Love. A single word in the English language with thousands of definitions. I love chocolate ice cream. I would love to go to a Cubs game. I love my husband. Hmm. Wait a second!
Several weeks ago I began thinking about the way I use this word so flippantly, and I decided that I probably don't use it well in my marriage. Just because I told my husband I loved him, did he really believe that I did? Now don't get me wrong, I don't think that by saying I "love" to do certain things, that I'm automatically equating my husband with chocolate ice cream, or baseball. However, I do all too often use the phrase without thinking about what I'm saying, thus devaluing it of it's true meaning.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 inscribed. It talks about all the things that define true love, and serves as a daily reminder to me of how I should be loving my husband. When I measure myself by this standard, I fall shockingly short! All too often I found myself getting angry over petty things. "I can't believe I have to do _____________ again! Why do all these responsibilities get dumped on me?" Love is patient and kind . . .
"It's so frustrating that he won't spend more time with us as a family. Why do his priorities always have to come first?" Love is not irritable or resentful . . .
The list could go on and on. I had become so caught up with frustration, and dissatisfaction, that I wasn't able to enjoy my husband for the incredible man that he is. God began quietly convicting me that the problem did not lie with my husband, but with my heart. At first, I responded with annoyance. I felt like a child again, being scolded for something I had done, and pointing to my little sister. "Don't forget about her! What she did was worse!" But alas, it is not up to me to judge my husband's heart, only to let God cleanse and shape my own.
Enter the 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. I had been listening to the radio one morning, and heard one of the on-air personalities talking about this challenge that she had seen on Facebook. The more she talked about it, the more I thought I really should investigate it for myself. Since it happened to be the first day of the month, I thought, "Oh sure, why not at least give it a shot?"
I am so glad I did! For 30 days, I was not allowed to say anything negative to, or about my husband to anyone else. After signing up to take part, the challenge website e-mailed me daily reminders about the challenge, and had a specific focus for each day. There were specific scriptures that went with each day, and a reminder to seek God through the challenge, and not attempt it on my own strength - which of course, would only end in failure. There were days when it was easy to encourage my husband. I could tell him about the things that I appreciated so much about him, or even better, praise him to someone else while he was listening!
There were other days where it was more difficult to bite my tongue. So often, especially as women, we run to others when we're upset about something for vindication, and affirmation. It is especially easy to do when we're frustrated with our husbands. The challenge hinges on this concept of banishing all negativity from your vocabulary. It was so hard for me to do at times! God led me to read through the book of James, where he talks about blessing God, and yet cursing people, who are made in his image. What a contradiction! Negativity and criticism are poison to a marriage. They deflate my husband's spirit faster than a needle deflates a balloon. This challenge brought about significant changes in our relationship.
When I began, I really expected to see the majority of change coming from my husband. I was looking for changes in his behavior, or waiting for him to "notice" how nice I was being. Sounds ridiculous, but true.
To my surprise, and shame, I began to see that the changes were happening in my own life. When I stopped focusing on his faults and shortcomings, and instead shifted my focus to God's unchanging promises and purposes for him, I began to see him through his Father's eyes instead of who I wanted him to be.
I have always known since our marriage began that it is not up to me to "change" my husband. It is not my job to "train" him, or make him into super-father-husband, who can fulfill my every need and desire, all while leaping tall buildings in a single bound! In other words, this was not a new concept for me. However, I justify my behavior too often by using the "I'm not trying to tell him what to do, but that doesn't mean I can't be angry with him!" line.
By the grace of God, I am now able to get past the issues that bothered me so much, and instead appreciate the incredible gift of my husband. God made me and my husband specifically to be with each other, no matter how our personalities might sometimes clash. When I think about that sovereign plan, I am in awe that I serve a God who knew before the earth's beginnings that we would be here now, serving him together.
Encouragement is true love in action. Ladies, this stuff works! If you're interested in finding out more about the challenge, you can sign up here. I'd love to know what things you've implemented into your relationships to help you love your man better! Leave a comment to share your tips.
Photos by Hilda Burke, of Angel Eyes Photography