I brought back an act that (I think) I haven’t done in several weeks: I looked for a need of yours to fulfill, then fulfilled it. This time, I didn’t have to look far–I knew what to do as soon as I walked into our stinkin’ messy room. (It’s that way partly because we just got back from the retreat, partly because we’re busy, and partly because we’re lazy. Excuses, excuses . . .) I asked you if you would mind if I cleaned our room while you relaxed. You thought that would be fine. Although I didn’t finish, I made some good headway on it. It seriously needs some attention.
Day 203: Fulfilling Your NeedsApril 19, 2012
Day 120: Soli Deo GloriaJanuary 27, 2012
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.
Some Progress or: Maybe I’ll Take Up SailingDecember 15, 2011
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 67: The Act You PickedDecember 5, 2011
For day 67, I placed six slips of paper in a bowl. Each said something different and each said one of the following:
(1) I’ll make you whatever dinner you want;
(2) I’ll give you a 30-minute back massage;
(3 ) I’ll scrub the bathroom;
(4) We’ll watch whatever you want on Netflix;
(5) I’ll take over your living-room duties for a week;
I asked you to blindly pick one of the slips and told you that I’d do whatever was said on the slip you chose (unless you chose (6), in which case you could’ve looked through the slips and picked whichever slip you wanted). You picked (5). Typically, I clean the kitchen and you clean the living room. But this week, I’ll keep the living room (and the kitchen) clean.
When you looked through the rests of the slips, you said you’d rather have (2). I wouldn’t let you switch. Personally, I’d rather give you a back massage, but what would be the point of the game if I just let you switch willy nilly?
PS: Your Christmas CD came about a week ago. You love it!
Day 64: Cleaning HouseDecember 1, 2011
When I came home from work tonight, you looked majorly burned out from taking care of the kids. So I took the girls out for about an hour while you stayed home and rested. We stopped by Trader Joe’s while we were gone and bought you your flowers for the week. When we came back, you greeted us at the door looking happy and rested.
Giving you time alone wasn’t my official act of love, though. For day 64, I cleaned the kitchen for about 90 minutes. From the time our youngest was born about three months ago, we haven’t had much energy to keep our house clean. Instead, we’ve focused on keeping things somewhat presentable. But tonight, I actually gave the kitchen a deep clean. Maybe I inspired you, because you gave the living room a good cleaning once you saw me cleaning the kitchen.
Day 5October 4, 2011
I have no imagination. For yesterday’s loving act, I cleaned up our room and watched the girls (seem familiar?). You did enjoy it, though, so I don’t think you’ll complain. I promise that these acts will be more exciting and not repetitive in the future. In fact, wouldn’t it be fun if I planned something elaborate for one of the acts? Perhaps on a weekend. Either way, the key to showing and increasing my love for you is consistency, not extravagance. I think the phrase “steady plodding brings prosperity,” though intended to apply to the growth of wealth, has an analogous application here: if I steadily and consistently commit loving acts for you, it will have tremendous consequences for our marriage (Prov. 21:5a).