Ouch. Do I do this perfectly? No. Is it an area of growth and obedience for me? Yes. This testing ground for so much of this love stuff is within my own marriage. True love isn't all the mushy stuff of a young and whimsical heart. True love is tested in the fire of the nitty gritty of marriage and family life. So this is my take on this part of the I Corinthians 13 love chapter, because I'm still tackling love!
With love forgiveness is paramount. Does forgiveness mean you forget and pretend the offence never happened? Yes, in some cases. People make mistakes. People are tired, hungry, overwhelmed, and ignorant of how they effect you. We all hurt one another and I hope that those stupid mistakes I make are not in a record book. And yet, when there is someone who continually hurts you with not ever trying to make things right, yes you still forgive, and you do not keep a record of their wrongs, but you can remember that they are unhealthy for you and choose to keep at a safe distance. If the hurtful person wants to reconcile and makes an effort to repent from their unhealthy behavior, of course you forgive, you probably already have. But I want to add a warning, an abusive person will feign reconciliation during the cycle of abuse. I do not believe that we are to stay within anyone's cycle of abuse. Over time you will know if this person is genuine.
Be liberal in your forgiveness Christian brother and sister. Be good caretakers of your soul as well by not keeping a record of wrong, do not harbor bitterness a home in your heart, yet be careful to not allow unhealthy relationships destroy you.
So my original plan was to write about love in 2016. For some reason at the beginning of any year, I think that I posses the power to make plans that I am sure I will have the time to follow through on. Instead of hitting those plans out of the ballpark, I'm super busy trying to hit all the curve balls of that year. As the school year approached last fall many parts of my life filled up and got busy. Oh how I hate that word, busy. I don't use it any more with pride, I use it to describe that the unexpected took over my vision of how I wanted things to go.
This is where I left off my attempt to "Tackle Love". Love is not easily angered. I didn't really want to focus on thinking about this. I didn't want to be tested and tried in regards to anger. I don't know that I have been tested and tried in this area, but I have a few thoughts (I'm sure you do as well).
When you love someone, I mean really love THEM, you get to know them. Getting to know someone is knowing what makes them tick, and what sets them off. It is more difficult to get angry at someone that you know these things about. It is more difficult to get angry when you know these things and love them.
The people that I am closest to are my husband and my boys. I live with these people (except my oldest son now lives on his own). We know each other pretty well. Yes there is frustration. It is easy to become frustrated with someone when they don't do their part of chores, or who are too loud when they need to be quiet. I don't have a huge amount of anger toward them because I try very hard to know each of them and their differences. What I mean by anger is red blooded hot I want to ring your neck kind of emotion. But we do have frequent frustration. We are all different and have different likes, dislikes, wants and needs. Friction can happen without sparks flying if you keep things lubed with love. I think of love as knowing the other person and respecting their boundaries and trying to meet their needs. Love is saying thank you, please, and other life-giving words. Love is having respect for preferences. Love is other focused. Anger on the other hand comes from self focus and wanting what you want, when you want it, and your way. You can't really control other people's anger, but you can control how you love. Love doesn't breed anger, nor does it let itself be angered easily.
Love is not self-seeking (I Corinthians 13:5). I have been chewing on this one for a while now. I thought that this year would be easy to dissect love as it is shown I Corinthians. It is not easy. Not. One. Bit. This is painful, looking at what God says is love. It’s like pulling out multiple splinters out of the bottom of your foot, painful and necessary. Some of those splinters are deep and they need digging out. This whole not being self-seeking business is one of those deeply embedded splinters.
I always think in terms of relationships. Really, how else would you think about love? When I think about not being self-seeking, I go straight to thinking about marriage. The relationship of marriage is so often looked upon, by women at least, in terms of how we feel about what our husband does or does not do to make us feel loved. Wow, if that isn’t self-seeking I don’t know what is. But let me tell you, I have had many conversations with many different women, through different phases of their marriage and it is very much how we look at marriage. I am no different. I judge love in my marriage by what I get, not by what I give. This reality has come to the surface of my self-knowledge and it needs to change.
Yes, there are times that I think of my husband and what I can do for him or how to make him happy, or feel loved. Yet in my heart of hearts I know the truth, the truth that I really want to be more on the receiving end rather than on the giving end. How can this be turned around? Oh, it is like trying to change the course of a huge ship going 25 knots! The turn must be wide and will take time and a lot of resistance! It’s time to move the rudder! Read along as I think of what to do to express love in a way that is not self-seeking and remember that I’m preaching to the choir.
The first step to loving in a way that isn’t self-seeking is to allow the other person to be who they are. As I wrote those words, pictures of people come to mind, reminding me that I do not accept them just how they are. I want others to fit into my script, they should play the part I want them to play in my life. In the real world, life just doesn’t play out that way. We all are different and at different stages. I would want someone to love me for the real me, at whatever stage of life I am at. I need to do the same. This is especially true of my husband. He and I are very opposite in our personalities and I find myself wanting him to be more like me. I have a high need for people and activities of life, he on the other hand is more to himself and happy to be home when not a work. We are in agreeance with our values and lifestyle, but the difference comes in our approach of life and what we need socially. This is an area that I’m always working on, acceptance of him, just the way he is, without trying to change him. It is strange how women always want to change and improve their man, but we don’t feel we need any of that turned around on us! My goal is to have more patience and acceptance. You can ask me how I’m doing.
The next step in loving in a non-self-seeking way is to ask questions. When you ask questions, and do not assume that you know something about another person, you are showing that what they prefer or feel is important. Good questions to ask are, “How would you like this done, what would you like, when would you like to do this or that?” This shows that one person is interested in the other person’s preference and feelings about something in their life. I have always been a take charge and get the job done kind of person, believing that my way of getting things done was good enough for everyone. Over the past two months I have been involved in different things with a lot of different people. What has really come to the forefront of my awareness is how different people like things done, and how different all of our taste are (food and everything else under the sun). Asking what the other person in your life wants and trying to get things right for them is such a loving task.
Learning the other person is so important to loving without being self-seeking. When Jeff and I were just newly married I learned that when I get him a drink he likes it in a big cup filled to the brim. When I get him something to drink I do my best to do it the way he likes it. It has taking him years to learn how I like my drinks, but he has finally got it! If I am drinking a soda I want a lot of ice and for the soda to be poured very slowly so that it won’t lose too much fizz. Not doing things your way for the other person, but doing it their way is a very simple, yet powerful way to show unselfish love.
Hear ye, Hear ye! This is a big-y! Listen up, I’m going to tell you a tip that will speak volumes. Listen. Really listen. Try and not focus on what you will say in return and listen to what the other person is saying. Listening to the one you love says so many things without saying a word. My husband is amazing at listening to me (it’s a good thing because I must process everything in my head by talking and I really need someone I can trust too listen to me). He has given me the gift of freedom to say whatever I need to say and he listens so that I can get out of my head my thoughts that get trapped unless I give a true voice to them. You know what that says to me? He loves me enough to let me share my very deepest soul. He gives me a safe place to let the raw me come out, without judgement or correction. He is the soft pillow for my truest self to land on. He has modeled non-self-seeking love by listening. He doesn’t need to match my every story with one of his own, he doesn’t take over and make the conversation all about him, he doesn’t tell me that what I feel or what I’m going through really isn’t all that bad. Nope. He listens. That is a gift of unselfish love. I want to be increasingly like that.
This was not an easy thing to ponder over the last few weeks, this topic of love not being self-seeking. If non-self-seeking love were a contest in my marriage, my husband would win. God has been showing me that although I think of myself as a giving person, one who isn’t selfish, I need to work on loving in a non-self-seeking way, more and more, with my husband. What relationship needs your attention in this area too?