"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
February 8, 2011
Happy Valentine's Day!!
Valentine's Day is coming up in a few days; it's next Tuesday to be exact. It's that one day a year when couples think of love, romance, marriage proposals, special dinners, etc. Or at least most younger couples think of those things! I'd like to think that Jon and I still have our romantic moments, and not only on February 14th.
I'm sure we've all heard the story where a wife was feeling neglected and asked her husband why he never told her that he loved her anymore. His response was, "I told you that I loved you when I married you. If things had changed, I would have let you know."
I remember reading a story several years ago where a couple had argued and spoken angry, hurtful words to one another. He left to go to work and was killed in a car accident. On top of the grief of losing her husband, she carried a load of guilt of knowing that their last conversation was one of anger. That was her memory of their last moments spent together. Even though they had happier times, it was difficult for her to forgive herself and forget what had transpired the last time they had spoken.
It's easy at times to think, "I'll just let them stew about it for a while!" We want the other person to feel bad. Even though we may have every intention of making up and working out our differences, our pride gets in the way, we enjoy pouting and feeling sorry for ourselves, and we want our spouse to suffer just a little first. And sometimes we either don't want to admit we're wrong and be the first to say, "I'm sorry."
Even before I got married, that story made a deep impression on me and I determined that I never wanted to have those times of unresolved conflict. Maybe some will think this is overkill, but the last words Jon and I speak to one another every single night before going to sleep is, "I love you." Before he goes to work each morning that's what we say. If one of us runs an errand on the weekend, we'll say, "I love you," before leaving. When we talk on the phone, that's the last thing we'll always say before hanging up. I hope that Jon and I have many, many years together. But if something unexpected should ever happen to one of us, the other one will know that the last words spoken between us were, "I love you!" We don't part with unresolved conflict between us. That is very important to me and we have consistently done this ever since our first day of marriage.
I would hate to think that Jon only told me that he loved me prior to us getting married, then never spoke those words again. I think it's important for us to tell those we truly care about how we feel, and not assume that they know. And no, you cannot excuse yourself by saying, "Well, I'm just not the demonstrative type of person and have a hard time saying how I feel." The more you say the words, "I love you," the easier it will get. All of us not only need to hear it, but need to say it.
1 Corinthians 13, also known as "the love chapter", speaks very specifically about the importance of true love. Not an emotion or feeling, but what enduring love truly is. I was reading back over it recently, and a few verses caught my attention.
Verse 3 says, "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
It's not enough to do good deeds or works. You can help others and give donations to help the needy and support charities, but if you neglect your own family then those deeds really have no benefit. It doesn't even matter if you make sacrifices for your family. If you're lacking love, it's worthless. Men tend to think that by putting in long hours, working weekends, and focusing on their job that they are being good providers for their family. Their thinking seems to be, "If I can buy all the things for my family that they want or need, or can take them on a great vacation occasionally, then I'm being a good father." Perhaps they even think they're being a good example to their children by working hard and putting in long hours, and teaching them work ethics. But kids don't care about those things. They would rather do without a few things and have dad spend time with them and play with them. They would rather look in the bleachers and have dad there at their sporting events; even if they're not one of the star players. They'd rather have dad play catch with them outside or ride bikes with them or take them to the park and play games with them. But it's not only the kids who benefit from having the man of the house around and available. A wife likes to know she can count on her husband to spend time with her. There has to be a balance between family and other activities. Being a good example to those you love means that you spend time with them and are there for them when they need you.
I enjoy Jon's great job and his salary being sufficient enough so that I don't have to work outside the home. But if it meant that he had to put in long hours and work weekends where I rarely saw him, then it wouldn't be worth it. If he was dog tired when he was home and never wanted to do anything with me or was too tired to have meaningful conversations, then his sacrifice of providing a good living for us would profit nothing. I'd rather have less and have love, than have a lot of material goods and not ever get to spend quality time with Jon. And it's not about us going out and spending money. We enjoy sitting on our back porch, holding hands and talking about our day. We like taking nature walks or sitting out in the country. We like cuddling while watching a movie on TV. It's about spending time together without disruptions.
Verses 4-7 says, "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Love does a whole lot of important things! If you are jealous of your spouse or others, if you are rude, if you have a big ego, are easily angered, selfish, and/or think revengeful thoughts, then do you truly love? This scripture says that love doesn't do those things. But love is patient and kind, rejoices in truth (in other words doesn't lie or spread rumors or gossip), and it bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.
The beginning of verse 8 sums it up: "Love never fails." Other important things will fail, will cease, or will vanish away; but love is the one thing that will always remain.
I've had friends come and go over my lifetime. It's not that we've fought and parted ways in anger, but some have moved away or their circumstances changed and we lost touch over time. But I have a few friends that I've remained close with, regardless of distance or our situations. Our friendship has remained strong and unchanged, and I'm thankful to have them in my life.
My family is close and over the years I've had sisters live away where we didn't get to see one another but maybe once or twice a year. But I always knew that if I needed them, they would be there for me. I have never doubted or questioned whether my family loves me. We're not big huggers and don't say the words often, but there is no doubt in any of our minds that we are loved by the others. Why? Because it goes deeper than just words spoken; although it is nice to hear occasionally. But our love has been expressed over and over again towards one another in our actions and the way we treat each other.
Sometimes I think over the years the term "love" has somehow lost its meaning, for people use it so loosely. "I love my boots." "I love fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy." "I love my new car." "I love that color that you're wearing." "I love my new TV." "I love taking a Sunday afternoon nap." "I love sweet tea." And young people fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat. They love someone one day and hate them the next; or so they say.
But love is more than a surface emotion. It's more than hearts and cupids and feelings. Love is something that is real and can be the most amazing thing you can give to others and receive yourself. If we follow the biblical guidelines of what love truly is, then our life will be fuller and richer and more blessed than we can even imagine. Our circumstances can change throughout life, but love should never change. But it should be consistent, steadfast and unshakeable.
I want to love like 1 Corinthians 13 outlines. I not only want to have that type of love for others, but I also want to have that type of love for God. How about you?
There's a great book, The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. He mentions that saying the 'L' word is just one way of showing love. Many people prefer to demonstrate their love in other ways besides saying it. There's also quality time, gifts, service, and holding one-another. Most people prefer receiving one type over the others. And we all tend to show love with the same kind of thing we want from others.
If you feel neglected or unloved, it may be that the one you want love from is showing you love, but in a way you don't enjoy as well. Most leadership and communication classes teach that you should be honest and open with what you want from others. It's fine to tell someone that you understand working long hours is their way to demonstrate love, but that you prefer gifts, or whatever.
One important thing is not to resent that someone doesn't show you love the way you want, but to recognize that they really are showing how much they love you in their own way. The other important thing is to try to demonstrate love for others in the way they want it most.
Strawberry Vanilla Cake
(This would make a pretty cake for Valentine's Day)
1 French Vanilla Cake Mix
1 container Cream Cheese or Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cup Seedless Strawberry Jam
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round pans. Prepare, bake and cool cake following package directions for basic recipe. To assemble, place one cake layer on a cake plate. Place 1/4 cup of frosting in a small resealable plastic bag. Snip off one corner. Pipe a bead of frosting on top of layer around the outer edge. Fill remaining area with strawberry jam. (The frosting around the outer edge keeps the jam from getting on the outside of the cake.) Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Slice strawberries (an egg slicer works perfectly for even slices) and put pointed side up around the bottom edge of perimeter of cake.
A wife tells her husband, "I love you!" The husband says, "I love you, too." The wife replies, "Prove it. Scream it to the world." The husband whispers in her ear, "I love you," The wife asks why he whispered it to her. The husband responds, "Because you are my world."
What is the best way we can show our love for God and others?
We love you!
Loretta & Jon