As we continue talking about our hearts this week, I feel it necessary to cover a topic that is often overlooked in ourselves; an area that literally—if not kept in check—can pull a marriage apart at the seams.
We end this week on Friday with Valentine’s Day—notably the most “romantic” day of the year. Admittedly, I find nothing wrong whatsoever with showing a little extra love to my spouse on this special day of the year, however, I want to examine the expectations that inevitably come with it. Expectations that can lead to great disappointment, frustration, and resentment.
Let me start by painting for you a common scenario which can play out leading up to Valentine’s Day (…or an anniversary, Christmas, birthday, etc.).
One early morning, Sally turns the calendar to February first. Hearts, flowers, candy, candles, and love notes are strewn across a red and pink satin background in the calendar picture for the month. Her eye scrolls down the page as she takes in the coming events of a new month. Groundhog Day, President’s Day, and there—there at the end of the second week of the month she eyes that special day: February 14th—Valentine’s Day.
Immediately her mind starts to wander down the yearly path of romantic wishes. What will he bring her? Flowers? Jewelry? Will he arrange a romantic night out on the town complete with babysitter for the kids and a pre-date spa day? Will he remember to send her roses—one for every month (or year) they have been together? Will he walk in the door and surprise her with tickets to the opera or symphony? She tries hard not to think about it, but she figures she’s earned a little appreciation, and so she hopes…
Fast forward two weeks.
It’s February 15th and she’s waking up to a new day laying next to her husband, John. She’s disappointed, hurt, and a brewing resentment is stirring deep within. “That’s right, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I had such beautiful visions of how it should have been. It could have been so lovely, so romantic. But he didn’t….” And the tears start to fall as she begins to remember the frustration she felt just the day before at his seeming ineptitude at all things romantic; all things pertaining to her desires and deepest longings.
“Why doesn’t he think to do those things? Doesn’t he know how badly I need them? Does he not care? Doesn’t he really love me? How could he be so calloused as to forget? Is he having an affair? Is that why he didn’t think to do ____???”
And on and on it goes.
John comes home from work later that night and Sally is quiet, brooding. Her answers are short and she refuses eye contact. She does what she must to get through the evening, but when bedtime comes and he’s feeling amorous, she denies his advances.
“Why doesn’t she want to be with me?” he wonders. “Doesn’t she know how much I love her? How much I need her right now? How rough my day at work was… just to bring home a paycheck that will feed and clothe our family? Why is she so distant? What did I do now???”
Do you identify with any of this? Do you think your spouse does?
I’ll be the first to admit to you that we have thought some of these things in our almost 20 years of marriage. Really—we’ve been there.
But what we have realized along the way is that it was our own expectations that got in the way and caused the pain.
Thankfully, the Lord has shown us that all our expectations are a form of worshiping self.
Am I saying that you should never have expectations of your spouse? Am I saying that your have no rights? That you are wrong to have hopes and dreams in your marriage?
Well, it really depends on how you look at it. It depends on who you are worshiping and why.
Our calling in marriage is to live a life surrendered to Christ and to be His loving, joyful servant with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The rubber meets the road when we do this in all we think, say, do, and feel. We put this into practice by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
We do this by looking to Christ to be our source of all fulfillment—by letting Christ be the Great Romancer of our souls. When we do, we allow our spouse to be the imperfect being they are this side of Heaven. We release him/her from being the source of fulfillment for which we yearn. Instead, because we receive all we need from Jesus, we are free to give it all away to our spouse.
And there is much greater joy and blessing in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35).
What if, this Valentine’s Day (and on all other special occasions) we seek to give, and give only for the joy of being Christ’s hands and feet to our spouse rather than expecting anything in return?
What if, this Valentine’s Day, we seek to think the absolute best and highest of our spouse by assuming that all they do, or don’t do, is out of a heart of love?
What if, this Valentine’s Day, we look for ways to bless our spouse, rather than take; leaving the fulfillment of all those romantic hopes and dreams to Christ’s love of you?
Could you? Would you?
Could you surrender all you want to Christ and trust Him to fulfill your needs when he sees fit, as He sees fit?
Could you worship Christ alone, rather than self, and give, give, give in Christ’s name to your spouse—not expecting a single thing in return?
I can’t tell you when the tables might turn. I can’t tell you whether your spouse will ever decide to romance you.
But what I can tell you is that God loves you dearly, and He is jealous for your soul, indeed your whole heart. If you turn to Him and ask Him to be the Romancer of your soul, He will. If you let go of the control and place Christ on the throne of your heart in this area too, He will bless you for it… in ways you won’t expect
It is Christ, after all to Whom we are accountable. And He loves us so much that He wants us to imitate Him and give it all.
Trust Him to do it through you. He is faithful and will give you the ability to do it, and then turn around and bless you for your obedience.
Your marriage will benefit. Your children will benefit. The world around you will see and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).
This is the long road we have walked.
We have not always gotten it right. Even now, we forget sometimes: we get selfish, we seek self-preservation over the blessing our spouse. But Christ always turns our hearts back to Him and helps us see that we have been living for ourselves—rather than living for Him by giving the love He has so freely given to us to give to each other.
Take the challenge with me: Let go, let God, and rejoice in His rejoicing over you!