Yesterday, I uncharacteristically focused on the negative. So today, I want to make up for that by going positive!
Here’s today’s assignment: Make a list of 50 things you especially love about your spouse—things you appreciate so much. (This may take longer than yesterday’s assignment because it’s so easy to focus on what we don’t like. It’s easy to fixate on the stubbed toe and forget the other nine toes that work perfectly well.)
Go ahead and do it now before continuing to read my post. I will too.
[Pause here until finished.]
How long did it take you to come up with 50? Did it surprise you how easy or hard it was to come up with this list? Did it take more time than yesterday’s list of negatives?
(By the way, unlike yesterday’s list, I recommend you DO show this list to your spouse! It would be a blessing to you both! Perhaps you could “pretty it up” and present it to your spouse as part of a Valentine’s Day gift!)
Now at the top of your list, I want you to add the words, “NOT BECAUSE.” This is your NOT BECAUSE LIST.
In yesterday’s post, I talked about how agape love is an essential component in a uniquely Christian marriage. It’s the kind of love that the Bible portrays as being unconditional.
On the list I just made about Cindy, I came up with 50 qualities that I love about her. But please note that this use of the word “love” is not agape love, it’s more akin to “like.” I like those things about Cindy—a lot! But if I want to incorporate genuine agape love in my marriage to Cindy, I’ll need to show love to her…not because.
Likewise, you also need to show unconditional love to your spouse not because your spouse provides… [insert all 50 of your compliments here]. The question I want you to consider is this: if none of your spouse’s good qualities existed, would you still agape love him or her?
I’m suggesting that our loving treatment must be completely unrelated to our spouse’s current wonderfulness. Here’s why: most of the things we enjoy today will likely go away. Our bodies will increasingly become older, and uglier, and eventually may even become disabled. Our minds may not stay as sharp and may deteriorate altogether. We may lose our abilities and capabilities. We won’t have the energy we once had. Our strength and stamina will likely lessen. Our productivity will decrease and may disappear altogether.
In a Christian marriage, we pledge to love purely and unconditionally till death do us part. If my grandfather’s love had depended on my grandmother retaining her wonderful qualities, he would have left her eighteen years earlier rather than love her until she died. His love was not because of her loveliness, which was fading. His love toward her was agape love.
Why must we love our spouse this way? I can think of two reasons:
First, the Bible commands that marital love should mirror Jesus’s love. We are to love just as He loved. This not because type of love is the kind of love Jesus showed us. He loved us not because we qualified—in fact, we could never qualify. His love had nothing to do with our qualities. He was choosing to love us without conditions. We should unconditionally love our spouse in the same way.
The other reason is the Golden Rule, which Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12. Imagine if it was your wonderfulness that faded (and it will), wouldn’t you want your spouse to keep loving you as my grandfather did? Therefore, we should treat our spouses the same way.
I’ve taken these last two posts to define two facets of agape love, which are really two sides of the same coin.
Nothing we might do will make him love us less (the even though aspect of agape love).
Nothing we might do will make him love us more (the not because aspect of agape love).
Let’s make that true in our own marriages!