Growing up in the church I was always taught that sacrifice was a good thing, that is was a model to live up to. Now that I’m a husband I’m not so sure. I have a problem with sacrifice. It isn’t doing it, my problem with sacrifice is what comes after.
Before I recognized my problem with sacrifice, I would regularly do chores things around the house. I would mop the floor, or vacuum the living room, or some other household task that needed to get done. That sounds great doesn’t it. The problem came only after the task was done. In my twisted mind I felt that I had been sacrificing my time and energy to do these tasks, and I thought “what good is my sacrifice if no one notices?”. Ok, reality check, I didn’t care if people noticed, I just wanted to make sure that Kate noticed. My brain told me that if I sacrificed myself for her, then she would reciprocate and sacrifice some of her time (wink wink) for me. To make sure that my sacrifice was noticed I would casually leave the mop bucket out, or the vacuum just sitting in the corner. A good sacrifice never goes unrewarded right?
Webster’s Dictionary definition highlights this problem with sacrifice. They define it as “1: to suffer loss of, give up, injure or destroy… to sell at a loss”. Somehow, we have this noble vision of sacrifice but it can just be someone taking a one down position because they expect reward later.
Sacrifice doesn’t work in marriage.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that husbands can and should do things like mop floors, vacuum, and put their kids to bed. This was the first problem with my attitude. I had the assumption that taking care of these things was somehow Kate’s responsibility, and so my doing them was a sacrifice. I don’t think that is true anymore. If you are a team in your marriage then all of the things that need to get done are each of your responsibilities. Sure we have different aptitudes, but unless there is a very specific agreement i.e. “I will turn all of the clothes pink if I do the laundry, how about you do laundry and I’ll do _____”, then the job is the household’s and just needs to be done.
The second problem with my attitude was that I wanted to make sure my sacrifice was not without reward! When I was “sacrificing” for my family everything I did went on to my end of the sacrifice scale. I worked really hard today, I watched the kids for 2 hours, I cooked dinner….. My list went on and on and on. Every little thing I did became a weight on my end of the “fair” scale. Not to mention I was never taking into consideration her end of the scale. Then my twisted thoughts would look to the other side of the bed and think things like “I do so much and you can’t make time for us?” or in every argument I could instantly produce a list of things that I had done. I was carrying around my list of sacrifices and allowing them to come between me and my family, between me and my wife. In reality the scale was never even close. I only saw things from my perspective and so I always felt my stuff weighed much more than everyone else!
How have things changed? Not too much, I still do things like vacuum, only now I remember to put it away too. The change is in my own mindset. The frame that I’ve given to these activities is no longer that I’ve somehow sacrificed, but simply that I have obeyed my responsibilities as a husband.
I worked to change my mind and it dramatically changed my marriage! You might be asking, “You only changed your mindset, so what’s the big deal?” I discovered that the old mindset was dramatically injuring my marriage and intimacy. Once I shifted to thoughts of obedience rather than sacrifice I found that I was no longer focused on the balance of the scales. Once I was free from balancing the scales, I found myself appreciating more, working more, loving more and obeying more.
Get rid of the list of sacrifices, memorize these two verses and work in being obedient to them.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25 NIV)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NIV)
As my mind has shifted from my list to these two verses I noticed my whole attitude as husband and father shifted too!
Give it a try!