Here are some of my favorite posts, so far. I’ll add more as the year progresses:
You are my beloved and I am yours. But after several years of marriage, I’ve grown passive about our relationship–no longer do I passionately pursue your love nor express mine. I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I know that I want it to change. I love you, but desire to love you more and want you to feel loved by me. So, starting today I’m resolving to commit a different, intentional act of love for you every day for a year, so that our relationship may thrive once again. (Don’t get me wrong–I hope that all the days of all my life are filled with acts of love for you!) By blogging about this journey, I hope to preserve the memory of this year as a gift to you.
Day 127: Loving Others
Part of my vision for our marriage is that we’d not stop at loving each other, but would love others too. I want us to be so unified in our relationship that we spend much of our energy working together to help others rather than butting heads. That’s one of the reasons I’ve spent a lot of time fostering my love for you and our love for each other through 365.
Well, last night we took a first step in loving others. After dinner, we made an extra plate of food, then piled the fam into the car so we give the food to someone homeless. We already had a lady in mind, the one who begs in front of Trader Joe’s with her dog. We found her and gave her the food. She seemed excited and appreciative. And our girls enjoyed petting her dog.
Day 125: Everyday Love
I liked Saturday’s act of love (day 122) so much that I did it again yesterday—I waited until a need arose, then fulfilled it. In fact, I might make this kind of act a staple of 365. It makes me more perceptive to your needs—at least your needs at a given moment.
When I came home from work, our two older girls were running around like mad and you looked exhausted. During dinner, you told me we were completely out of toilet paper. Then after dinner, you looked in the freezer, rolled your eyes, and said, “You ate all the ice cream?!” But I didn’t let those things distract me from keeping a sharp lookout for some need of yours to fulfill . . . Actually, by one act, I turned your night around: I took the two crazies with me to Costco to buy toilet paper and ice cream (but let’s face it: ice cream’s a want, not a need).
In figuring out what you need from me, I’m considering everyday things like laundry, kids, and dishes as well as your psychological, spiritual, emotional, etc. needs. The latter are much more difficult for me to figure out than the former. But either way, loving another person seems so unglamorous.
Contrast this with a certain popular TV show in which droves of ladies vie for the affection of a single bachelor. All it takes to produce love, on this show, is a helicopter ride over Tahiti. And all it takes to fall out of love is a shift in emotions. The other day, one lady on the show said she divorced her husband of two years because her feelings for him changed. Maybe he should’ve taken her on a few more helicopter rides.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a marital commitment should be dependent on something so apt to change as feelings. As I see it, love does involve some romance and some moments that make you feel all toasty inside, but these things don’t exhaust love. Love is often everyday and unglamorous. It involves stuff like laundry and dirty dishes and screaming kids. And it’s characterized by commitment and service and choosing to love whether or not the feelings are there. Though I’ll work hard to romance you (indeed, that’s one of the points of this blog), I want our love to fundamentally involve a commitment to each other. And I want to everyday love you every day.
Day 120: Soli Deo Gloria
Yesterday afternoon, we decided to clean our kitchen and living room, with me opting for the former and you the latter. Before we started, though, you went upstairs to lay the baby down. 30 minutes later, you still hadn’t come back. So I crept upstairs to confirm my suspicion that you’d fallen asleep. You had. For my act of love, then, I let you sleep and I cleaned the kitchen and the living room myself.
It wouldn’t be hard to guess how this scenario would likely have played out a year ago. I probably would have woken you up so that you could do your job or let you sleep but made sure you cleaned later. In either case, though, I might have suspected that you fell asleep intentionally (love believes the best, anyone?) and even subtly accused you of that.
Now though, my thoughts are less and less about how to satisfy my needs and desires (though they are about that, which isn’t necessarily bad) and more and more about how to satisfy your needs and desires.* Throughout my day, my thoughts consistently and automatically turn toward you. I’m also gaining a clearer understanding of what it is that God requires of me as a husband, the purpose for which he designed marriage, what things please you, what kind of person you are and want to be, etc.
In addition, I’m happier and I desire you more. Sure, there are times when I do things for you purely from a sense of duty. But, week by week, my obligations and feelings (i.e., desires and emotions) are lining up. As a newlywed, I had strong (positive!) feelings for you and a sense of duty to commit to you and treat you well, but lacked a firm character underlying my feelings. Then I went through a time in which my feelings waned and my sense of duty remained, while my character slowly developed (due in part, it seems, to my commitment to you). Through 365, I’m happy to be in a place where my character is developing and feelings for you are welling up from that character.
But don’t get me wrong. Even though there’s been change, I’m far from where I need to be. Though my thoughts are less about me than they were, they’re still mostly about me. I’m still entrenched in false beliefs, whether dispositional or occurrent, about who sits on the throne of my life. My desires and emotions continually favor me over God, you, or others. I’m sick of it. What’s worse, though, is that I’m absolutely certain that I’m blind to most of my selfishness. (But it’s by God’s grace that I am and that he reveals my sin to me little by little, since I might despair if I saw it in full view.*)
I’m not going to kid myself, then. 120 days isn’t going to reverse dispositions long established. And while working on my marriage is good, many other aspects of my life and character need transformation. Yet, I’m making progress, however slight.
I chalk this progress up to the grace of God. It’s all by his grace. It’s by grace alone. Grace, grace, grace. Grace. The impetus for working out my relationship with you is God working in me (Phil. 2:12-13). In other words, without God’s work in me, there would be no heart change.
Soli Deo Gloria
*Obviously this doesn’t exhaust my daily thought life. My primary goal is to make God the consistent and automatic object of my thought.
*I got this point from Keller.
Day 117: A Hidden Message
For my 117th loving act, I fell asleep on the couch to the TV. (That might be hereditary: my parents haven’t finished a movie in years.) Actually, I did fall asleep, so I had to do yesterday’s act this morning.
For that act, I highlighted particular words in one of your magazines to form a love letter. I felt a little like John Nash (or the portrayal of him in A Beautiful Mind) as I combed your magazine trying to “discover” a secret message. When you find the note, I’ll write about your reaction.
My letter may seem odd (because it is), but I worked with what I had:
I heart you. I have joy in you. You are better than a beautiful picture and more valuable than the finest gold.
We are a unity. We recognize that dedication and faithfulness [to each other] comes as a direct result of his [God’s] grace. We give him all the glory.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “A legacy of money is not honoring (but good for raising goats!). The sacrifice and devotion of a dude are a lasting contribution.”
The past reminds us where we have been, so that we know where we are going. [Let us] head to care and fellowship and service to one another.
I love that you’re my wife.
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t pass around that Roosevelt quote. Although, it might end up on Wikipedia; then you’d be safe using it.
Day 116: Reflections on Sacrifice
On Sunday, I spent a long day at church, then had to work for several more hours when I came home. I didn’t want to commit my act of love for the day because I was so tired. The only thing that compelled me to commit it was my desire to be consistent with 365.
So, between working at church and home, I trudged up the stairs, bleached the bathtub, and prepared a bath for you. You didn’t want a bubble bath, so I left out the bubbles, but I did light a fragrant candle and place it by the tub.
I planned on watching the baby while you took your bath, but the baby was asleep, so my job was easy–to let you take your bath in peace. You did. You also gave yourself a pedicure. Then you came downstairs refreshed and relaxed.
365’s forced me to make changes to my day, and even my lifestyle, in order to show you (however imperfectly) love and kindness. These sacrifices, though momentary and light, have prompted me to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for me. The personal and tangible nature of my (small) sacrifices has made me realize how personal and tangible his sacrifice was. Christ, a real person, gave up his position in heaven to suffer and die in space and time on my behalf. He felt the pain of whips, the weight of the cross, and the sting of nails; the pain of wrath, the weight of sin, and the sting of betrayal. Compared to his sacrifice, (understatement alert!) mine is negligible. But the point is, Christ’s love for me has become more real as I’ve felt some of the pain (and joy: more on that later) of serving you.
What’s more, my deeper understanding of Christ’s sacrifice for me has resulted in my greater desire to sacrifice for you. I suspect this cycle will continue—as I serve you more, I’ll understand better how Christ served me (my Lord served me? How unthinkable!), which understanding will compel me to serve you more.
Day 95: Surprise Dessert
On Sunday, we celebrated New Year’s by eating at Chili’s. After we finished our food, I excused myself from the table, approached the hostess, and asked her for a pen and paper. When she gave me them, I wrote this on the paper: “Just because I love you. –Chauncey” (Let “Chauncey” be my alias for the blog. Let’s call you “Francine.”) Then, I approached our server with the note and asked her to bring us the brownie and ice cream dessert with my note placed on the side.
When I returned to my seat, you asked me what I did. I shrugged my shoulders. You jokingly whispered, “You got up just to flirt with the server then?” I whispered in response, “That depends on which server you’re talking about.” (I know—those are terrible jokes.) Then you said, “Seriously, what were you up to?” I laughed nervously and my face turned red. The server honestly took 10 minutes to bring out that dessert and you grilled me the entire time. I nearly gave up the surprise to make you stop.
When our dessert finally arrived, you said, “Oh, Chauncey! You did this for me?! Look girls, dad bought us a dessert just because he loves us!” As you girls were eating the dessert, I asked if I could have some. You said, “Oh, did you buy this because you love yourself?” I said, “Didn’t you read the note? It says ‘Just because I love you, Chauncey.’” You laughed as you handed me a spoon.
When we got into the car, you leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “I’m happy out of my tree that you did that for me, but I’m happier that you’re teaching our girls how guys should treat them.” As you said this, I reached around you and tapped you on the head with the book I was holding (yes, I see the irony in that). You grabbed the book from me, smacked me on the head (notice the lack of proportionality in your response), and said, “Are you ever serious? . . . Really, though, thanks for the dessert.” You’re welcome, Francine.
Day 81: Am I Just Whistling Dixie?
For my 82nd act of love, I humbled myself before you by giving you this apology letter:
This weekend I didn’t love you as I should. Though you showed me grace, I often spoke carelessly and acted inconsiderately. Our weekend was great, to be sure, but it would have been better if I hadn’t acted selfishly. Will you forgive me?
I love you and wish I would continually treat you well. May I rejoice in you–a loving doe, a graceful deer. May I ever be intoxicated with your love (Prov. 5:18-20). May you be more pleasing to me than wine (Song of Sol. 4:10). As Christ gave up himself for the church, may I give up myself for you (Eph. 5:25).
As the letter indicates, I had a tough time loving you this weekend (but you’re so darn lovable!). Selfishness and pride flowed out of me, though not as freely as before 365 Acts of Love. May I consistently love you, not just act lovingly once a day for 365.
Not only is it tough to consistently love you, it’s tough to consistently do 365. Every day I have to plan a new act of love, execute it, and write about it. But as Coldplay says in their whiny tone: “Nobody said it was easy.” In addition, isn’t this exactly what I wanted: to daily consider and mull over and reflect on how to love you? Still, it’s tough.
But consider what God did for us. When he said he loved us, he wasn’t just whistling Dixie–his love resulted in actions that cost him greatly. The Lord of all creation made himself a servant. The Creator became a creature. The all-powerful God became a helpless babe in order to be slain for us. Consider this passage from Philippians 2:
[Christ] . . . being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Truly, the incarnation is evidence of God’s great and sacrificial love for us (I Jn. 4:9).
What’s the evidence of my love for you? Am I moving beyond just whistling Dixie? Let’s put consistent action to these words of mine! Though it’s tough, I need to will to love you in spite of my desire to be selfish. I cannot do this without God’s grace. By the end of the year, perhaps God will so mold my thoughts and desires, that willing to love you will be second nature. Or if not, perhaps it will be easier than it is now.
PS: I must give credit to our pastor for inspiring this post with his sermon.
Day 73: Homemade Hearts
On Saturday, the girls and I each made you an ornament for the tree. For each of us, I glued two candy canes together in the shape of a heart. Then, we made bows on our candy-cane hearts out of pipe cleaners. Next, we each made a note for you and attached it to our respective bows. Finally, we put hooks on the hearts so we could hang them on the tree.
I like involving our girls in my acts of love. For one, I’m leading them by example, teaching them the proper way to treat you. It remains a fact that whether or not I’m a good example for our children, they follow me. The same goes for you. Their idea of how to treat others is formed (in part) by the way we treat each other. In general, the kind of person a child becomes is due (in part) to the kind of lives his parents lead. In other words, a child’s home makes his heart. In light of this, may God’s grace abound in us so that we can treat each other well. May he forgive us when we fail. (I admit that I fail daily.) Two, by involving our girls in my acts of love, they themselves practice love for others, selflessness, etc. In both of these ways, then, 365 Acts of Love has the potential to shape our kids’ hearts to be more like Christ’s heart. May God use it for that end.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)
Some Progress or: Maybe I’ll Take Up Sailing
Last night, you told me this (unprompted by me):
“I feel like we’re friends again. Happy friends. Not just roommates . . . It’s clear you’ve been thinking about me during the day. Like how you gave me that coffee card . . .You’ve been so romantic lately. That’s exactly what I’ve wanted from you this entire time. That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about” (see “My Resolution” and day 42).
Wow! I guess I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with 365 Acts of Love, so I’m done with it. Maybe I’ll take up sailing . . . Just kidding (as you clearly know since you’re reading the finished project). I’m glad we’re seeing good changes in our marriage as a result of 365. I’ll keep working hard daily and praying that God continues to change our hearts.
By the way, yesterday we went out for a walk to our favorite coffee house and guess what you bought with your coffee card? A dark chocolate mocha!
By the bye, yesterday was the end of my week of cleaning the living room. Can you say ‘epic failure’? I probably cleaned it four of the seven days and you did the rest. This failure reminds me of day 28 when I gave you that coupon. You’re free to redeem that any time, you know. From here on out, there will be no more promissory notes, just accomplished acts.
Day 68: Building Our Marriage in Vain
In anticipation of Christmas, I took us out last night to look at Christmas lights. We drove around for about an hour, but saw nothing spectacular. It was a blast, though. When we got home, I made hot chocolate for everyone. So went my 68th act of love.
On another note, here’s a confession: since I started this blog, I’ve taken our marriage down the wrong path. That is, in order to focus on 365 Acts of Love, I’ve spent less time focusing on God. That’s right—I’ve absolutely neglected my relationship with God for the sake of this blog.
Doing so undermines this blog’s purpose, which is to build a successful marriage by being the right kind of husband. How do I figure that? Well, anything that is not built for the Lord and his glory—whether a business, a life, a marriage, or a blog—is built in vain. And nothing built in vain is successful. So, if I finish 365 Acts of Love, but take the focus of our marriage off of God in the process, I’ll consider 365 a failure. Furthermore, if at the end of our life together we’ve developed a fine marriage, but one that’s not based on proclaiming God’s greatness, we’ll have developed our marriage in vain.
In light of this, I hereby commit to putting God before this blog. If I cannot write a given post without neglecting my time spent praying, reading the Scriptures, and reflecting on our God, then I won’t write it. More than that, I commit to writing this blog with the aim of magnifying our Creator, by loving you for your own sake and for the sake of our relationship; and primarily, by loving you for the sake of God’s glory. Then perhaps 365 Acts of Love will not be built in vain. And I hope, neither will our marriage.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain (Ps. 127:1).
Day 63: Painting Your Toenails
Last night, I took a risk and went far out of my comfort zone by offering to paint your toenails. This offer was a risk because I didn’t know whether you would think it was sweet or weird. And I don’t think I need to explain why it took me out of my comfort zone. I got the idea for this act here (I usually come up with the ideas myself). Anyway, you were a little weirded out by the request. In fact, you said you would only let me paint your toenails if I gave you a foot massage too (how could I pass on that deal?!).
Before painting them, I first took off the remains of day 25 with some nail polish remover. By the time I finished that, you seemed to have gotten over the weirdness of it all and started relaxing. You even looked like you were having fun. Then, I done painted up them toenails real nice. Actually, they looked pretty bad when I finished: I couldn’t get the polish to go on evenly and I kept painting your skin instead of your nails. They reminded me of a Jackson Pollock painting. To finish up act 63, I massaged your feet.
A few hours after I finished, I asked you if you liked that I painted your toenails. You said, “Yeah, that was nice. Thanks . . . You’re not planning on painting my toenails for me from here on out, are you?” “What? No! That’s probably the last time I paint them,” I replied. ”Oh good! I was worried.” All things considered, I think you had a great time. And, I actually kind of liked painting your toenails (I’m glad this blog’s anonymous).
Day 61: Romantic Dance
For my 61st act of love, I wanted to dance with you in our living room to a song from our wedding: UB40′s “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.” I was actually nervous and embarrassed about asking you to do this, because the whole thing seemed overly sentimental to me. You kind of like things that way, though.
After setting up the song, I walked over to where you were sitting, put my hand on your shoulder, and just stood there. “Do you need something?” you asked. ”Me? Uh . . . how are you doing?” I responded. “Good, thanks.” I continued standing there with my hand on your shoulder. ”Hey . . . ” I said. ”Yes?” ”Do you want to dance with me to one of our wedding songs?” You hesitated and looked confused, but said okay. You seemed a little embarrassed as well.
I started the song. We approached each other, both of us smiling nervously. I took your hand and drew you close. As I put my arms around you, you broke into laughter. “What?!” I said. “Sorry! Let’s try again,” you said. This time you contained yourself. We started dancing and it was so very awkward (which is not atypical–neither of us know how to dance). We tried to take it seriously for a few seconds until you said, “What is this? The Wonder Years at prom?” At that, we both burst out laughing. For nearly the entire song, we tried to reel in our laughter, but couldn’t. We switched from one awkward dance move to another, laughing so hard at times that we couldn’t breathe.
Finally, our laughter died down. You snuggled up close to me and put your head on my shoulder. I started stroking your hair as we danced and the music played “Take my hand/ Take my whole life too/ For I can’t help falling in love with you.” Then, your shoulders started shaking. “Is she crying?” I thought. They started shaking a little more violently. No, you weren’t crying. You weren’t so overcome by the moment that you couldn’t contain your emotions. You were trying to cover up your laughter! “You’re laughing!” I said. With that, we laughed uncontrollably until the song ended. “That was fun! We haven’t laughed like that in a long time,” you said. I agree. Although this act didn’t end up being as romantic as I intended, it was totally worthwhile.
Day 50: The Secret Letter
It’s day 50! I’m nearly 1/7 of the way through 365 Acts of Love and I’m going strong. To celebrate, I wrote you a love letter that I hid in a book on my bookshelf. If you’re reading this post for the first time, it should be late September/early October of next year (unless you somehow found out about this blog). The letter should still be there.
I wish I could say I found a clever place to hide it, like in a book called The Secret Letter or Your Husband Hid a Love Letter in This Book, but I wasn’t so clever–it’s in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will. That’s a pretty safe hiding spot, though, because I’m almost positive you won’t brush up on the free will debate within the next year (is that due to your genetics and upbringing?). I did look for books on our shelf with the word ‘letter’ in their title. There were two–The Scarlet Letter (!) and The Screwtape Letters–but I didn’t like what either choice might suggest about us. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will is on the top shelf with the other philosophical works. Go get your letter!
Day 42: Baking Love
I increased my domestic skills yesterday by making chocoate chip cookies from scratch for the very first time. Don’t worry–I had ”help” from our daughters. I don’t hate to brag, but the cookies tasted like gooey deliciousness. Perhaps it’s because I cheated on the recipe by putting in more brown sugar than suggested (3/4 of a cup is weaksauce). You’re welcome for that. Although making you cookies wasn’t the most romantic gesture, you definitely enjoyed me bringing you a plate full of warm cookies and a glass of cold milk. You should know that I made them for you and only you because I love you. I think that’s consistent with the fact that I ate about 12 of them.
Speaking of romantic gestures, now’s as good a time as any to tell you part of my reason for starting this blog. Obviously, my stated purpose is to express and increase my love for you. But, a key aspect of that is expressing my love romantically. About six months ago, you and I had a heated discussion. You maintained that I don’t do much to show you I love you and I maintained the opposite. My examples included things like consistently helping out around the house, being there for the family nearly every night after work and certainly every weekend, going grocery shopping with you because you don’t like to do it alone, working really hard to support our family, etc. I got frustrated because I couldn’t understand why those kinds of acts weren’t enough. “I’ve given everything for you and our family and I’ve loved every minute! What more could you want from me?!” I thought I had you. How could you argue with that? You said you appreciated those things, but that I don’t romance you–I rarely bring you flowers or tell you I love you or write you love notes or hold your hand or tell you you’re beautiful or take you on dates. To that, I didn’t have much to say; I knew you were right. Somewhere along our journey, I stopped romancing you. In spite of all I did for you, I took us for granted–I put our relationship on cruise control and focused on other things.
After that conversation, I decided to change. But I knew that unless I did something systematic, the change wouldn’t last. For me, It’s easy to go all out on something for a few days or a few weeks, then to lose interest and stop. So, I came up with this blog–it requires consistency with its built in accountability. I’m happy to say that after 42 days, I don’t just see a need to romance you, I want to romance you. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 343 days. (Oh goodness! 2012′s a leap year. Let’s make it 344 more days.)