What If Your Spouse Isn’t Perfect?

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We desire love in our inmost being and long for it as the one thing that will make life beautiful. The problem is that we are called to love people who are flawed, and those flaws get in the way. Our faults we can live with; it’s just the other person’s problems that are such a difficulty.

There are only two types of love we could call “true love.” One is a relationship where both people are so beautiful and so perfect they can’t help but be in love. This only happens in books, and they are fairy tales.

The other type of love that can be called true is where both people have faults, and yet they love. There is something absolutely beautiful about being able to expose all our faults and know that we are still deeply loved; that we are not condemned; that the other person believes in us so much, we are not afraid.

Scripture says that “perfect love casts out all fear”? This type of love is built on trust. I trust that even when you know my faults, you will still believe in me and desire the best for me and will stand beside me throughout all the fires and storms of life – even when it’s me that has failed.

This is the way we are loved by Jesus, and yes this love is also found in a book – the word of God. When we are loved so completely and so beautifully, we are truly changed from the inside out.

This is where verse about the “three stranded cord” comes in; “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart,” Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:12. But it’s not three equal strands. He is the cord of strength so that when the relationship is braided together, husband, wife, and Christ, it finds the key to experiencing what God intended marriage to be.

Christ’s love for us is the example we need. We are filled with all kinds of flaws and imperfections and yet He loves us completely. He forgives, He pours out grace, He never turns his back on us; His love never fails.

So how do you love someone who has flaws and imperfections? You forgive, you pour out grace, you never turn your back on the relationship; you love without fail. It’s a three stranded cord. In other words, forgive because you have been forgiven, pour out grace because you have received so much grace yourself; give mercy because of how much mercy has been poured out to you.

It would help a lot if we could just change the way we see imperfection. First of all, it is part of the human condition. We were born to imperfect parents, raised imperfectly, have been imperfect all of our lives, and then married someone who is also imperfect. So why are we shocked and upset when our spouse does something imperfect?

We need more patience with each other. We need more grace, more forgiveness, more understanding and kindness in how we respond when something goes wrong. When we understand that, it creates an atmosphere where love can mature.

Again we turn to the perfect definition of love God gave us in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind… love is not easily provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered… love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”

Jesus gave us another principle that applies. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:12. How do you want your spouse to react to your failings and imperfections? You want grace, you want forgiveness, you want patience and kindness given to you when you fail. Well then, do the same.

This is where maturity has a bearing on love. To respond to your spouse the same way you want your spouse to respond to you requires maturity, it requires you to favor your spouse at your own expense. Christ loved the church by giving Himself up for her, by taking her burdens upon Himself.

There is absolute joy in love when you realize you can love someone who is imperfect and you can be truly loved in all of your flaws and imperfections.

Just because a thing is hard is no reason why we shouldn’t do it. Perhaps there are many things we ought to do, which in our own strength alone, we cannot do. But there is an aspect of faith in which a believer should desire to live beyond himself.

In Isaiah 6 God asked the prophet Isaiah, in regards to a difficult task, “Whom shall I send?” “Here am I, send me” Isaiah said to the Lord. Those are profoundly difficult words to say. They are words that express faith. They are words that say, “This is much too big for me, but if you want me to do it, then… here am I.”

Two brothers came to the Lord with a request that they might have first place in His kingdom. They were thinking of earthly rank.  The Master answered by asking them if they were able to accept His cup and baptism. They did not know what He meant, but they believed so completely in Him that they calmly answered, “We are able.”

This was a commitment to which there could be no withdrawal; it implied courage. They didn’t know to what future they were going or what it would cost them to be true to their pledge. It implied a love for their Master. That was the secret of it all; it implied faith. They did not know what would be in the cup which they had solemnly promised to drink; but they believed in Christ, and in His love and wisdom, and were sure He would lead them only to what would be the truest and the best for them.

“Here am I, Lord,” are words that God loves to hear. In faith, they are words that are some of the most exciting that can fall from men’s lips. They are words that excite a venture of faith, of believing that whatever God has in store, it is bigger than me, but not bigger than Him.

“Here am I, send me, Lord.”

God is greatly pleased by such faith.

Your servant,

Rich Jones

What is Love?

what-is-love-3-27-13If you ask couples why they’re getting married you’ll probably hear “Because we love each other” as one of the most common answers. But what is love? That’s one of those deep questions we seldom ponder, but should. Most people think of love as something you either have or don’t have, you’re in love or you’re not. They love someone because they believe he or she is someone special and they feel good inside when they’re with that person. But then when you hear that “God is love” you realize there’s a lot more we need to understand.

A discussion about love wouldn’t be complete unless we also mentioned “true love.” I’m not exactly sure what the difference is between regular love and true love, but it has to be a lot because so much is made of it. It is what everyone longs for, but apparently few experience. In Princess Bride, the movie, Westley and Buttercup have found true love and by its power experience unbreakable bonds forever. To quote Butternut as she rebuffs Humperdinck, “Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.”

The Greek culture seems to have touched on something right because they have several different words for love, but in English we just have the one word – love. We use it for everything. We love ice cream, we love our dog, we love watching our favorite basketball team, but then we also love our children and of course we love our spouse. It’s probably a good idea if we meant something different when we use the word love in each of those cases.

Of course marriage and love are interconnected. To quote the clergyman in the wedding scene of Princess Bride, “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.“ So treasure your love; that’s actually good wisdom. It means that love has great value.

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Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” We then read the best definition of love ever written, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not easily provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”

That’s the perfect definition of love because it’s based on God’s perfect love; it’s based on the character of God Himself. All of us fall short of this kind of love, but I submit that we fall short in various degrees. Here’s my point; love requires maturity and we all have differing degrees of maturity. “Okay,” someone might say, “what does maturity have to do with it?” My answer would be that it has everything to do with it. Immaturity is when a person favors himself at the expense of others and maturity is when a person favors others at the expense of himself. God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son… Because of love, He gave of Himself; He favored us at His expense.

Maturity is something we grow into and I submit that love is something we grow into as well. Love is not something that we either have or don’t have; love is something that we have in degrees according to our maturity. We all want the blessings of loving and being loved, but we experience the depths and heights of love as our character increases, as we grow in maturity and become more like our Lord. God is love and when we grow in our relationship to Him, we become more like Him.

Kind Words

feb14_03This week is Valentine’s Day and many will do something special for someone special. Not everyone is in a relationship, but everyone can learn something important about godly character as we look at relationships.

In order to uncover the processes that destroy relationships, researchers studied married couples over the course of years, and even decades, and retraced the star-crossed steps of those who have split up back to their  wedding day. What they discovered is unsettling. None of the factors one would guess might predict a couple’s durability actually does: not how in love a new couple says they are; how much affection they exchange; how much they fight or what they fight about. In fact, couples who will endure and those who won’t, look remarkably similar in the early days.

Yet when researchers studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationships. Among couples who would ultimately stay together, only 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were putdowns. Among couples that would later split, 10 of every 100 comments were insults. That gap became greater year after year, until couples heading downhill were often flinging five times as many hurtful and invalidating comments at each other as happier couples.

What’s sad about this is that we are called by God to actually bless, to build up and to have gracious words on our lips. We should be distinctly different than the world and this difference should be seen in the words we speak and in the daily way we live.

Putdowns act as cancerous cells that, over time, can destroy even the best of relationships. The key to victory in this is a decision. It’s a decision to do what God says in spite of what the other person does. It’s saying, “God, I will bless with my mouth simply because You asked me to; I’ll do it by faith.”

The miracle of this decision is that as you become a bless-or, you will begin to see awesome blessing come back to you. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” I have another one, Blessed are those that give grace, for they shall receive grace and much better relationships.