Monday, May 26, 2008

Choosing to Love

Here it is Monday and I am just now getting a post written for the reading group discussing The Excellent Wife. I think, due to the new schedule my family is living for the next few months (I’ll explain in another post), that if I am going to continue and keep up with this reading group I am going to have to make an effort to get my weekly post written before Friday so I can get it posted on Fridays. Otherwise, I’ll just have to keep on coming late to the discussion like I have the past several posts.

Okay, last week was Chapter 9, Love: The Wife’s Choice. This chapter was very encouraging to me, though I won’t say it is easy, by any means. Leslie pointed out in her post that Mrs. Peace does not pull any punches, even saying things rather bluntly at times and not putting a whole lot of stock in feelings or opinion when she spells out what the Scripture says. This is good. This also can seem harsh. No coddling going on in this meaty discussion throughout the book. And I think this is why many of us, me included at times, may bristle. It’s hard to take an honest evaluation and see where my actions are not demonstrating a true submission to God’s Word. But if I want to grow in sanctification, I must make this evaluation, and make it honestly and often. But it is hard to hear at times. It is important to prayerfully consider how obedience to these biblical truths is to play out in my life and home and to prayerfully evaluate my attitudes to make sure I am submitting to my Lord and Savior and the role He has for me to live according to His Word.

Something else I have realized while reading this book is that most of the discussion is not new information to me, but how easy it is to forget or not focus on these things in the day to day. Like Leslie, I am appreciating the slow reading format of taking a chapter a week to ponder and digest, because I have a tendency to breeze through when I read and don’t always take the time to do the difficult personal evaluation that this format is encouraging, and no, Leslie, I’m not finding it frustrating or boring to take our time with it.

The main point in this rather long chapter is that true love is more a choice than a feeling. I particularly like how she pointed out that my husband is my closest neighbor, and choosing to love him, even at times I don't feel like it, is a vital component of fulfilling the second greatest commandment – to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and if I harbor unloving thoughts toward him I am creating quite a dilemma for myself in that I’m not loving my closest neighbor. I hadn’t ever really thought about it quite that way, but, she’s right, that is an excellent way to look at how I treat my husband. I know this. I know that I need to be training myself to think loving thoughts and to meet others’ needs, even when I don’t particularly feel very loving. Feelings can be swayed by so many things, and I don’t want to be ruled by them. But I have to confess that I am, in fact, ruled by my feelings far more than I wish were the case. Just today, in fact, I have struggled with a melancholy, blue funk and have had a very hard time acting with love toward my husband. I have failed somewhat in this task today. We had a rough night with interrupted sleep due to an antsy dog and just a restless night for me, and I woke up tired and cranky and depressed about something that, as I reread the chapter this afternoon I had to honestly admit had become something of an idol to me. Without going into detail about why I had this particular struggle yesterday and this morning, I was struggling with feeling kind of lonely and like I have such a hard time being able to find and make close friends here where we live (something I’ve mentioned before), and, to be honest, I was beginning to wallow a little in homesickness for a time in our life when we did have a really special group of friends and how much I miss that time and those friends. I reread Chapter 9 today in preparation for this post and I realized when I got to the paragraph I quote here that I am in danger of making an idol of having my emotional needs met by the approval of other people rather than finding my chief satisfaction and joy in serving God. Mrs. Peace says:

“Any time someone has a philosophy of life that is based on “my needs” (self), they are likely to fall into the trap of being unloving, selfish, vain, or proud. Consider the Apostle Paul or the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither one had their “needs” to be loved by everyone met, yet they continued to show love to God and to others. Their focus was on what God wanted them to do. That was their joy and hence their satisfaction. We, on the other hand, are naturally lovers of ourselves. If you are struggling with being unloving and having a wrong view of love, perhaps you are longing for the wrong kind of love. Hence, there is an idol in your heart.”

I read that and had to stop and think. When I focus too much on what I perceive other people are (or aren’t) thinking of me, I am being far too self-focused. I need to think more about how I can honor God and obey what I know, seeking to find my joy in Him, and also to be loving and friendly to others spending far less time wishing they would take notice of me and meet my emotional need for acceptance. And when I’m in that kind of funk, I tend to be less able to love my husband well, too, and it’s a vicious spiral, because I’m thinking way too much about me and how unhappy I feel and not nearly enough about him and how I can be the wife he needs me to be, all rooted in the idol of needing and seeking the approval of others and not finding my joy in Christ alone. I really do want my joy to come from loving Jesus and doing what God would have me do. And I appreciate the way Mrs. Peace pointed out the seeming paradox that, “Generally speaking, to have the happiness, joy, and fulfillment you desire, you must put yourself aside and place God and others first. In regards to earthly relationships, you must put your husband first. In regards to your relationship with God, set your heart on glorifying God whether you ever have your way or not.” I have that starred in my book.

Several times when I’ve posted during this discussion, I have felt nervous about being too honest on the blog about what I’m learning and thinking because so much of this is counter-cultural. But, I think I need to quit feeling like I need to apologize for what I’m putting out here, because these are areas where I believe God is dealing with me, and they are things I am wanting to apply to my own life. This blog is, as I’ve said before, really a kind of journal for me, where people are invited to sort of read over my shoulder. As I mentioned above, there are times I care too much about how other people think about me and I know the topics we’re discussing with this book step on a lot of toes, and I’ve worried about offending or irritating with these posts. I finally have decided to take what my husband says, “It’s your blog, Bek, write whatever you want and quit worrying about it so much,” and keep on discussing this book and how much I want to put what I’m learning into practice in my life and try to quit worrying about how anyone else will perceive what I'm saying. Yes, I do drive him crazy sometimes when I beg him to proof read some of these posts.

I very much like all the practical discussion in this chapter about how doing the right thing may very well mean going against our feelings at times, and the warning and acknowledgement that all people are naturally selfish. This is an important thing to realize and to begin praying for the will and grace to trust God to sanctify me and help me to die to myself and to have my joy be in seeking to glorify God.

I also really appreciated the very practical discussion of how to deal with and put off bitterness. I find this helpful not just in marriage but in all relationships. The chart showing examples of how to put 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 into our thinking and how to incorporate scripture based responses to wrong thinking was very helpful, too. I want to follow Mrs. Peace’s suggestion and memorize that passage of scripture and begin practicing training myself to recognize wrong thinking and replacing it with right thinking.

All in all, I found this chapter to be encouraging and challenging, and, as this morning demonstrated, a lesson I really needed to be reminded to apply.

2 comments:

Leslie said...

I can't tell you how much reading this encouraged me. It's sad that I already (just since Friday) needed to be reminded of the command to love my husband.

I wonder sometimes if I'm sharing too much or too little on my blog, too. Nine times out of ten, though, I'll get an email from another woman who really needed to read something that I shared that day.

Keep it up!

Julie Stiles Mills said...

You wrote "Several times when I’ve posted during this discussion, I have felt nervous about being too honest on the blog about what I’m learning and thinking because so much of this is counter-cultural. But, I think I need to quit feeling like I need to apologize for what I’m putting out here, because these are areas where I believe God is dealing with me, and they are things I am wanting to apply to my own life. This blog is, as I’ve said before, really a kind of journal for me, where people are invited to sort of read over my shoulder. As I mentioned above, there are times I care too much about how other people think about me and I know the topics we’re discussing with this book step on a lot of toes, and I’ve worried about offending or irritating with these posts. I finally have decided to take what my husband says, “It’s your blog, Bek, write whatever you want and quit worrying about it so much,” and keep on discussing this book and how much I want to put what I’m learning into practice in my life and try to quit worrying about how anyone else will perceive what I'm saying. Yes, I do drive him crazy sometimes when I beg him to proof read some of these posts."

Although we may be learning very different things about ourselves from this study, I could have written pretty much that same paragraph. I'm going to keep it honest and keep writing for myself too. If we write with a gracious attitude toward others who don't agree, we can still be true to ourselves.

GREAT post.