I decided to jump in today on yesterday's "Walk With Him Wednesdays" topic.
The topic this week and for the next few is, the Practice of Love, how do you love your husband, your children, a difficult person, etc.? Because we all know that despite what Hollywood tells us (and really what do they tell us that is EVER true or of any significance???) love is not just a feeling. It can be, but if so, just as quickly as it rushed in, it will go away again leaving you wanting and empty inside. Marriages that are only built on the feeling of love, will never last. Because as we all know, our feelings wane from day to day and as the days fall off the calendar, sometimes they are marked by feelings of love and sometimes they are not. Sometime they are simply branded by survival.
But the practice of love, the discipline of it, is an entirely different thing. Marriages that are nurtured by the practice of love, are well built. Making love a verb to thse around you, to the Lord, is a valuable work because it's just that, work. It's a love that costs you something, a love that requires a sacrifice and lays bare the intentions of your heart. It's doing something to make the other person feel loved and is there anything sweeter than watching them receive it as the love gift it was intended to be??
As our 8 years of marriage have unfolded, there have been lessons along the way of how to love one another. To really communicate how we feel, simply by speaking a language the other understands. Sure there have been days of flowers and candy and overnight getaways, and they have been cherished, but I'm sure that the days I've felt the most loved have been on the everyday, insignificant days when Travis has spoken love to me in a way that I knew it. Acts of service are one of the ways I receive love. To have the kitchen cleaned and the dishwasher run, to take the kids out for awhile and leave me with my coffee and the silence I've craved, those are the times when I know he is doing those things not for him, but purely for me. To open the ears of my heart and whisper "I love you" in a way that penetrates right through.
From the beginnings of our marriage, me the wife of a Student Pastor, Wednesdays have long become my opportunity to practice love for my husband. Wednesday of every week, is always a day that is filled with the opportunity to love, but unfortunately it has not always been marked by the practice of it. As the years have unfolded and the seasons changed, he has needed to receive love from me in a variety of ways and by God's grace, I've learned the ways through much trial and error.
While I was driving the kids and I to church last night, I heard a familiar Switchfoot song that immediately took me back to the very early years of our marriage, back to the Wednesdays of that season together. I recognized the song as one I had listened to slowly and deliberately, for days on end, while I put together a powerpoint for him to use as an illustration for one of his talks. Those were the days before he had a staff, before there was a tech team at his disposal, before he had resources beyond me. In that season, I was his assistant AND his wife, and I practiced love towards him by being the administrator he needed week after week. I planned trips with him, I made powerpoints, I called students, I gave rides, I printed monthly activity calendars, I helped him with everything. It was what he needed while he juggled a part time ministry job and a full-time Seminary schedule. It was a lot for me on top of my own full time job, but we were both married to that ministry and more importantly, it was a way for me to love him practically and I did it. And I'm glad I did it. We have incredible memories from those years, although they weren't perfect and there were many Wednesdays that I didn't practice love, just duty. For those first few years, I knew how to show him I loved him every week and I did my best to pull it off.
Yesterday, as I pondered that season of Wednesdays and it's many joys and challenges, I realized how differently they look today. We are at a (much) bigger Church with many resources. Travis has a team to partner with, people who shoulder different responsibilities and frankly, no need for me to bear any of those weights that I previously did. Which is a blessing, because I am not the young wife I once was, ha ha! I'm seven years older, with two little ones who call me Mom and a husband who is responsible for shepherding and teaching several hundred students. His needs from me have changed and so have the ways I practiced love on a Wednesday. It's been a challenging few years since our kids have been born. I used to have all the time in the world to come on a Wednesday and get involved. I ran our cafe, got to know parents, spent time with students and supported Travis with my presence every week. He loved having me there and I knew that, so I made it a priority too. But like everything else in our world, the kids arrived and changed everything! Suddenly I had no extra time, I was caring for and feeding a newborn (or 2) and worrying about exposing them to unnecessary germs. Coming to Church on a Wednesday night, with little ones in tow, was a huge ordeal and not always one I was willing to undergo.
But what I learned is that although our life changed, his need for my love practiced on a Wednesday night, didn't. Of course he didn't have the same expectations of me and he was gracious to give me the freedom to step back and invest in our own kids, without making me feel pressured to invest in students. And so last year, in the midst of the world's worst winter with 2 kids under 2, I spent many Wednesdays alone at home. We went a handful of times, but it was usually stressful and a juggling act. I struggled to show him much love last year, beyond asking how the night went and then trying not to interject my opinion. It was a hard year and I regret not making him more of a priority, not just with my presence but more in my prayer life. I wish I would have shown him my love in that way.
And so with that regret behind me, this year has been a much different experience for both of us. I have learned to love through a variety of seasons and in a variety of ways. This Fall, when Trav's responsibilities shifted and he took on a greater teaching role, I sensed that my ways of practically loving him needed to shift as well. With God's grace, I've finally learned a thing or two over the years. I've learned to speak carefully and less with him on a Wednesday. The Lord reminded me this summer, as I read through the Old Testament, what a reverent calling it is to teach the Word of the Lord and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. So I choose to take his calling on a Wednesday night seriously and with a greater degree of reverence. Although the enemy often tries to set up camp over our house on those days, I try to love my husband by going to the Lord more and to him less. I don't bother him with my phone calls to tell him what our kids are doing that is making me crazy or how tired I am. I realize that sounds so silly, but it's wise counsel I also got from another Pastor's wife and I think it's right on. As Proverbs 29:11 says, "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back" and Proverbs 10:19, "In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise."
In my younger years, I've been guilty of picking a fight on a Wednesday or trying to get Travis to make a big decision, hours before he's going to teach. How wrong I was to do that and sadly, in doing so I treated God's Word and his messenger with contempt. It's been a good practice for me to stop and go to the Lord with my concerns and let Him advise me about what Travis needs to hear from me on those days. I'm certainly not always perfect in this area, old habits are hard to break, but I believe on the days we are both rightly approaching the Word and there is not strife between us, it is easier for Travis to teach what the Lord has asked him to. And it's my way of showing him love to release him from petty things between us because believe me, it takes great restraint to not complain on those long days. You just wouldn't believe some of the things that happen about an hour before we are supposed to leave the house. I'm not kidding when I tell you the enemy is bent on claiming a victory over my house. Some of my hardest days with the kids, happen on a Wednesday. Some of the oddest phone calls I get, happen on a Wednesday. My greatest temptation for complaining, is always on a Wednesday or a Sunday. He is relentless, but thankfully, my God is greater. I fight for joy on a Wednesday because the Lord is worthy of that and because it makes my life (and my husband's) easier when I am joy filled, instead of bitter.
This year, Wednesdays have become a great blessing to me again. I've embraced the option of childcare at Church for my kids and thankfully, they have just loved it. Ava's little Puggles class is for sure the highlight of her week and I am so grateful. Carter is all smiles when I pick him up from the nursery now and I know that is the Lord's grace. I have LOVED the opportunity to be back in student ministry, and this time without a "job" to do, other than to just love my man. We get to enjoy incredible worship together, hand in hand, and then I have made it a new practice to pray over him before he speaks every week. The Lord impressed that on me the first week this fall and I don't think we've missed a week yet. It's a joy to hear Travis teach and to be able to love him again with my presence in the back of the room. But it's also been a blessing to approach a Wednesday night with awe over the Word and the way the Lord speaks to the generations through it. I delight in seeing our students grasp it and wrestle with and be changed by it. It is an incredible privilege to be in ministry and to have a front row seat in the ways God is working through a younger generation. I'm so glad I haven't missed it.
Someone asked me last night why I come every week or what my role is? I used to answer that with some justification about my responsibilities or my job that night, but now I am grateful that I can just say, "I'm here to love my husband and I'm very thankful for the opportunity to do so."
I realize most people reading this aren't married to a Pastor and the way you love your husband probably looks much different. I think the thing the Lord has impressed on me is that no matter what our husband's calling or occupation, it is our privilege as their wives to love them in that role, how ever that looks for the two of you. We hold much power as their wives and we have the opportunity to bless them or curse them in the way that we handle their work lives. We can always find ways to complain or something that isn't ideal, believe me, I could make a list too. But part of loving someone else is putting your own needs aside and sacrificing for the good of theirs. The practice of love is active, intentional, and important and the stakes for marriage have never been greater. Wouldn't you agree that there are far too many covenant unions that are crumbling around us because of "feelings" that have gone astray or "rights" that demand to be met? I'm not saying we have the perfect marriage, we surely do not. But I am saying that I have learned how to love my husband in the area of his job and I think the Lord has brought blessing to both of us because of it.
I love the opportunity that the internet affords us, to share what we've learned and to grow from others who are also seeking the Lord. I'm anxious to read through this list today of some others who are practicing the art of love to those around them. I hope this is an encouragement to you and if you are open to sharing, I'd love to hear the ways that you practice love with your husbands too. This is only one area I can speak to about my growth, there are many that have plenty of room for improvement! I hope you have a blessed day and a blessed weekend! I'm off tomorrow on a scrapbook retreat and I'm so looking forward to it.
Wishing you a sweet weekend of practicing love with whomever the Lord has put in your path...
He is able to help us love anyone, anywhere, through anything...