Sue and I were not anticipating the tremendous response to the interview video we did for the Cottonwood #RelationshipGoals series. We’re grateful that so many found it beneficial. A lot of people have asked for the “six things” Sue gave me that I could do to love her better, so they could improve their own marriage. Since we did the video to help marriages and families, we now feel like we need to follow up for those people. That’s the purpose of this post. And as you may notice, this is my first blog ever. It may be my last post or the beginning of things to come.
Of all relationships, none put love to the test like marriage. We can claim to be many things; but for a married couple, there’s no escaping the reality of our love (or lack of it) as it is lived out day-to-day at home.
As a husband, I’m not sincerely prepared to love ANYONE well if I’m not loving my own wife well. That’s something that I can’t leave undone.
In a couple weeks, Sue and I celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary. We’ve obviously been through tension before. But mid-life, ministry-focus and empty-nesting has made this challenge unique, not to mention the care and passing of Sue’s mom and the depressed rut I slipped into. What isn’t unique is that as Sue and I went through our recent hardship we didn’t give up on four essential things:
- Our Marriage
- The Word of God
- The Church
We leaned on these, as we have learned to do over our entire adult lives together. We are committed to our marriage because we are committed to Christ. We would do whatever it takes to get it right. The Word spoke conviction and wisdom on God’s power and grace to overcome, persevere and to love. We prayed and begged God to help us, over and over. We confided in God’s trusted people—His Church—for counsel and prayer.
By his awesome grace, God broke through my own dark rut and pride. As always, he used his words to transform and guide me. Now, it was primarily the letter of 1st John.
I’ve been through 1st John countless times over the years. But this time, in my daily devotions, I focused on John’s repeated use of the verb “to know.” John uses the verb “to know” 40 times in this short letter that majors on the theme of love. Being depressed can cause one to become hyper-selfish and to forget what’s important. My summary of 1st John’s instruction on love is this:
I know that God is love. Therefore, as His child, I know that I must love.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that “Love never fails.” But I know that I was failing. The words of Peter, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7), kept resonating with me as I prayed through 1 John. Even though I felt Sue wasn’t fully understanding me at this time, I knew I wasn’t working very hard to love her in an “understanding way.”
After thinking on it further one day, I knew I had to apply myself to loving her in an “understanding way” and not just “my way.” Because I like to keep things simple, I asked her to give me 3 specific things I could DO to love her better, and I requested that each item be one sentence that begins with an action verb. Of course my overachiever wife gave me six.
The things Sue gave me were not new (except the last one) or a shock to me. These are things we’ve learned, talked about and know well after 30+ years.
But I was ready to do something about my love in an understanding way, so I wanted to hear them from Sue. And when she, in return, asked me to give her 3-5 things to do, I had none to give. I wasn’t looking for “something in return.” I then committed to put them into practice every day.
About that same time, I heard Craig Groeschel explain in a podcast that he had a new habit of reading each day a list of personal positive statements or affirmations about who he is and what he does. With Craig’s inspiration, I decided to adopt this practice with 20 positive statements about who I am, including my understanding way to love Sue. Almost daily, I now read and pray over these in my morning devotion time. Here are statements 1 to 4:
- Jesus is my life. I exist to love, serve and glorify Him (Galatians 2:20)
- Everything I DO & SAY matters—I awake thanking God, knowing I have purpose today (Colossians 3:17)
- I love my wife and I will give up my life and desires for her (Ephesians 5:25)
- I love Sue best when (here I combined her “six things” into five under “KARP-F” for my ease of memory)…
- K: I’m Kind (and Nurturing)
- A: I make Affirming statements
- R: I Respect her in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7)
- P: I remember that we’re a Team (Partners) to serve and encourage others
- F: I buy her Flowers every month. Daisies and Carnations are best. No Roses.
As we look back, we are in awe of how God allowed us to deal with the care of Sue’s mom, and then come through this relationship difficulty before Sue’s cancer diagnosis. He has prepared us for this opportunity to love and serve one another in a more understanding way.
Remember, Sue’s “six things” are specific to her and me. What are some things you could do to love your spouse, family or neighbor better?