“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
The sound of clanking silverware and clinking dishes wafted through the air as my husband and I sat across from each other in a retro-styled diner looking over the breakfast menu. We’d been meaning for weeks to spend some time alone, or maybe even go on a real date. So we set our alarms for still dark o’clock and drove a half hour to the quaint eatery.
I’m not a big breakfast eater, so a steaming cup of coffee with fruit and nut oatmeal was enough for me. My husband, however, loves breakfast. So he ordered one of the diner’s famous combo plates that included eggs, sausage and a few pieces of whole grain toast.
He slathered some sweet cream butter on the toast. Then he began to dig through the gingham-lined basket on the table like a child digging through a toy box for a favorite plaything.
I had to know, so I asked: “What are you searching for?”
“Orange marmalade,” he replied.
“What? Isn’t grape jelly or strawberry jam good enough? You can’t seem to get enough of my homemade strawberry jam,” I teased.
“But orange marmalade is my favorite,” he answered. “Loved it ever since I was a kid.”
Wow. There I sat across from my college sweetheart, and father of my three kids whom I’ve known over a quarter century, and I never knew this simple fact – he loves orange marmalade.
Often in marriage – especially if there are children in the picture – we spend so much time just getting life done. Keeping up the house. Making appointments. Tending to the yard work. Shuttling children. Paying bills. And we stop noticing the little things about our spouses – the stuff we used to notice all the time when we were dating. The little facts we know about our closest friends.
In college, I took good notes on what my then friend-turned-boyfriend-turned-fiance’ enjoyed. I knew he was a lover of butter pecan ice cream, so sometimes I would pick up a hand-packed pint from the local ice cream parlor and deliver it to him when he was studying in the college library.
Back then it seemed easy to put him first, to always be on the lookout for his interests and likes. Selfishness on my part didn’t really exist in our relationship. I was head-over-heels in love with this guy and intent on noticing his preferences and pleasing him.
Sadly, as the days and months of marriage turn into years and decades, it’s easy for noticing to decrease and selfishness to creep in. Instead of longing to please our spouses, even in the little things, we often look to get our own way. Philippians 2:3-4 seems to be the perfect prescription for this dilemma. We are encouraged to look not just to our own interests, but also in humility look to the interests of others. There are so many ways to apply this verse in marriage!
It may mean spending a weekend doing activities your spouse prefers. In my case, that would mean attending a jazz festival on a Saturday with my trumpet-playing husband, rather than hunting for antiques or scouring resale shops for retro bargains, which bores him to death.
Sometimes it might be a more important matter, and other times it could be a seemingly trivial thing. Again, in all things means not only looking to your own interests but in humility looking to the interests of your spouse. It means to treat him with kindness and consideration, just like you would a friend.
In a culture of selfies and selfishness, let’s purpose to take notice of our spouse’s interests and show them love in even the smallest of friendly ways. For me, that means I’m now surfing the Internet for a winning orange marmalade recipe. Well, that and buying a few jars of the store-bought variety for back up!
Father, may I be on the lookout for ways to bless my spouse and forge our friendship on an even deeper level – both in the little interests of life and in the major issues of marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
This post originally appeared on KarenEhman.com and was republished with permission.
Karen Ehman is a New York Times bestselling author, a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, and a writer for Encouragement for Today, an online devotional that reaches over four million women daily. Married to her college sweetheart, Todd, and the mother of three, she lives with her family in Michigan.