Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Love Story for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming. Most women start dreaming of chocolates, roses and candlelight dinners at the mention of February 14th. Most men start to worry about what special date they can plan and what to give to their beloved in order to live up to the cultural expectations that surround Valentine's Day.

In the world, many women look to their husband or boyfriend to fill their need for love and acceptance. In the women's eyes, the amount of love they are given is measured in gifts, chocolates, steak dinners and bouquets of flowers. This is why women love romantic comedies--they tell the story of a girl who is sacrificially and unendingly loved and adored by a man--with life continuing happily ever after. This is also why every man will, inevitably, fall short. We are imperfect people--both women and men.

It seems many fairy tales tell of a common girl who is loved by the greatest of men--the handsome prince. Blind with love and admiration for her beauty, he looks past her humble status or imperfections--fighting all odds to claim her as his own. Think of the stories of Cinderella or Snow White.

Christian ladies, we don't need to feel disappointed if our husband forgets flowers or our budget doesn't allow for a night out on the town. We are more loved than any Hollywood movie has ever portrayed. Snow White and Cinderella have nothing on us. You see, we personally live in the most wonderful love story ever told.

The God who created us and knows our lowly status and imperfections, loved us enough to send Christ from Heaven to earth to live a perfect life for us and die in payment for OUR sin. He humbled Himself and paid our ransom in order to have a relationship with us. He calls us to Him and loves us unconditionally when we repent of our sin and trust in what Christ has done for us.

I John 3:1a-b says, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."

While Prince Charming grows old, has grumpy days and gets frustrated with his princess, God sees Christ in us, Christians, and loves us with a greater love than mankind has ever known.

Romans 8:38-39 says, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Therefore, we don't need to put all our happiness this Valentine's Day into our husbands spending lots of money on us to show us they love us. We can celebrate our marriages, because they are a wonderful gift from God, but we can even more remember to what our marriages symbolize, Christ's love for the church.

Instead of celebrating like the world, sacrificially love like Christ this Valentine's Day. Know that your story does end happily ever after--not in this imperfect world, but eternally in the presence of God. In thanksgiving, love others the way we have been loved.

When we submitted to Christ as our LORD, we were a new creation. We are not selfish, demanding women, but we are thoughtful and giving daughters of Christ.

Ask yourself: How can I sacrificially love my spouse this Valentine's Day? How can we thank God for His perfect example of love on this day we celebrate love? How can I witness to others through my conversations and expectations as February 14th approaches?

We are part of the perfect love story. We are completely loved, for God IS love.

I John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse: Part 4--Actions

We have been reading about how to practically be godly wives in our post series:  Sacrificially Loving Your Spouse.  We started with a lesson on the biblical foundations, and then we have looked at practically serving our spouse through our attitude and our time.  Today, we are going to look at loving our spouse in our actions.

Proverbs 31 is full of wise and loving actions on the part of the excellent wife. She is purposeful in deciding what needs to be done and acting upon it. Verse 16 finds her considering a purchase of a field, verse 13 finds her seeking the materials she needs for clothes, verse 14 tells us she brings food from afar to feed her family. We already pointed out that she is working hard—there is no idleness in her. She is active for her spouse, her kids, the poor, her servants and her maidens. In fact, the whole section on the excellent wife ends with the words, “Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” She actively works for the good of her spouse, so her dutiful actions bring her reward and good in her life and family.

There are so many creative ways to act preferentially to your spouse. I recently posted this question on Facebook: How do you give preference to your spouse?  As we already discussed under attitude, many women mentioned initiating and responding well to intimacy.  We know and realize intimacy is exceptionally important to our husbands.

There were other examples, though.  Someone wrote sweet notes on her husband's lunch napkin, one heated his towel in the dryer while he was showering, another clipped coupons for bagels at his favorite shop, others bought his favorite foods every week at the store, one simply served him his dinner plate BEFORE she served her children theirs, and one lady gave her husband a backrub or footrub and did not expect one in return. Try making your husband’s favorite dinner and light candles—even when the kids are there. Fold his shirts the way he likes them folded. It sounds silly, but Ryan has a specific way he likes me to fold his T-shirts. I have never been good at folding clothes, but I do it. I fold them the way he likes, though it takes extra time and thoughtfulness, because I love him and he asked me to fold them this way. It is important to him.  Clean the area of the house he likes to see spotless.  Our husbands each have that area they like to see dust and clutter free.  It might be their desk, nightstand or the couch, but having that area clean gives them a place of sanctuary and order.

Instead of dressing in the newest trends to compete with the girls, dress the way he likes to see you dressed, and do your hair the way he likes your hair.  We are married and need to make sure we care about our husband's preferences more than we care about making sure we look as hip and trendy as our girlfriends.

You can prefer your spouse with your specific gifts and talents too. Those of you who cook well, make your husband’s favorite meals and foods. If he likes to eat food you hate to cook, make it anyway. If you are a talented writer, write down cards, notes of encouragement and praise for your husband. If you are a Creative Memory gal, make a special book highlighting your marriage and blessed times with your spouse. Perhaps you are great at organizing.  With his permission, organize your spouse’s closet, car, office or junk drawer. If you are an encourager, have your husband be the first person you look to encourage each day. If you are a teacher or leader at church, ask your husband for insight and help into the lessons you are giving. Include him in your ministry and still seek his leadership, even if you are leading a ministry solely for women. Think about how you can creatively use your resources and gifts for the purpose of blessing your husband and giving him preference in your marriage and home.

Do all of this without expecting thanks or anything in return. You see, if we do all these things and expect something in return, we aren’t preferring anyone but ourselves.

There is a cute little story about a little boy and his mom. One day the mom saw a little slip of paper on her nightstand. It was a little bill from her young son that said: Being good—50 cents. Doing chores—10 cents. The mom smiled at his childishness and the next day slipped him 60 cents and a slip of paper back. It said: Nursing you through colic--nothing. Hugging you when you are hurt—nothing. Making your breakfasts, lunches and dinners—nothing. Taking you to and from school every day—nothing. Serving you and loving you sacrificially—nothing. You see this mom was illustrating to her son the idea of sacrificial love and honor. We can be like that son—not handing our spouse a tangible bill for our services, but holding expectations and demands in our heart and mind. This should not be. Love and Prefer your spouse sacrificially like Christ loved, not expectantly.

We have only one area left to discuss in our next post in this series:  our words.  I'm praying for my readers as you and I work through these areas of godliness.