John the Baptist’s purpose in life was to prepare the way for the Messiah. He knew his purpose and never considered himself greater than the one who came after him. When the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask John who he was, John directed attention away from himself and to Jesus, saying, “He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27). . . .
In marriage, many of us find it hard to take a lesser place than our spouse. For example, I might feel slighted if a mutual friend spends most of the time talking to my spouse. Or if my spouse makes vacation plans without getting my approval, I might not be so enthusiastic about taking time off.
It’s sometimes hard to be a servant to our spouse without feeling like we’re losing ourselves. Yet God calls us to serve others. John modeled it for us by taking the lesser role of preparing others to meet Jesus, and Jesus modeled it for us by washing his disciples’ feet.
How exactly does that work in marriage? According to Ephesians 5:21, believers are to “submit to one another.” How that looks within marriage is then described: Women are told to submit to their husbands and men are told to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Mutual submission is at the heart of this passage. We become servants to each other, not because we feel one person is superior to another, but because we yield in love to the other.
That’s what Anna and Josh had to learn. Though both were gifted communicators, they had difficulty coordinating their work schedules, particularly after they had children. So for a time, Anna stayed home with the kids, working from home as an editor, while Josh worked full-time as a publisher. When Josh was laid off, however, and Anna found a great job working full-time as an editor, Josh agreed to freelance so he could be the primary caretaker of the kids. Through the process, both learned incredible lessons about themselves, their work and each other. When Josh griped about chauffeuring the kids all day, for example, Anna could relate. And when Anna talked about problems with coworkers, Josh could offer helpful encouragement. Both looked for ways to help alleviate each other’s stress.
We can take second place to each other in marriage without losing our sense of identity if we find our identity in Christ, the greatest servant of all, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used” (Philippians 2:6). Being a servant to each other teaches us to be more like Christ. And in him we find the joy of oneness in marriage.
—John R. Throop
Taken from NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible