August 10th, Alissa and I celebrated 16 years of marriage. Where does the time go? The truth is it doesn’t seem like it has been that long, but at the same time it feels like we’ve spent our entire lives together. I love my wife. She helps me see a perspective I never would have known had I not married her. Our anniversary has gotten me thinking about love. Big surprise there, right? You’d hope it would get me thinking about love and not dread.
Love is a word we associate with so many feelings. Any time something puts the warm fuzzies in our heart, we say that we love it. Or at the very least, we press and hold the like button and then slide right to the heart. Love is associated with so many things that it has desensitized us to the word love. We love our cars, our houses, and even our best friend’s hair. We love the food we eat, we love our beds and air conditioning (It’s ok to love air conditioning. It is a gift from God).
For 14 years, I had a white 1997 Honda Civic. Over the years it became affectionately known as “The Civic”. It wasn’t fancy and didn’t have any of the bells and whistles. It didn’t even have power steering, for that matter. What it lacked in frills, it made up for with faithfulness and loyalty. I made so many memories driving that car around, coast to coast and back. I put 200K miles on “The Civic” before I sold it. The only reason I sold it was to replace it for our growing family.
I’d say I loved that car because it became part of my family. It was something I could constantly depend on and I had a tough time selling it. But, you know what? I sold it and bought a larger vehicle that would hold two carseats and have room for our stuff. Why? Because I love my wife and kids more than an object that is easily replaced.
What I’ve come to realize is that love is something you do more than something you feel. I think it is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” We can’t see someone’s feelings, but we can see their expression of love by what they do.
Emotions Are a Gauge, Not a Guide
There are moments in life when your feelings will lead you astray. You can’t always trust your feelings. If we lead our lives allowing our feelings to dictate our decisions, then we aren’t worth following. If you are like me and have insecurities, your feelings will always lie to you. I’ve learned that if I tell Alissa how I am feeling, she will help me see the validity of the right emotions and the lies that my insecurities tell me.
I believe the difference between successful marriages that last a lifetime and marriages that end in divorce (I understand there are many instances where there is infidelity or abuse of some type to which this does not apply) is choosing daily to forgive and not trust your feelings. Our anger and insecurities can carry us to a place we never thought we would go. They cause us to read into what our spouse is thinking and feeling as well. When we fail to communicate with our spouse in a healthy way, we will always read negativity into things they say and do. It’s our natural tendency. We tend to think in worst case scenarios. Why do we do this when our spouse is suppose to be our biggest supporter?
I’ve heard it said that “blood will always heal.” This expression means that no matter what happens in your biological family, the family can heal. “Water”, or relationships outside the biological family, don’t have the same properties and ability to mend itself. Jesus talked about this, “’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Our marriage has to transfuse us together from the very beginning. When this happens, “blood will always heal” is an expression on which our marriages can build trust.
My feelings are fleeting and so are yours. They cause us to assume and set up defenses that wall out everyone that is important to us, including our spouse. Love breaks through when we serve one another. Our job is to no longer serve our own needs, but meet our spouse’s needs. I am not saying be everything to your spouse, because you can’t. If you try, you will fail and you’ll both be beaten and bruised by the rubble left. Jesus is the only person that can be our everything.
As a spouse, we are to serve one another and lead one another closer to Jesus. I think it’s what Paul meant in when he said, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Marriage is not a relationship of one person being in charge of the other, but a symbiotic relationship in which both show each other love by meeting each others needs. Problems start to arise when there is an imbalance in whose needs are and are not being met.
Open Wounds Need Blood to Heal
A couple months back, I was repairing the deck in our back yard. Now before you are impressed that I can actually wield a circular saw, tape measure, and drill, let me finish the story. I took all of the old boards off and took out the rotted parts of the framing. While adding in new framing boards and fixing the decks structure, I put a screw through two boards and down my middle finger. It split my finger about an inch in length.
The only thing that would keep in from bleeding is if I squeezed it together and wrapped it tightly with a cloth. Every time I let go to rinse it, it would gush and be extremely painful. Alissa wrapped it in a towel and I drove myself to the urgent care. Well, actually I had to drive myself to two urgent cares. The first one said they had too many people in front of me. Apparently, if you are bleeding out and you go to an “urgent” care, you better hope you are the first person in line. The pain of rinsing out the wound was only dwarfed by the shot they place in it so they can do the stitches.
However, you know what the doctor didn’t say? “Well, I think each side of your finger needs a break from one another to decide how they feel. It’s not you, it’s each of the sides. They just aren’t feeling the love they once felt. They feel like it would be best to just stay apart for a while to see if they can heal on their own and come back together later.” He stitched it up because he knows that the quickest way to heal an open wound is to bring both sides as close to one another as possible. He forced them to stay together until my body could work it’s magic. Blood will always heal wounds.
I think our marriages work the same way. When there is a deep wound, the quickest way to heal is to bring both sides together as close as possible. Isolating ourselves from our spouse is one of the most damaging things we can do. It becomes about self care rather than serving one another and healing each others wounds. Isolation of both sides leads to infection in the marriage. Sometimes our bodies and our marriages can ward off infection, but more times than not the infection takes over and death happens.
Open wounds in our relationships need us to come together and it be covered by the blood of Jesus. As Jesus followers, we believe that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on a cross, shedding His blood. His blood was shed to heal our relationship with God, but also with one another. The cleansing of any wound hurts. It’s not easy to go through and will cause pain. However, it’s in this moment that we have to choose to love.
Love isn’t something you always feel. Sure it gives you the warm fuzzies and feels good at times. I still get the butterflies in my stomach when I take Alissa on dates. Those are all great feelings, but the way she knows I love her is by how I show her. For us, it’s me finding childcare and taking her on a date where we can spend quality time together. I can only speak her love language if I am willing to do rather than just feel. And the paradox is, I feel more love for her every time I get to serve her.