Ian sat on the sofa in my office, leaning forward, head in hand. He slowly shook his head, obviously struggling over the current internal war that was raging inside his head and heart. In previous sessions he had been bouncing his thoughts and feelings off me, trying to decide if he would remain married to his wife of eight years, and stay with her along with their two young sons.
Numerous questions had been lofted his way in the past few weeks, challenging him to think through the decision it appeared he had already made in his mind. This wasn’t the typical marital conflict. There was no infidelity; no more arguing or fighting than most couples; she wasn’t out of control with the credit cards. He didn’t have his eye on another woman, nor had he struggled with fidelity, emotionally or actively. He was simply miserable.
He had wept openly earlier in this session, and had stated, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. My life is just . . . empty.” I had challenged him several times, in different ways, to target the source of his unhappiness, and his answers seldom held any weight. I knew it, and so did he. Finally I told him, “Ian, it appears to me that your thinking is flawed. You are contemplating leaving your family, and cannot even provide a single decent reason – much less one that possesses legitimacy.” He retorted, “But don’t I deserve to be happy? Isn’t there supposed to be more to marriage and life than this?” After a few moments of silence he finally looked up, weeping, and asked, “After all, what’s in this for me?”
Ian was a poster child for a malady that affects many of us as married men. He worked hard, provided well, loved his children, and claimed to still have a strong love for his wife. He just didn’t like his life.
Unchecked, it is highly likely that Ian would have continued down his self-built road of discontentment and misery. He would have left. There is little doubt. And regardless of how much life would have “in it” for him down that road, he would have realized the truth that seems to escape so many of us, Wherever you go – there you are.
It’s often said that if a person is running, they’re likely to either be running to something, or running from it. But a perceived fresh start – a change of scenery – or an absence of accountability really changes nothing. At least for the good. After all, if a man runs from his wife and family with what is perceived to be little or no reason, the likelihood is that the real problem – no matter how hard to see – lies within him.
Ian’s participation in the “What’s in it for me?” epidemic pointed to a personal problem of epic proportion. His view of the role he had in the family was skewed. He expected, as the head of the household – the man of the house – the grand poobah of his castle – to be served. Apparently the actions of his wife and children did not meet his expectations where being respected was concerned. About that, he was right.
But how to solve it was still a mystery to him.
Jesus, while calming down the riled up disciples, said,
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)
Who wants to be great as a husband? If not, why marry at all?
Life, and some of the lessons listed above, has taught me (sometimes painfully) that being a great husband requires that I become a great servant to my family. And although I fall far short way more often than I’d like, the idea of being a servant to them – in big ways and small – is sorta right up there on the list of marital priorities. It didn’t come easy, and it didn’t come fast. I am, at my core, a self-absorbed, egocentric person – much like everyone else. To make changes like these requires an immersion in humility and a dispensing of pride.
Where do you find yourself in this dilemma?
And how far are you from imitating Christ and his challenge to serve others?
How life-altering would it be if we abandoned our “what’s in it for me?” ways of thinking, and went through a re-structure?
You know, like . . . “WHAT’S IN ME FOR IT?”
Let’s agree to chew on that one today. We can all benefit from your feedback!
And, as always . . .