- My first column in January 2017. Perhaps I was in the midst of New Year’s resolutions.
My wife is terrific. She is funny, gracious and patient. Most of all she puts up with my madcap schemes and hare-brained adventures. If I’m working on some crazy new invention, planning a high-risk vacation or throwing spears in the backyard, she is always encouraging (if not shaking her head in amusement). She didn’t bat an eye when I drug home a 33-year old sports car that “just needs a little work!”
But I, on the other hand, am prone to selfishness. I don’t load the dishwasher correctly, I tend to ignore many of the little daily tasks around the house and our children’s endless logistical calendar never seems to take root in my conscious thoughts. One time she was telling me about some important family business when she suddenly stopped talking. After a brief pause she said “I just noticed the exact moment when your eyes glazed over!” Not one of my finest moments.
But even after twenty-two years marriage isn’t easy. And one of the biggest issues in a marriage is getting or NOT getting what you want from your spouse. And we’ve all encountered this: observing our parent’s marriages, talking to others about their own marriages or even experiencing this problem in our own marriages. “She’s doesn’t love me the way I need” or “He takes me for granted.”
However, this entire line of thinking is a serious problem. Regardless of what is not being given from one spouse to another, the marriage relationship was never meant to be built upon fulfilling specific demands and expectations. Anytime a spouse becomes disgruntled that they are not receiving what they want or need, the economy of the marriage relationship is at risk. A marriage were never intended to include the dynamic of “you owe me this or that and if I do not receive those things I will grow resentful towards you.” Though the 1st-century phrase might not be clear to us, Paul’s words to the Corinthians warn against this: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
So what is the alternative? Instead of an “earn my approval” relationship, marriage as described in Scripture is based on grace. This is an “I love you regardless” approach and it is an entirely different relational dynamic. Instead of keeping a record of wrongs, this approach just keeps loving and loving and moving forward with love — even if it is not reciprocated in a particular way.
My goal in my own marriage continues to evolve. But, at its best, is this: “I am going to relentlessly love you and then love you more.” And, frankly this is a lot more simple, a lot less stressful and a lot more fun than continually focusing on what I’m not getting. And when both spouses are invested in this love-regardless marriage economy the results are truly magical.
Of course this kind of marital love is not easy — as a matter of fact it is almost impossible. The only way it can happen is if someone has personally experienced the “I love you regardless” kind of love. This is where the believer in Christ is at an extraordinary advantage. By letting him love us to death (literally) do we experience first-hand the kind of love that is without condition, keeps no record of wrongs and is fully capable of transforming a marriage.
So I’ve destroyed the shelf where I keep my resentments and I’ve burned the book where I keep a record of my complaints and gripes. What a relief. And can someone tell me how to lead a dishwasher?