“Strong personalities are tempted to assume one-sidedly the whole responsibility for their marriage. Rather than ask the partner to perform certain services they want to do everything themselves…. While it looks like sacrificial love, this is in fact a passion to dominate the other person.”
– Piper, The Biblical View of Sex and Marriage
This statement struck me hard, and I have now read and re-read…and re-read again.
Josh and I have long joked about my strong will. I’m annoyingly stubborn (my words, not his – at least not his out loud!). I’m always determined to do everything myself. I firmly believe in hard work and a refusal to quit.
I’m also a terrible receiver.
In early marriage, I didn’t ask for help unless I’d exhausted every option of my own.
I remember once when I was eight months pregnant, climbing onto a rickety ladder to clean the windows on our house. Which was on a small hill. Our neighbor saw me swaying atop the ladder, gave me a sound scolding and marched inside to report me to Josh.
I knew Josh would have been happy to help if I’d asked, but I was perfectly confident in my own ability to accomplish the task.
Over the years, I’ve realized that my motivation for independence was not always to spare my husband his time or efforts, but to prove myself. Prove myself to him, to friends, to family, and even to myself.
I don’t need help. I’m capable.
I can clean those windows. Keep up with my job and at home. Be a great mom, a loving wife.
You probably recognize what it took me years to accept: some of this was my pride.
Coming back to Piper’s quote, my attitude was not the sacrificial love I thought I was portraying. I didn’t want to dominate Josh; I wasn’t trying to control our home or our relationship. I just didn’t want to admit that I might need help.
Almost two years ago, my pride and independence were challenged like never before.
Our family welcomed a beautiful baby boy, the answer to many prayers. His arrival brought intense joy, relief, and gratefulness.
In the first few weeks, I noticed the typical signs of baby blues and attributed them to early postpartum changes. But weeks stretched into months, and Josh and I began to realize something was wrong. This deep heaviness, loss of hope, exhaustion, weepiness – these were not the “normal” me.
I battled for a year with postpartum depression. And it profoundly changed me and our marriage. I went from being headstrong and always motivated to forcing myself out of bed in the morning. I felt weak and incapable.
And Josh was there. He stepped in to help with the house and the kids. He recognized when I needed to rest, to gather my thoughts and emotions. He listened to me, encouraged me, and helped me find every support to get through the depression.
More than any other time in our marriage, Josh was giving, and I was receiving.
I’ll be honest – even now, my pride cringes to write these words. I hate feeling weak. And I don’t like being the receiver.
But our marriage grew sweeter through this process of giving and receiving. Josh was actively loving his wife as Christ loved the church. And instead of me holding up my hand in refusal and saying, “I’ve got this, Babe,” I was learning to admit when I needed help and accept it with grace.
This time impacted more than just our marriage. It also deepened my understanding of Christ’s strength.
Andrew Murray wrote:
“The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness; Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities. Most gladly …will I…glory in my infirmities’ (2 Cor. 12:9)’ The Christian thinks his weaknesses are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Abide in Christ