Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Love...With All Your Heart

 If you're new to the blog, take a minute to hop over and read the introduction to this post: Crock-Pot Marriage

It seems a little ironic to me that I would start my "Love..." series with this topic, what with my declaration of how much I despise manufactured mushy, lovey feelings.  (No clue what I'm talking about?  Take a quick detour and read what I have against Valentine's Day.)

But since the heart is really the first place we go to talk about love, it seems only fitting.  And the whole basis for this series, Mark 12:30, starts with the heart so I figure it's best to do the same.

Love...with all your heart.

At first glance, it seems that the idea of loving someone with all your heart would be a simple thing.   Loving is something we do naturally, from the time we are small children. It seems that the need to love and be loved was woven into the core of who we are as humans.

And why wouldn't it be?  After all, we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and God is, Himself, love. (1 John 4:7-8)

And yet, love is this mystical feeling that we really don't seem to have much control over and can't even really describe.  All we know is that sometimes it makes us want to sing, and other times it makes us want to cry.  It makes us long to be around the person we love and to pull them close and hold them tight.  It compels us to do things for someone else that we never imagined ourselves doing.  

Oh, this wonderful thing we call love!

And when we first began to feel this amazing feeling for the person who is now our spouse, it turned our world upside down. We couldn't imagine anything ever changing the way we felt.  Nothing could ever taint this perfect, beautiful, glorious LOVE we were feeling.

(If you're a newlywed, you may even feel that way about your spouse this very moment.  Take a minute or two and just bask in the warmth of that deliciously wonderful feeling!)

While the newlyweds are basking, the rest of us are going to take a stroll ahead to the reality of life a few years after the wedding.   Let's face it, it doesn't matter how wonderful your marriage is, there are just some days that are a little less 

and a little more

Emotions - feelings - are fickle things, affected by so many variables.  The weather, lack of sleep, hormones, the children...   Some days we're feeling the love and some days... well, let's just say we're not feeling it.  If someone were to ask us, "do you love your spouse?" of course we would answer with a resounding, "yes!"  But if we were asked, "how do you feel about him right now?" I daresay that sometimes it would be difficult to answer quite so enthusiastically.

Would you be shocked if I told you that loving your spouse with all your heart actually has very little to do with how you feel?

God has loved us - His most precious creation - with all of His heart.  He loves us so much that first He gave us His Son: a living, breathing, walking, talking personification of Himself.  And then He called Jesus back to His presence so that He could send something better: His Holy Spirit. (See John 16:7) The Comforter, the Helper.  A part of Himself that could live in each one of His children, that would allow us to constantly live in His presence.  And Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that when the Holy Spirit lives in us, we begin to see things like love and joy and peace and patience begin to show up in our lives.  Each one of these Fruits of the Spirit are somehow connected with an emotion, with our heart.

God has loved us with His heart by giving of Himself in order to take care of our hearts.

And now it is our turn to love our spouses with our hearts by taking care of theirs.

This means we've got to start by finding out what their hearts need.  Perhaps your spouse follows the pattern described by Paul in Ephesians 5:33, where he instructs husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands.  Why would he give such instructions?  Because most women need to feel loved and most men need to feel respected!  Sure, it's not true for absolutely everyone across the board, but you'll never know unless you seek out your spouse's heart and discover for yourself what he or she needs.  In addition, you've got to discover what it means to love your wife or respect your husband from their perspective.

Respect is incredibly important to my husband.  I can tell him that I love him all day long, but if I don't show him respect, especially in our home and around our children, he doesn't feel loved.  I've known this for a good long time.  But I realized a while back that I didn't completely understand what it means to show him respect.  I had my own definition, but I had never bothered to ask Scott what he perceived as respect, or especially the lack thereof.  Unless I understand what he perceives as respect, I will never be able to give it to him.  And so I asked him.

It's so very much easier to communicate with someone if you know what language they speak.

Now I am trying to learn to speak "Respect" in Scott's language.  There are times when it is honestly really hard and it requires some self-sacrifice.  There are even some times when I think it's beyond what I am capable of doing.  (Mostly that means keeping my mouth shut instead of speaking my mind, which truly happens only by the self-control grown in me by the Holy Spirit.)  But it's what my husband's heart needs, and so I am trying to choose to give it. 

What do you need to do to love your spouse with all your heart?  Ask him or her and find out!  Sit facing one another on the couch or on the bed.  Look each other in the eyes and ask, "What can I do to make you feel more loved by me?" And then keep asking questions until you completely understand.  You might be as surprised by the answers you get as your spouse is by the question itself!

Once you know what it will take - or even as you're still figuring it out - work, and work hard at doing whatever it is that your spouse's heart needs you to do.  That means being intentional with words and actions.  It means dying to self  at times in order to give your husband the respect that he needs, or your wife the love and adoration that she needs.  Give sacrificially of yourself in order to care for the heart of your beloved.

What a relief it is to me to know that loving my husband with all my heart really has nothing to do with sappy, mushy sentiment (although that may be exactly what your spouse needs from you!), but everything to do with giving his heart what it needs.  Ironically, I often realize that when I am intentionally loving Scott, giving his heart what it needs, those mushy feelings start to show up on their own.

I guess sometimes a girl just has to give in...

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