One thing I learned in having my first child was that there wasn’t time to be selfish anymore. That’s not to say that you can’t spend time with friends, exercise, or go on a date with your spouse. But, when you feel like just being lazy and not doing anything, well, you have to suck it up.
I’ll admit it frustrated me at first. Between sleep depravation, constant attention to and fear for the baby, and trying to do any semblance of work, I was exhausted and had no time for trivialities like laundry, dishes, exercise, or personal hygiene (just kidding, I still bathed). So, whenever my wife would get frustrated with me for not pulling my weight, I was indignant. How could she come down on me? Did she not see how much I was doing?!
It took far longer than it should have for me to realize that my wife was doing as much (okay, more) than I was and that she was exhausted, too. This left me with a choice: fight my wife on this … or do the stupid dishes.
From an outside perspective, I imagine this seems to be a no-brainer, but the temptation to engage in a marital battle for superiority, dominance, and victory can be very tempting. And, it takes recognizing that it’s the work of the ultimate Tempter to realize that it’s a prideful and damaging practice. Here’s what the apostle Paul writes on the subject in Ephesians 5:28-30:
“In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.”
The first part of this verse may not be the most compelling example for me seeing as how I didn’t do a great job of taking care of my body when Tripp was first born. Under the guise (and with the intent) of treating my wife, I loaded up on chocolate in the house right after we came home from the hospital, and with my perpetual drowsiness, I began treating myself to sugar spikes with increasing regularity. I could say that I put on an extra ten pounds as a form of solidarity when my wife said she wanted to lose her pregnancy weight, but that would be a lie. That was all new-dad weight, and it didn’t include any muscle, that much I can promise you.
But, the second part of the verse is what we really need to focus on. A husband is meant to treat his wife as God treats His church. That means loving her and giving himself up for her (Eph 5:25). And, it means serving her. Jesus said, in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
So, in my scenario, what would Jesus do?… He’d do the stinking dishes!
And so, I made a conscious choice to willingly do any household tasks that needed to be done. I didn’t lord it over my wife (Matt. 20:25), but just did them and moved on. It’s not like I turned into super-Dad by any means, but I just made an effort and every time I walked by the sink full of dishes and my stomach dropped, I told myself, “Will, do the dishes,” and I did them.
My wife, being the good, caring woman she is, noticed. And guess what happened.
One day I was really just not up to, so as she was walking to the other room to put Tripp to bed, I said, “I’ll do the dishes in a bit. I just need to lie down for a little while.” I went and lied down on the couch, and about fifteen minutes later, I heard dishes clinking together in the sink and the faucet gushing water. Ten minutes or so later, the sound of dishes being washed stopped and my wife joined me on the couch without breathing a word about it.
What’s the moral of this story? My wife is awesome (you read that, Amber?!).
No, seriously, more than my wife doing me a solid, it’s that, even in such a small example, a willing, loving attitude, as God intends for all of us, changed our hearts and blessed our relationship. When we tried to emulate Jesus’s servant love and leadership, we were both happier for it … and the dishes got done! How much more are our blessings when we carry that approach with us to all our relationships and in all that we do?