Jan 18 2010

Love Dare - Day 13

Love Fights Fair

 

If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. – Mark 3:25

 

 

Like it or not, conflict in marriage is simply inevitable.  When you tied the knot as bride and groom, you joined not only your hopes and dreams but also your hurts, fears, imperfections, and emotional baggage.  From the moment you unpacked from your honeymoon, you began the real process of unpacking one another, unpleasantly discovering how sinful and selfish each of you could be.

 

Pretty soon your mate started to slip off your lofty pedestal, and you off of theirs.  The forced closeness of marriage began stripping away your public facades, exposing your private problems and secret habits.  Welcome to fallen humanity.

 

At the same time, the storms of life began testing and revealing what you’re really made of. Work demands, health issues, in-law arguments, and financial needs flared up in varying degrees, adding pressure and heat to the relationship.  This sets the stage for disagreements to break out between the two of you.  You argued and fought. You hurt.  You experienced conflict.  But you are not alone.

 

Every couple goes through it.  It’s par for the course.  But not every couple survives it.

 

So don’t think living out today’s dare will drive all conflict from your marriage.  Instead, this is about dealing with conflict in such a way that you come out healthier on the other side.

 

Both of you.  Together.

 

The deepest, most heartbreaking damage you’ll ever do (or ever have done) to your marriage will most likely occur in the thick of conflict.  That’s because this is when your pride is strongest.  Your anger is hottest.  You’re the most selfish and judgmental.  Your words contain the most venom.  You make the worst decisions.  A great marriage on Monday can start driving off the cliff on Tuesday if unbridled conflict takes over and neither of you has your foot on the brakes.

 

But love steps in and changes things.  Love reminds you that your marriage is too valuable to allow it to self-destruct, and that your love for your spouse is more important than whatever you’re fighting about.  Love helps you install air bags and to set up guardrails in your relationship.  It reminds you that conflict can actually be turned around for good.  Married couples who learn to work through conflict tend to be closer, more trusting, more intimate, and enjoy a much deeper connection afterwards.

 

But how?  The wisest way is to learn to fight clean by establishing healthy rules of engagement.  If you don’t have guidelines for how you’ll approach hot topics, you won’t stay in bounds when the action heats up.

 

Basically there are two types of boundaries for dealing with conflict: “we” boundaries and “me” boundaries.

 

“We” boundaries are rules you both agree on beforehand, rules that apply during any fight or altercation.  And each of you has the right to gently but directly enforce them if these rules are violated.  These could include:

1.     We will never mention divorce.

2.     We will not bring up old, unrelated items from the past.

3.     We will never fight in public or in front of our children.

4.     We will call a “time out” if conflict escalates to a damaging level.

5.     We will never touch one another in a harmful way.

6.     We will never go to bed angry with one another.

7.     Failure is not an option.  Whatever it takes, we will work this out.

 

“Me” boundaries are rules you personally practice on your own.  Here are some of the most effective examples:

1.     I will listen first before speaking.  “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).

2.     I will deal with my own issues up-front.  “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

3.     I will speak gently and keep my voice down.  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

 

Fighting fair means changing your weapons.  Disagreeing with dignity.  It should result in building a bridge instead of burning one down.  Remember, love is not a fight, but it is always worth fighting for.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Talk with your spouse about establishing healthy rules of engagement.  If your mate is not ready for this, then write out your own personal rules to “fight” by.  Resolve to abide by them when the next disagreement occurs.

 

 

Be of the same mind toward one another.  (Romans 12:16)

 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission. Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.

 

Jan 17 2010

Love Dare - Day 12

Love Lets the Other Win

 

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests others.  – Philippians 2:4

 

If you were asked to name three areas where you and your spouse disagree, you’d likely be able to do it without thinking very hard.  You might even be able to produce a top ten list if given a few more minutes.  And sadly, unless someone at your house starts doing some giving in, these same issues are going to keep popping up between you and your mate.

 

Unfortunately, stubbornness comes as standard feature on both husband and wife models.  Defending your rights and opinions is a foundational part of your nature and make-up.  It’s detrimental, though, inside a marriage relationship, and it steals away time and productivity.  It can also cause great frustration for both of you.

 

Granted, being stubborn is not always bad.  Some things are worth standing up for and protecting.  Our priorities, morals, and obedience to God should be guarded with great effort.  But too often we debate over piddling things, like the color of wall paint or the choice of restaurants.

 

Other times, of course, the stakes are much higher.  One of you would like more children; the other doesn’t.  One of you wants to vacation with your extended family; the other doesn’t.  One of you wants to vacation with your extended family; the other doesn’t.  One of you prefers home-schooling your kids; the other doesn’t.  One of you thinks it’s time for marriage counseling or to get more involved in a church, while the other doesn’t.

 

Though these issues may not crop up every day, they keep resurfacing and don’t really go away.  You never seem to get any closer to a resolution or compromise.  The heels just keep digging in.  It’s like driving with parking brake on.

 

There’s only one way to get beyond stalemates like these, and that’s by finding a word that’s the opposite of stubbornness – a word we first met back while discussing kindness.  That word is “willing.”  It’s an attitude and spirit of cooperation that should permeate our conversations.  It’s like a palm tree by the ocean that endures the greatest winds because it knows how to gracefully bend.  And the one best example of it is Jesus Christ, as described in Philippians 2.  Follow the progression of His selfless love …

 

As God, He had every right to refuse becoming a man but yielded and did – because He was willing.  He had the right to be served by all mankind but came to serve us instead.  He had the right to live in peace and safety but willingly laid down His life for our sins.  He was even willing to endure the grueling torture of the cross.  He loved, cooperated, and was willing to do His Father’s will instead of His own.

 

In light of this amazing testimony, the Bible applies to us a one-sentence summary statement: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5) – the attitude of willingness, flexibility, and humble submission.  It means laying down for the good of others what you have the right to claim for yourself.

 

All it takes for your present arguments to continue is for both of you to stay entrenched and unbending.  But the very moment one of you says, “I’m willing to go your way on this one,” the argument will be over.  And though the follow-through may cost you some pride and discomfort, you have made a loving, lasting investment in your marriage.

 

“Yes, but then I’ll look foolish.  “I’ll lose the fight.  I’ll lose control.”  You’ve already looked foolish by being bullheaded and refusing to listen.  You’ve already lost the fight by making this issue more important than your marriage and your spouse’s sense of worth.  You may have already lost emotional control by saying things that got personal and hurt your mate.

 

The wise and loving thing to do is to start approaching your disagreements with a willingness to not always insist on your own way.  That’s not to say your mate is necessarily right or being wise about a matter, but you are choosing to give strong consideration to their preference as a way of valuing them.

 

Love’s best advice comes from the Bible, which says, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield” (James 3:17 NKJV).  Instead of treating your wife or husband like an enemy or someone to be guarded against, start by treating them as your closest, most honored friend.  Give their words full weight.

 

No, you won’t always see eye-to-eye.  You’re not supposed to be carbon copies of each other.  If you were, one of you would be unnecessary.  Two people who always share the same opinions and perspectives won’t have any balance or flavor to enhance the relationship.  Rather, your differences are for listening to and learning from.

 

Are you willing to bend to demonstrate love to your spouse?  Or are you refusing to give in because of pride?  If it doesn’t matter in the long run – especially in eternity – then give up your rights and choose to honor the one you love.  It will be good for you and good for your marriage.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Demonstrate love by willingly choosing to give in to an area of disagreement between you and your spouse.  Tell them you are putting their preference first.

 

 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  (Romans 12:18)

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission. Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.

Jan 16 2010

Love Dare - Day 11

Love Cherishes

 

Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. – Ephesians 5:28

 

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission. Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.

 

Consider these two scenarios.

 

A man’s older car begins having serious trouble, so he takes it to a mechanic.  After an assessment is made, he is told it will need a complete overhaul, which would tax his limited budget.  Because of the expensive repairs, he determines to get rid of the car and spend his funds on a new vehicle.  Seems reasonable, right?

 

Another man, an engineer, accidentally crushes his hand in a piece of equipment.  He rushes to the hospital and has it x-rayed, finding that numerous bones are broken. Although frustrated and in pain, he willingly uses his savings to have it doctored and placed in a cast, then gingerly nurses it back to health over the following months.  This too, probably seems reasonable to you.

 

The problem within our culture is that marriage is more often treated like the first scenario.  When your relationship experiences difficulty, you are urged to dump your spouse for a “newer model.”  But those who have this view do not understand the significant bond between a husband and wife.  The truth is, marriage is more like the second scenario.  You are a part of one another.  You would never cut off your hand if it was injured but would pay whatever you could afford for the best medical treatment possible.  That’s because your hand is priceless to you.  It is part of who you are.

 

And so is your mate.  Marriage is a beautiful mystery created by God, joining two lives together as one.  This is not only happens physically but spiritually and emotionally.  You start off sharing the same house, the same bed, the same last name.  Your identity as individuals has been joined into one.  When your spouse goes through a tragedy, both of you feel it.  When you find success at your job, both of your rejoice.  But somewhere along the way, you experience disappointment, and the sobering reality that you married and imperfect person sets in.

 

This, however, does not change the fact that your spouse is still a part of you.  Ephesians 5:28-29 says, “Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”

 

This verse speaks to husbands, but notice how each member is viewed.  They are both considered to be the same flesh.  You must treat them with the same nurture and care that you treat yourself.  When you show love to your spouse, you are showing love to yourself as well.

 

But there is a flip side to this coin.  When you mistreat your mate, you are mistreating yourself.  Think about it.  Your lives are now interwoven together.  Your spouse cannot experience joy or pain, blessing or cursing, without it also affecting you.  So when you attack your mate, it is like attacking your own body.

 

It’s time to let love change your thinking.  It’s time for you to realize that your spouse is as much a part of you as your hand, your eye, or your heart.  She, too, needs to be loved and cherished.  And if she has issues causing pain or frustration, then you should care for these with the same love and tenderness as you would a bodily injury.  If he is wounded in some way, you should think of yourself as an instrument that helps bring healing to his life.

 

In light of this, think about how you treat your spouse’s physical body.  Do you cherish it as your own?  Do you treat it with respect and tenderness?  Do you take pleasure in who they are?  Or do you make them feel foolish or embarrassed?  Just as you treasure your eyes, hands, and feet, you should treasure your spouse as a priceless gift.

 

Don’t let the culture around you determine the worth of your marriage.  To compare it with something that can be discarded or replaced is to dishonor God’s purpose for it.  That would be like amputating a limb.  Instead, it should be a picture of love between two imperfect people who choose to love each other regardless.

 

Whenever a husband looks into the eyes of his wife, he should remember that “he who loves his wife loves himself.”  And a wife should remember that when she loves him, she is also giving love and honor to herself.

 

When you look at your mate, you’re looking at a part of you.  So treat her well.  Speak highly of him.  Nourish and cherish the love of your life.

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

What need does your spouse have that could meet today?  Can you run an errand?  Give a back rub or foot massage?  Is there housework you could help with?  Choose a gesture that says, “I cherish you” and do it with a smile.

 

 

Answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  (Mark 10:51)

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission. 

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Jan 15 2010

Love Dare - Day 10

Love is Unconditional

 

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us.  – Romans 5:8

 

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you love your wife?” or “Why do you love your husband?” – what would you say?

 

Most men would mention their wife’s beauty, her sense of humor, her kindness, her inner strength.  They might talk about her cooking, her knack for decorating, or what a good mother she is.

 

Women would probably say something about their husband’s good looks or his personality.  They’d commend him for his steadiness and consistent character.  They’d say they love him because he’s always there for them.  He’s generous.  He’s helpful.

 

But what if over the course of years, your wife or husband stopped being every one of those things.  Would you still love them?  Based on your answers above, the only logical response would be “no.”  If your reasons for loving your spouse all have something to do with his or her qualities – and then those same qualities suddenly or gradually disappear – your basis for love is over.

 

The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional.  The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.

 

The Bible refers to this kind of love by using the Greek word agape (pronounced uh-GOP-ay).

 

It differs from the other types of love, which are – phileo (friendship) and eros (sexual love).  Both friendship and sex have an important place in marriage, of course, and are definitely part of the house you build together as husband and wife.  But if your marriage totally depends on having common interests or enjoying a healthy sex life, then the foundation of your relationship is unstable.

 

Phileo and eros are more responsive in nature and can fluctuate based upon feelings.  Agape love, on the other hand, is selfless and unconditional.   So unless this kind of love forms the foundation of your marriage, the wear and tear of time will destroy it.  Agape love is in “sickness and health” love, “for richer or poorer” love, “for better or worse” love.  It is the only kind of love that is true love.

 

That’s because this is God’s kind of love.  He doesn’t love use because we are lovable but because He is so loving.  The Bible says, “In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).  If He insisted that we prove ourselves worthy of His love, we would fail miserably.  But God’s love is a choice He makes completely on His own.  It’s something we receive from Him and then share with others.  “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

 

If a man says to his wife, “I have fallen out of love with you,” he is actually saying, “I never loved you unconditionally to begin with.”  His love was based on feelings or circumstances rather than commitment.  That’s the result of building a marriage on phileo or eros love.  There must be a stronger foundation than mere friendship or sexual attraction.  Unconditional love, agape love, will not be swayed by time or circumstance.

 

That’s not to say, though, that love which began for the wrong reasons cannot be restored and redeemed.  In fact, when you rebuild your marriage with agape as its foundation, then the friendship and romantic aspects of your love become more endearing than ever before.  When your enjoyment of each other as best friends and lovers is based on unwavering commitment, you will experience an intimacy that cannot be achieved any other way.

 

But you will struggle and fail to attain this kind of marriage unless you allow God to begin growing His love within you.  Love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7) does not come from within.  It can only come from God.

 

The Scriptures say that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).  This is God’s kind of love.  And thankfully – by your choice – it can become your kind of love.  But first you must receive it and share it.

 

And don’t be surprised, when your spouse begins living confidently under its shade, if he or she doesn’t become even more lovable to you than you remember.  You will no longer say, “I love you because …” You will now say, “I love you, period.”

 

 

Today’s Dare

 

Do something out of the ordinary today for your spouse --- something that proves (to you and to them) that your love is based on your choice and nothing else.  Wash her car.  Clean the kitchen.  Buy his favorite dessert.  Fold the laundry.  Demonstrate love to them for the sheer joy of being their partner in marriage.

 

 

He who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness shall surround him.  (Psalm 32:10)

Click here to buy a copy of The Love Dare book.  

Click here for a free online journal for the full 40 day challenge.

 

Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.