You Deserve….

I read and hear a lot of people talk about what “you deserve” in a relationship. When these things are said, it is implied that if your spouse is not doing these things for you currently, it must not be real or the relationship should be questioned and possibly ended. I disagree.

You deserve to be treated with all the respect, dignity, love, and care in the world. Absolutely. Each person on this earth has immense dignity and worth because that comes from God. We were all created in His image.

You deserve flowers for no reason, thoughtful gestures, kisses just because, and things to make you smile. Some days. Some days you could probably do more to love your spouse.

You deserve for your spouse to always make you happy? Well that’s just an impossible request.

You deserve a lot and are worth more than you can imagine.

But when did marriage become about what you deserve? When did marriage become so selfish? When did we start believing that if you aren’t treated the way you feel you deserve to be treated that the marriage has failed?

On the days you feel like you aren’t treated how you should be, how often do you look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself if you are treating your spouse in the way they deserve to be treated?

What a humbling question. If answered honestly I have always found there was more I could do. My husband is also a child of God who was worth God giving his only son to die for him. My husband is so loved by God that God forgives him every time he fails. My husband is worth Jesus leaving 99 sheep to go out and find him. My husband is worth so much and means everything to God.

Do I really treat him in that way? Do I really let my husbands great worth sink into my soul? And do my thoughts, actions, and words reflect and remind him of his worth?

I find that in the moments when I am upset because I felt like I wasn’t treated the way I deserved, I could equally find ways I failed to treat my spouse as he deserves. So many of those times if I am honest with myself, I can see how selfish of a response that is. Although I deserve the world, although my God died for my salvation, although I am worth everything to Christ, I must look to God for my worth and be patient with my spouse. I must be willing to humbly accept that we will never be able to love each other with the same perfection that God loves us but we can and always should strive to love each other as selflessly as possible, to breathe life into each other, and to keep each other’s worth and dignity in God’s eyes at the forefront of our minds. And that is what the marriage is – a journey together to explore God’s love by learning how to see and love your spouse as God does.

Marriage is not the journey toward being treated how you feel you deserve – it is the journey toward learning how to love your spouse in the way God says they deserve to be loved, which is unconditionally.

Happy or holy marriage

Nobody was created just to have a happy marriage.  Men and women were created to win the happiness of heaven
Fr. Donald Miller

How often do we look to our marriage, to our spouse, to make us happy? How often do we feel like our marriage has failed if we are not happy in that moment? When those moments come it brings up the question – what is the purpose of marriage?

I have heard so many people tell me that if their marriage isn’t making them happy then maybe it wasn’t meant to be and they should search for happiness elsewhere and find someone else who makes them feel happy. 

If marriage is to be the thing to make me happy it is destined for frustrations. No person, no thing, can make us happy all the time. That is a crazy expectation to put on your spouse and one that no person could ever live up to or achieve. At the altar the promise is “for better or for worse” recognizing that there will be hard times and trials in every marriage. So if we know that all marriages won’t bring happiness all the time, what is their purpose? 

The purpose is your path to holiness and heaven where you will be eternally happy. It is to help your spouse grow in holiness and be in heaven with God some day. It is standing by your spouse through the triumphs but also through the trials. It is praying for your spouse and gently encouraging and supporting them in their faith. 

If we look at marriage in this way and with this purpose, it can never fail. We are never done in our faith journey. There are always opportunities to pray for your spouse and to support them in growing closer to God. When marriage is viewed as your path to holiness for you and your spouse, it may be tried and it can never fail, never be broken, and there is no reason to try to find your path to salvation in someone else because your journey with your spouse to holiness never ends. 

What an honor to be called as married persons to not only grow closer in individual holiness but also to play a huge role in the holiness and salvation of your spouse. 

Metanioa – Transforming Love

I have been transformed by love and as a result my love has been transformed.

I heard a new word the other day: metanioa. It means a transformation, a change, in your way of life as a result of penitence or spiritual conversion. It originated from the Greek word metanoein which means to change one’s mind. As I look back at the last year of my life where I have studied, prayed, and contemplated what it means to love – to truly love – the way God calls us to love as Christians I have seen my thoughts, my actions, my whole life be transformed. I am changed and I can never go back to who I once was. This year I realized one thing that changed me forever – love is not about me.

I always knew love was selfless. I had heard and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so many times. I knew the words – “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Although I knew the words, I didn’t live them fully.

Love is not about me. How easy is it to look at your spouse and silently as yourself the question – what do they do for me? How do they make me feel? Do they treat me the way I deserve? But love, selfless love, is not about what your spouse does for you – it is about what you do for them. It is about how you lay yourself down for the other. It is about how you give yourself, all that you are, as a gift to your spouse. This love is about the gift of yourself and your love.

As I sat contemplating the cross in a moment of darkness a year ago I saw love in Christ in a way I had never seen it before. Love so perfect because it is freely given without asking for anything in return. Jesus suffered and died for me and in doing so gave himself as the perfect gift for me out of love. He knew I would reject him. He knew I would fail him. He knew every sin and every mistake I would make but yet chose to give himself, all of himself, up for me as a gift. How humbling.

So often we see the picture of love as roses, laughter, joy, and happiness. The world tells us to look for a fairy tale version of love – a happily ever after – as if love is easy or comes without challenges. Where in our culture do we see the picture of a love like that on the cross? A suffering love. Is a suffering love really any less love than one filled with joy? I would argue not.

It is in a suffering love like that of the cross, that love is perfected. It is in this kind of love that the illusions are torn away. When love is suffering, it is like a stone in the ocean. The currents of pain and suffering roll over the stone taking away the rough edges and creating a smooth stone. It is moved, it is changed. Love through suffering does the same. It takes all our sinfulness, our pride, and our misconceptions and removes them from the core, leaving only love. When you learn to love through the suffering and your misconceptions of love are taken away, you are able to see love for what it truly is – a sacrifice, a gift, an outpouring of grace and mercy.

A suffering love is joyful because it rejoices in the gift it gives without looking for anything in return. A suffering love finds its peace in the quiet, constant stream of love it extends. Love requires sacrifice. It requires laying down your life. Too often we hear that laying down your life is sad – it is not. When you willingly choose to lay yourself down for another, there is no greater joy in the world because this laying down of yourself for another is the same kind of love that Jesus modeled for us on the cross – His perfect example of love.

As the circumstances of my life and my love have changed with time and I have experienced times of suffering love, I have been transformed. I have come to a new understanding of what it means to love and seen a new side of love I never knew existed before. The trials and challenges of life change us – metanioa.

Do you love me?

The unspoken question we all ask in most of our daily interactions – do you love me?

We long for love, search for it, and pursue it. We wish to be reassured of how we are loved. We subconsciously know we need it. After all we were created with a void in our hearts that only God’s love can fill. 

Christ patiently waits for us to love him. He continuously and endlessly pours out all his love for us. We can accept it or reject it, but it is always there. We can only experience it when we choose to accept it because God does not force his love on us. 

Christ not only gives us his love, but he asks a challenging question of each of us – do you love me?

Christ is in each of us and is continually asking in every moment and every interaction that we have with others – do you love me? He asks us if we see him in everyone we meet. He asks us to treat others the way we would treat him because he is in them. 

Jesus is radical – he tells us to love our enemies. How is this possible? Only by the grace of god and in seeing christ in our enemies.  

Jesus asks his disciples – did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked …..  He asks those same questions of us and they all boil down to one simple question – for you love me?

If you look in others eyes you can constantly see Christ asking:

Do you love me to forgive those who wronged you?

Do you love me to go out of your way to make my day and be kind to me when you feel I don’t deserve it?

Do you love me to put aside your to do list and just be there for me? 

Do you love me to help me with a project when you are tired?

Do you love me to give me a hug after a long day?

Do you love me to take care of me when I am sick?

Do you love me to stay by my side no matter what and care for me?

Do you love me to take some of my burdens?

Do you love me?

When I have been deeply hurt by someone it can be hard, but I always remind myself that God is in that person. I look I to their eyes and imagine that they are the eyes of Christ. How could I say, “no I do not love you” to Christ? How could I not do everything I can to show my love?

When I see a stranger who is clearly having a rough time do I see Christ in them and take a moment out of my busy day to ask what I can do and let them know I am there – they are not alone.

When there is a rift between me and my loved ones do I work to repair it and show my love?

Do I treat each moment and each interaction as an opportunity to answer Christ’s question – do you love me?

By answering that question and showing my love, I not only further the kingdom of heaven but I also become Christ’s  agent to help fill that void that only Christ’s love can fill in each of us. I become his hands and his feet and have the grace to be Christ to that person, remind them how much Christ lives them, and be Christ’s love. What an incredible honor to be called to be God’s love, our deepest longing, to all those I see each day. 

I’m sorry

“I’m sorry”

Two small words that too often are too hard to say and so inadequately describe how you feel and what you really want to express. They can be such an oversimplification of such a complicated and complex situation.

They work well for small offenses like accidentally bumping into someone on the street. But when you offend or hurt someone so deeply these two simple words – I’m sorry – don’t even come close to what you really want to say. Because the truth is no words can ever fully undo the damage caused or the hurt felt. 

We use two small words to try and express apology, regret, remorse, determination to change, and so much more. How can two words summarize and encompass all those things?  

I don’t think they truly can. Because sometimes you want to look at the person you hurt and say “I should have never said the things I did.” Or you wish to tell the person “I am disappointed in myself and cannot believe the person I turned into”. Sometimes you want to say “I made a mistake and I know it deeply hurt you and all I want to do is take away that pain that I caused you but I can’t figure out how”. Other times you want to say “I am changing and working to be a better person and I would really like the opportunity to show you who I am now.”  All these sentiments and more are often summed up by saying “I’m sorry.” 

The truth is words sometimes have a way of failing us. We use them to express what we are feeling and thinking, but too often the words we say don’t measure up to what is really going on inside. We do the best we can to express those feelings which is why we apologize and say I’m sorry to each other. 

How do you respond when those words are said and you still feel hurt? There isn’t a good way to measure how sorry a person is. So is it an eye for an eye? Do you turn the other cheek? Do you hold on to your anger, bitterness, and resentment? Do you forgive? 

It is so important to acknowledge the ways you have wronged your spouse, apologize, and work to do better. It is equally important to forgive your spouse and extend mercy even when it feels like it is not deserved, because God has extended unfailing mercy and forgiveness to each one of us even though we are so unworthy to receive it. 

Most people know that simply saying the words I’m sorry doesn’t make up for their offense. A genuine apology also requires action and a determination to show remorse by making a conscious change and doing better in the future. 

That change that takes place can then be accepted or rejected by the person who was wronged. Sometimes they might not even see the change if they are still holding onto bitter and angry feelings and can’t see past the hurt they feel. Hopefully that change after apologizing brings reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace. 

So why even say I’m sorry if it inadequately describes and cannot really express the deep sorrow and regret you feel? Because although it simplifies the complexities and doesn’t measure up to the hurt you caused, sometimes there isn’t much else you can do to try to heal the pain you caused, show you are holding yourself accountable for your actions, and try to do what you can to make it right moving forward. It is impossible to take back something that was said and done because it is in the past. All you can do is try to tell the person you wronged you are sorry, that you wish things had been different and that you are making a decision to do better in the future. “I’m sorry” doesn’t heal all wounds by itself, but it is a gesture and a step toward reconciliation and hopefully making things better in the future. It’s saying you want a fresh start and hoping for a second chance. 

One body

Why is it that we are so quick to dismiss and walk away from people in our lives who hurt us?

What would happen if we truly looked at our brothers and sisters as being one with us in the body of Christ? How would our responses to others change if we looked at each person in this world as a part of the body of Christ, where Christ is the head of the body and each one of us is a part of the body?

When I look at others through this lens, each person’s worth and value becomes so much greater. Not only are they my brother and sister, but they are integral in my salvation and my life. I begin to see how we were created to help each other and to work together.

If you think about the body, it is miraculous how all the parts of the body work together to keep you alive. Each part has a specific role and function unique to it. The body of Christ is the same way. Each one of us has a specific role to play based on the gifts and talents that God gave each of us. When each one of us uses our gifts to their potential and works together, the body of Christ is strong and healthy. However, sin and turning away from these gifts can cause a cancer in the body of Christ and our community.

It starts small, one small sin against a brother or sister, but since we are all connected it impacts the entire body in ways we cannot see.

Many times, our natural response to being wronged or hurt is to either seek revenge or cut that person out of our lives. However, God calls us to love everyone – even our enemies. He calls us to forgive and heal. I think the reason he says this is because we are so interdependent in ways that only God can see and understand.

But what if we think about it this way:  If your wrist was broken, would you elect to have it amputated, would you seek revenge and make it worse, or would you work to heal the broken bone? Most would choose to heal the broken bone. If we believe we are one body and your brother or sister in Christ has done something to wrong you or is hurting in some way, shouldn’t we try to help heal the wrongdoing and therefore heal the entire body rather than cutting that person off or leaving them without aid?

What happens when we look at the world in this way? Does it change the way we interact with others?

This is why the family – marriage and parenting -are so important. They are a model for the world of this kind of oneness and love that we should have for everyone. 

It starts small with loving, forgiving, and caring for your spouse. The two of you were joined and became one in marriage. So this type of oneness and unity in love is shown through your marriage. You work to heal wrong doings and preserve and strengthen your marriage. The marriage is the joining of two to become one team who respects, protects, supports, and heals each other. When mistakes are made and the relationship is injured, it requires healing and sometimes rehabilitation. 

Then that same love you have with and for your spouse is extended to your family, your children. You love your children and they love you and together you all are a unit, a family, and you care for, protect, and love each other through healing forgiveness and mercy when one of you is hurting. Because if one of your family members is hurting, you all are affected. 

This love is further extended to all you meet in the body of Christ for we are all connected through him. 

Are we ready and willing to heal the wounds and hurts in the body of Christ? I think it starts with focusing healing yourself, then your marriage and family, and then extending that to the world. 

Repair or rebuild

Over time without a lot of regular maintenance bridges will begin to deteriorate. A once strong bridge that could support a lot of weight becomes weak and unstable. At that time a decision has to be made – repair or rebuild the bridge. I think marriage can be the same way. 

When the relationship starts, the bridge is built. There are two people and the bridge that is built is the relationship between them. The relationship starts out strong and each piece of the bridge is carefully put in place. The bridge parts are the moments of connection and trust that the two people share. It is the experiences they have together and the way they do things as a couple. As their commitment to each other grows, the bridge becomes stronger. 

The bridge remains strong for a while. It is important that it does because every day the bridge has to bear the weight of the things that come against the relationship – other people, outside commitments like work, friends, hobbies, money, etc. As long as the bridge, the relationship, stays strong it can continue to connect the two people and hold through any of these stresses put on it. 

Without regular maintenance the bridge will begin to deteriorate and become weak. It can no longer support the weight and stress it used to. This happens when the two people stop putting so much effort into staying connected and caring about each other like they did when they built the relationship in the beginning. Then the pressures and stresses from outside the relationship begin to weigh down too heavy on a relationship that isn’t strong enough to stand against them. 

As the bridge becomes more weak there comes a point where a decision has to be made. The bridge is weak enough that is is unstable and not safe. You can either repair the existing bridge or rebuild a new one to keep the two connected. 

Marriage as a lifelong commitment between two people – for better or for worse – forever and ever times infinity and beyond – has these same two options when the relationship is stressed, worn down, hurt, and damaged. Because the love and relationship is forever, there must always be a bridge connecting the two of you. The two people can either repair what they have or start to build a new, better, stronger bridge/relationship between the two of them, learning from their mistakes from the past to build a stronger bridge this time.

In this type of a lifelong commitment and love for each other it can sometimes be necessary to realize that what you had built before isn’t working anymore and is too worn and hurt. It can be scary to rebuild that bridge between the two of you, to start trying to reconnect again, but sometimes that fresh start at a new relationship with your spouse is needed. Both of you can come to the table with better knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of what failed before and rebuild a new bridge and connection with each other. 

The old way didn’t work between the two of you, but the new way, the new bridge, will be better than the previous one. This is because as we change as people and our circumstances change over time, we have different needs and thoughts. These must be taken into account when repairing or rebuilding your bridge. When the bridge has gone too long without maintenance, rebuilding it may be the best option to ensure those new needs and changes are taken into account when you begin to reconnect. 

Rebuilding doesn’t mean the old bridge and relationship didn’t exist. It doesn’t erase the old way you did things or the hurts or problems from before. Those things are there and they are very real. But rebuilding chooses to use those experiences to start fresh with something new that learns from past mistakes and makes different better decisions from now on. 

Repairing would take the form of addressing all your problems and fixing each one individually – looking at each weak part of the bridge and fixing it. But this rebuilding takes the form of starting from the very beginning – getting to know each other again and connecting with each other. It acknowledges all the wrongs, hurts, and failings of the old bridge, knocks them down, and then uses that knowledge to build a new bridge without those same issues in it. 

Sometimes it is necessary to rebuild your marriage and your connection with your spouse with a fresh start between the two of you.  The rebuilding starts with an attempt at reconnecting with each other like you did when you first met and began building your first bridge. 

As You Are

There’s an interesting challenge in loving someone where they are for who they are. You can’t expect them to change, yet when they do change you have to learn to love who they have changed into. We all change as we go through life. Every experience we have shapes and molds us in some way. We are affected by our decisions and by the decisions and actions of others. We are affected by everything that goes on around us. As we change and as we grow we sometimes struggle along the way. Sometimes our growth comes in the form of taking a step backward before we can take two steps forward. The same is true for our spouse. The growth that requires failures along the way can be the most difficult to love, but sometimes it is essential.

When I am sitting at the foot of the cross I hear Jesus saying to me, “Come to me as you are. Come with all your faults, all your failings. Come with all your reservations, all your questions, all your concerns. Come with all your strengths. Come to me exactly as you are in this moment.” He constantly reminds me that he loves me exactly where I am. He reminds me that I do not need to be “perfect” in order to come to him or in order to receive his love – he loves me in my imperfection. This is the first challenge of loving someone for who they are. It is accepting that person exactly as they are in the moment. You can never expect your spouse to be perfect.  The idea that we can attain perfection in life is a lie. No one is capable of being perfect. So we must learn to love ourselves, our spouse, our children, and everyone around us for who we are – imperfect people.

You can only ever ask your spouse to be who they are in the moment. You cannot force change in others; you only have the power to change yourself. Instead of looking at the things you do not like in your spouse, take a look at yourself. Maybe there are changes you can make in yourself to better the situation. Maybe some of your frustrations with your spouse would go away if you made a change to respond more graciously and with more patience. Maybe your perspective on one of your spouses’s annoying habits would change if you saw each annoyance as an opportunity to say a quick prayer for your spouse and your marriage. Maybe if you really think about it you would realize that one of the things that bothers you about your spouse is actually the way they react to something you do that bothers them – something you have the power to change in yourself so they wouldn’t have anything to react to. All you can do is love your spouse and pray for God’s love and God’s will to be in them.

The second challenge in loving someone for who they are is in their change and growth. Since we all change and grow, the person your spouse was when you first met was likely different than the person they were when you got married. The person your spouse was when you got married will change and grow over time and throughout your marriage. These changes can be difficult, especially when they are not the changes you imagined would ever happen or when you watch your spouse make a decision that is something you never thought that they would do. Both you are your spouse are constantly changing. This challenge can also bring out the fun in remembering to date your spouse throughout your marriage, because you have the opportunity to continually get to know your spouse for who they are at that point in time. Each time you get to know your spouse and each time that they change is a chance for you to fall in love with them all over again – the new version of them. Each time they grow is a chance to appreciate something new about them.

It’s like sitting on the shore of the ocean, watching the waves come in. Each wave is different and with each wave the ocean changes, but yet it remains the same ocean. Each time the waves hit the shore, they deposit some things on the shore and take others back into the ocean wave’s fold. The ocean both impacts and is impacted by its surroundings. It constantly changes shape as the waves continually roll as well as composition as it gives and takes from the shore. Each person remains the unique and precious individual that God created them to be and while they are on their life’s journey they impact those around them and are impacted by the people and events in their lives. We are ever changing. Unconditional love embraces the changes in yourself and your spouse, encourages growth, and loves in each moment. It seeks to know and understand who your spouse is in each moment and chooses to love that person. It simply says “I love you – as you are.”