I struggle with self-doubt. When I was in primary school I came last in sports races. In secondary school I was in the lower stream. I repeated to get into college. In wanted to get a 2:1 to prove myself but missed it.
Moving to Limerick (Ireland's rugby capital) has focused my thoughts on sports. For a couple of years I was moderately good at rugby. I played for the first XV in the school I went to and the school I repeated in. However, neither school was a notable rugby school and I was probably the weakest player on the first of these two teams. I also could only play one position, discovered I could play this position by accident, and was blessed by the fact that there was a shortage of people in that position (there was one guy in my year who was probably better than me in my position but he had given up because of a bad back).
So as I watched Munster and Ireland play I started obsessing about my rugby. 'Was I really any good?' 'What did my team mates think of me as a player?' 'What about that terrible knock on against Blackrock?' etc. It actually burdened me.
One of the solutions to such stupid thinking (such sinfully self-absorbed thinking) was to start concentrating on the sovereignty of God. 'God made me the way I am;' 'God has watched over all my circumstances' etc. In reality rugby is such a small deal it should not matter. I am a work in progress in all areas of my life.
Anyway, what has this to do with marriage?
Well, one way that people deal with their insecurities is through their marriage. At a crass level there are those who go for a 'trophy wife.' They demand that their wife looks a certain way so that it might reflect well on them. There is also the fact that we demand affirmation from our spouse. We demand that their undying admiration takes away the fears and pain of feeling insecure. Consevative Christian men like me complain that our wives don't obey the biblical mandate to 'respect' us. We demand that they erase our self-doubt. We use them to boost our self-esteem. It is all very selfish!
One evening in Richhill, Caroline and I went to a marriage evening in the Presbyterian church. The speaker was Paul Tripp. I actually hoped that what he would do is teach wives how to respect their husbands more. (I know, how silly was I? I clearly felt that if Caroline met my perceived needs then my life would be more fulfilled). What Paul Tripp actually did was to emphasise the gospel and make personal repentance the centre of marriage. (Although it wasn't spelling out to Caroline what I wanted her to do for me, I was glad that she took the message on board. Again, what a fool I was. I didn't see the message as being primarily for me.)
Tim Keller writes, 'Until God has the proper place in my life, I will always be complaining that my spouse is not loving me well enough, not respecting me enough, not supporting me enough.' He also says, 'The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner's joy and freedom on the alter of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul.'
Finally, I haven't mentioned the correct motivation for wanting to be a good spouse. Before the apostle Paul spells out the roles for a husband and wife he writes, 'submit to one another out of reverence for Christ' (Ephesians 5:21). Again Keller writes, 'Amazed joy at the sacrifice and love of Christ is the motivation for all New Testament calls to defer, love, and serve.' Romans 12 links worship to how we live our lives. Being a good husband/wife can be a means of seeking to praise God. That is why one book on marriage has the sub-title, Sex in the Service of God.'