A Challenge to Love
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
A shade was drawn over his bright blue eyes, and he staggered back as if he'd been struck.
Hands clutching the steering wheel, a heavy weight made it’s way to the pit of my stomach. I was the cause of this deep hurt inflicted upon my husband, and I felt sick.
“You look really nice. Where did this shirt come from?” He'd asked me the question with pleasure in his eyes and his lips turned up in a tender grin.
“I wore it the other day and you didn’t even notice.”
BAM! There it was. My snarky reply. Ugly, unnecessary words that should've never left my mouth.
My husband paid me a lovely compliment. Why couldn’t I have said, “Thank you for noticing. I’m glad you like it”? Or, how about just a simple, “Thank you.”
What is wrong with me?!
Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curses. Now choose life! Deut. 30:19a (NIV)
The offer was given, and I chose death and the curses of discontentment. A negative monologue had been playing in my mind for far too long. My heart of gratitude was buried under a mess of words like “just” and “wish.”
It sounded something like this:
“If he would just speak my love language, I would feel loved.”
“I wish he would do more to help. His acts of service would make me feel noticed and appreciated.”
“If he would just use words of affirmation more often, my heart would be full.”
I was using Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, as my platform of dissatisfaction. Now, here's the rub ... my husband was doing all the things I was wishing for, but I wasn’t allowing them to reach my heart. I wasn’t even acknowledging them for more than a second or two in my mind.
So, how did I get to this place of discontentment?
Self love, selfish motives, unchecked expectations, and worldly examples.
Self Love: I chose to overlook the subtitle of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Twisted by a love of self over a love of others, the subtitle became, How Your Mate Should Express Heartfelt Commitment to You.
God’s words were not the focal point of my thinking.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4
Selfish Motives: Behind every action is a motivation. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just the way it is. Awareness of our motivations is the key. When we ask God to search our hearts, He will reveal to us whether our motives are selfish or selfless. I was reading a book with my own needs in mind, not the needs of my husband. Portions of God’s Word were avoided because they would have only lead me to selfless love.
Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. Psalm 26:2 (NASB)
Unchecked Expectations: In the book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says, “My mama, valley wise and grief traveled, she always said, ‘Expectations kill relationships.’” Expectations can kill relationships. I believe this is due to, either A, our expectations are not based in reality, or B, we are desperate and needy people trying to fill the void with anything or anyone other than Jesus.
Our days are filled with social media, books, movies, and other forms of entertainment providing us with a fantasy measuring stick of what we should expect in our relationships. Romantic gestures, passion, pursuit. If we choose this measuring stick, most anyone we stand against it will fall short.
Unrealistic expectations have a way of diminishing one’s expectations of themselves and raising the bar for others.
Desperate and needy are uncomfortable words to use to describe ourselves. We must not run from them, however, because it is our true state of being. We were created this way. Not to live in utter frustration all our earthly days, but to acknowledge it and cling to the One who can fill every desperate and needy place within our heart and soul.
Worldly Examples: The world can give us an earful and a mindful of messages, and the underlying directive of most of them is to "love yourself." When we choose to accept this message in our relationships, it can only lead to discontentment among other negative emotions.
As difficult as it may be for us, because our selfish flesh wants to rebel, Christ should be our only example of how to relate to ourselves and others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5
Verses 7-8 go on to explain His mindset:
He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Maybe you’ve reached this point of my blog post and think it should be easy for me to show love to a husband who also shows me love. And maybe you are saying to yourself, “At least your husband pays you compliments and shows you loving gestures. It’s hard to love my husband because he doesn’t do any of that.”
I want to leave us (you and me) with two questions and a challenge:
What motivates us to love?
Can we choose to love from a pure heart with pure motives - to love others solely for the purpose of thanking Jesus for the love He demonstrated to us by dying on the cross?
This is not an easy challenge for me. I will probably fail at it more often than I succeed. But, I sincerely want this to be the condition of my heart.
Prayer is where I need to start.
Dear Lord - You know how hard it is for me to admit my ugliness, but I am so thankful You are a safe place for me to be exposed. I am also fully aware that You alone are able to take my ugliness and turn it into beauty. Search my heart, Father. Bring every selfish thought and motivation to light. Jesus, I can never thank You enough for the love You offered me at Calvary. You are graciously showing me, however, the best choice I can make is to extend Your love to others. I want to love well. Better than I have been. In Jesus’ name, Amen.