, or even with our marriage for that fact. My desire to serve Aaron was self-protective. It didn’t come from an overflow of my love for God.

What it truly means to be a servant

A shift happened in me around that time, and I’m so thankful for it because God revealed something about His character to me that has actually propelled me into loving Aaron much better than I’d ever loved him before.

It all comes down to what it truly means to be a servant.

You see, there can be a big difference of opinion about the definition of that word. And no matter where you find yourself right now in your attitude toward servanthood, I can promise you God has a better picture of what it looks like to be a servant than what we’ve seen, imagined, or have been portraying.

As with everything else in our lives, Jesus is the ultimate example of servanthood. Can you think of a greater servant than Jesus? I dare you.

  • Jesus served His disciples the night before He was to be crucified.
  • Jesus served guests at a wedding one day by turning water into wine.
  • Jesus served Lazarus and his family by raising him from the dead.
  • Jesus served people fish and loaves when there was nothing else to give.

Jesus served and served and served, even though all along he was GOD. That’s because “even the Son of Man,” He said, “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark10:45). The One who receives our praise laid down His life for us. The One who sustains our breath gave His own away. The One who breathed life into man died for all of mankind.

Paul wrote a message about Jesus’ example of servanthood that I think needs to be at the forefront of our minds when we think about our marriages:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only at his own interests but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).

We think this is all really good teaching in terms of how we should treat other people. But how should we treat our husbands? I mean, after a wedding ceremony, after a few kids, and after several years of life, we think these commands couldn’t possibly apply to our marriage, could they? We teach them to our children; we expect them from our coworkers. Yet when it comes to the marriage relationship, no thanks. We’re out of the servanthood business.

But when I shifted my focus from serving Aaron so that he would never leave me, to serving Aaron because of how much God loved me, everything changed for me in our marriage. I wonder if you might see the same outcome.

Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?

Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?

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