For my second-to-last act of love, I gave you a back massage because you love them so. (It’s my second-to-last act, but I’m doing a final post, “day 366,” after day 365.) This was a great reminder of several things. (1) Loving you isn’t about me. I still don’t like giving massages, though I can now tolerate them after so much practice. Still, you love getting massages, and that should be enough for me. (2) Doing something for you, even if it’s something I don’t like to do, is much more enjoyable for me when I know that you’re enjoying it. That motivates me to do such things for you. (3) Massages don’t take that long, they’re not that difficult to give, and you get so much out of them. I should just man up and give you them. Anyway, you enjoyed your massage. There are many more where that one came from.
For this act of love, I read this article from Focus on the Family on friendship in marriage. How important for a marriage is friendship and how important for a friendship is spending time together. Through 365 Acts of Love, we’ve developed the habit of spending our evenings together. Whether we’re watching something or reading or talking or cleaning, we’re intentional about being together and enjoying each other. I’m sure that this habit will pay great dividends in the years to come. It already has. Like C. S. Lewis said, “It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up – painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, and fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction.”
The article warned against not nourishing and nurturing your friendship with your spouse. When people let the busyness of their lives get in the way of their relationship with their spouse, their friendship with their spouse can wane and the relationship becomes more like a business partnership. For us, I remember thinking of us as roommates. It’s in a situation like that that infidelity is apt to occur.
I’m glad that I’ve seen the importance of maintaining our friendship. It’s been beneficial for our family and relationship and it’s been a lot of fun.
You have a lot of relationships in your life that you need to foster—your relationship with me, God, our children, our church, your friends, and your family and mine. Some of these relationships have priority over others and maintaining that proper balance can be tough!
For act 329, I read and prayed through the chapter on priorities in The Power of a Praying Husband. Omartian talked about the importance of living a balanced life, giving appropriate attention to your relationships, your spiritual life, your responsibilities, yourself, etc. I prayed that you would be able maintain a good balance in your life, but I focused on praying that you would maintain a good balance in and give appropriate priority to the various relationships in your life.
I prayed that you would give your relationship with God priority over every other relationship. I prayed that you would put me next and the kids after that. From there, I prayed that you would have time to foster good relationships with other people in your life. I can help with that by providing opportunities for you to be with others.
I think you do a great job in this area. I pray that you would grow even more.
For my 312th act of love, I prayed through the chapter on submission in The Power of a Praying Husband. According to the Scriptures, wives should submit to their husbands (whatever that means). Here’s the passage:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I’m going to be perfectly honest here: I’m uncomfortable with this biblical command. I’m just not sure what to think of it. I’ve read stuff defending the claim that a marriage works best when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved us and a wife submits to her husband. But this command still doesn’t sit well with me. Because of that, I’ve never really talked with you about submission. Perhaps that’s had a negative impact on our marriage. I don’t know.
I’ve given much, much thought to so many of the other claims of Christianity and have come to the conclusion that they’re true. It’s probably time that I put some thought into this claim, especially since it affects something so close to home as our marriage.
At any rate, two initial considerations soften the doctrine for me. One, in the verse preceding the above passage, Paul calls everyone in the Church to submit to everyone else in the Church (what does that look like in practice?). So, in the Church, it’s not just that wives need to submit to their husbands, but that everyone must submit to everyone.
Two, Paul calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Christ came into the world to serve, not to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many. If I served you and gave myself up for you, would you have much trouble submitting to me? It seems you’d have less trouble than if I were authoritarian. In fact, the situation in which I serve you and you submit to me seems a bit like mutual submission and I’m very comfortable with that. Furthermore, I wanna say that husbands have the tougher calling. We aren’t called to submit to our wives, sure, but we are called to give up our very lives.
At any rate, I’d like to wrestle through this issue more, for the sake of our marriage if anything.
PS: I need to keep in mind that something doesn’t need to sit well with me for it to be true.
I don’t think I ever committed in this blog to doing something on a weekly basis to educate myself about marriage. Still, I’ve been reading up on marriage every week for a while now. I think I’m committed to doing so until the blog’s done. So then, one act of week will be prayer for our marriage and one act of week will be educating myself on marriage.
A while back I wrote a post claiming that prayer and the gaining of truth about the nature of marriage are necessary for a successful marriage. Such is my reason for making these commitments.
Anyway, let’s talk about sex. For my 296th act of love, I read the chapter on sex and marriage from Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. What an excellent chapter! Keller claimed that it’s a wife’s duty to have sex with her husband whenever he desires it. I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Actually, he claimed that even sex is an act of service and not primarily about pleasing oneself. That is, sex should be used to please one’s spouse as an act of love for one’s spouse, not (primarily) to gratify one’s own desires (I say “primarily” because being personally gratified by sex is a good thing, not bad). I really struggle with this. When it comes to sex, I am very selfish and typically think only about what I can get out of it. But Keller says that
sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being. Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.” You must not use sex to say anything less.
I think my emphasis for 365 Acts of Love has been to change from being a person who is self-focused to being a person who is others-focused. This others-focus needs to permeate all aspects of my life, including my sex life (though that life should only be you-focused!).
For act 292, we attended a marriage seminar at our church centered around Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. How is this an act of love by me? Well, I took the initiative to sign us up, put it on our calendar, and find a babysitter.
The seminar was good. We first listened to our pastors talk about the book, then broke out into small groups for discussion, the latter of which was the most helpful. We talked about our strengths and weaknesses, communication and fighting, the purpose of marriage, the importance of romance for marriage, etc. Two of the couples had been married for over 30 years, so they offered good advice on each of these areas.
When they asked us questions about romance in our relationship, it was fun to tell them that we make a good effort to foster that. We told them about some of the dinner dates we’ve had in our home and everyone thought such dates were a great idea.
But, not everything we said about our relationship was rosy. We told them about some of our struggles as a couple, which wasn’t very fun to discuss.
I’m looking forward to the next and final seminar at our church based on Keller’s book. I know we can benefit greatly from hearing other couples share their advice and even their struggles.