Thursday, February 21, 2008

Love & Respect

Tomorrow is Rachel & Mike's 4th anniversary! In just four years, this couple have expanded their family to four beautiful kids and a lovely Bernese mountain dog. They bought a house and settled in small town Ontario. There have been a lot of changes in a very short time, in both their lives. Happy Anniversary, Mike and Rachel!

For their anniversary I bought them a copy of "Love & Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. The subtitles are, "The Love She Most Desires" and "The Respect He Desperately Needs". On impulse, I bought myself a copy, too.

I woke up this morning with a head cold. Stuffy nose, sore throat, achy body, dull headache. The girls were at piano lessons, and Rick was in bed (he is far worse off than I am - maybe by tomorrow I will be in just as bad shape) so I gave the boys some assignments and hunkered down in my chair to read the new book.

This book spoke volumes to me. I already know that I should respect my husband, and that he should love me. He is the head of our home, and I gladly serve him.

What I didn't know was that my self-sacrificing love for my husband and children comes naturally to me. It is part of my make-up, as a woman, to give agape love. It is my language, and it is what I deeply need. I don't get to pat myself on the back, however, when I do what comes easily.

Respect - that's another story altogether. I found myself reading about the Crazy Cycle, where the husband doesn't meet the wife's need for love, so she responds angrily with disrespect, so he doesn't get his need for respect met, so he responds in an unloving manner... and the crazy cycle continues.

"A wife longs to be that special person Paul described (in Ephesians 5:28,29). She wants to be cherished as a princess...She longs to be first in importance to him... she yearns to be honored, valued, and prized as a precious equal, "a fellow heir of the grace of life," as Peter unfolds in 1 Peter 3:7. - p. 53

When she doesn't feel that way, she begins to question, "Am I last on his priority list?"

Her husband, in an attempt to be honourable and calm, will stonewall - become quiet, say nothing, or go off by himself. She sees his behaviour as unloving, as a rejection of her. He, on the other hand, is trying to do the respectable thing, retreating so he gives her time to get control of herself. He is sadly unaware that he is thinking like a man, and doing the exact opposite of what she needs!

We just lived this out in our family room the other day! Rick has been under stress about the truck, so he's been a bit testy. This is understandable. We were sitting in the family room, and I asked a simple question: "What time do the boys have to leave in the morning?" My intention was not to undermine or to question Rick's decisions about the next day's activities, but simply to communicate and to understand what was going to happen.

Rick sagged, then sighed, then said impatiently, "You KNOW what time they have to leave!" (I really didn't know. The schedule is messed up, and I wasn't sure if it was the longer day, when they leave by 5:30 am, or the shorter day, when they only have to leave at 7:00 am.)

I was instantly hurt by his actions and words. I felt unloved. I snapped at him, defending my question, and was very unkind and belligerent for the rest of the evening.

When I examine our actions in the light of the book, I realize that Rick felt disrespected by my question. He probably interpreted it as second-guessing his decision. Even though I truly wasn't doing that, he thought I was, so he was frustrated and reacted unkindly. All he wanted was respect.

I interpreted his sag and snide remark as unloving. Even though I know Rick loves me, at that moment I felt unloved, and I reacted by lashing out. I wanted him to know that he hurt me, but deep down, I wanted the relationship to be restored, and thought that he should know that what he said had damaged me. All I wanted was love.

He clammed up - retreated - said nothing. I said plenty, then stormed off to bed. We fit the example in the book to a "t".

The other thing that jumped out at me was that, although agape love is fairly easy for me (I spend my days serving others, making meals, doing laundry, brushing hair, teaching children, answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and so on.), phileo love, the brotherly kindness, friendship kind of love, is much harder for me to practice. It's easy for me to require the children to do the right thing. But taking the time to just love them, to cuddle them, to sit with my dear husband, to be his friend - is much harder. I have a running list in my head that I feel I need to take care of. It's hard for me to take the time to just BE.

In the same way that it is easy for me to love in a sacrificial manner (agape), it is easy for Rick to respect others. That's his language, and he finds it easy to do so. However, it is harder for him to love.

I sat there this morning, reading, with tears streaming down my face. If I want to reverence my Lord and Saviour, I must learn to reverence my husband. Not simply in public, but in the home, where it really counts. I must learn to watch the tone of my words, and to ask myself, before I speak, "Is what I am about to say going to communicate respect, or disrespect?" If my husband needs unconditional respect the way I need unconditional love, then by God's grace, I plan to respect him unconditionally.

What Matters to God, Matters

"To the world it may make no sense for a wife to put on respect toward a husband who is harsh and unloving. It makes no sense for a husband to put on love toward a contemptuous, disrespectful woman. But it makes sense to God. These seemingly fruitless efforts matter to God because this is the kind of service He rewards. What is wisdom to God is foolishness to the world (see I Corinthians 3:19). - p 274

Lord, I pray that You would teach me to die to self and to live for You, more and more each day. I pray that You would help me to take these principles to heart, and to respect my husband unconditionally. When I blow it (and I will), help me to remember that your grace is sufficient, and that repentance and forgiveness are the way of Life. Amen.

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