Today, I am going to discuss love and the series will continue (hopefully weekly, maybe biweekly) with a review and discussion of the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Judah and I had to read this book for our premarital counseling and it has some stellar discussions about how to tackle your marriage head-on. It has some great carry-over for serious relationships, not to mention daily interaction with friends and family, too!
Take a moment to listen to this song, which has lyrics provided on the screen:
And just in case you didn't want to click on the link, my favorite lyric from the song is "I still believe that you'll come knocking on my door when I least expect you to. You give me something I can hold. You pull me through, 'cause that's what you do, that's what you do love"
Throughout this series, I hope you will see the powerful potential of love and make the decision to choose love, each and every day, in every interaction you have with anyone.
Let's begin our discussion with Seth Adam Smith's post, Marriage Isn't For You. I stumbled across this back in November, right after it was published, and it was probably the tipping point for my decision to marry Judah. The point of the article is that marriage is not for you, but rather the person you marry. To approach any relationship with the "what do I get out of this?" mentality is setting your relationship up for failure. Instead, as Smith writes, you marry to make someone else happy and you marry for a family - including your in-laws and your future children. Marriage is about the person you married.
The Bible is very plain about the greatest commandments. First and foremost, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37). Now pause for a second. Do you love ANYTHING with your entire heart, your entire soul, and your entire mind? That nearly seems unfathomable! But that's why Christianity is a life-long commitment to our Lord and Savior; a relationship that continually grows and (hopefully) strengthens.
Now, thankfully God took kindness on humanity and charges us with this second greatest commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Phew! Okay God, I think I can manage to do that, love someone as much as I love myself. But if you haven't noticed my point by now, what do the two most important commandants ask? For you to love others. Pastor Francis Chan explains it well, "God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward, He measures our lives by how we love". Sign me up for that please!
Smith explains in his article that "the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered". So if you feel like your life is lacking in love, don't throw a pity-party. Instead, love others and see what happens. You will be pleasantly surprised!
Jana Kramer's song above discusses the "superficial" components of love that occur in a new, exciting relationship. That's not to say that you can't have romance and butterflies thirty years into your marriage, but let's face it, if what she describes is all love is, when times get tough, you may find yourself alone.
1 Corinthians 13 is known as the "love chapter" and even most non-Christians could quote this Scripture verbatim. Paul explains in verses 1-3 that without love, "I am nothing". Verses 4-8 are the famous words: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." And the final verse of this chapter: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Now read that again. It outwardly states that love is NOT self-seeking, and if you consider any of those words, they all regard actions towards another. If every person was capable of loving like this, imagine how the world would be! Wait a second... God tells us to love Him first and love others next... and 1 Corinthians 13 is what love looks like... so then why is there so much hate in this world? Why is the divorce rate as high as it is? Why are so many people stuck in love-less relationships? (And yes, the divorce rate is just as high among Christians as it is among non-Christians! A topic for further discussion...) Smith credits the "Walmart philosophy" - if what you get doesn't make you happy, return it and get something new. We don't approach a relationship with the philosophy of "what can I give", but rather, "what do I get?"
But... I don't love like this... what can I do? Well, that's the beauty of the grace of God. He knows that man WILL fail, but the goal is to work towards achieving love like this; making a conscious daily commitment. One way to achieve this is by changing your mindset and thinking process. The following are great real-life examples:
I had a discussion this past weekend with a friend who found out her husband had been hiding something from her. She asked me, "how can I trust him with anything else?" 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love always trusts. The husband defended that he wasn't hiding anything, that my friend had the opportunity to discover this hidden object at any time. He just hadn't been forthcoming with the information (sound familiar to anyone else?!) I asked her, how would it affect your relationship if you chose to not trust him for anything else? I did explain that if this is a repeated behavior, that is a different situation, because the flip side of trust is you do need to be trustworthy, but we are always supposed to err on the side of trusting versus not trusting. If your mindset is to always look for the breaking of trust, you're going to see a significant strain in your relationship.
Judah and I went through this ourselves. I'm not sure if it had been previous bad relationships and the distance we were facing, but I had a very difficult time trusting Judah in the first half of our relationship. Finally, one day he asked me, "have I done anything to prove to you that you can't trust me?" I thought about it and he never once had done anything to be untrustworthy! So why was I so hesitant to trust him? It took me several months, but not only was he happier that he knew I was trusting him, but I felt considerably less anxiety in regards to our relationship. There is security in trusting and both are important elements of any relationship.
Here's a specific situation for how to change how you approach a situation with your partner: Yesterday at the grocery store, I asked Judah to pick out juice while I looked through the meat section. I've been finding some awesome manager's specials.. 3 pounds of organic beef for $10, yes please! But Judah has no patience to sit there while I search. I didn't double check what he bought (see, I trust him!) and when we got home, I saw he had bought diet juice. I only buy 100% fruit juice. So now I had two choices: I could be extremely frustrated and angry ("I asked you to get one thing and you couldn't even do that") or I could point it out to him and move on ("aww, you bought diet juice"). I chose the later and he said he read the label and it said 100% Vitamin C! Yes, but it only has 4% juice... Anyways, my point is this could have blown up into a nasty fight over juice, but instead it became an opportunity for me to show him love. It seems silly, but how many times have you gotten into a blow-out fight over the most insignificant detail? Or even if it didn't lead to a huge fight, if I constantly put him down over small things, what big effect will that have long-term?
I think I've been coherent throughout this post, but just in case I lost you, let's wrap up. Our country has had an ongoing epidemic of high divorce rates, a mentality of "I want"/"give me"/"it's all about me", and highly dissatisfied relationships. This can be cured by one word: love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 provides one of the absolute best definitions of love. If you find a better one, please share with me! Rather than focusing on ourselves, we need to focus on our partner. Once we can do that, we will see the relationship flourish and we'll receive the love that we need in return! As I said, this is only the beginning of a series I will write about in the coming weeks. Next week I will discuss Chapter One from Sacred Marriage!
Readers: Find one thing this week that you can change in your relationship (if you are in one!) that shows your partner that you love them. Go back to the verse about love and use one of those. See how it goes ;D