I’ll start with a confession: I have only just thought of this blog post right now, while I was writing the postscript to my previous long post, whatever you want in marriage. All week my mind has been humming with ideas Huggie-Wuggie ideas, but none has struck me with sufficient conviction to write about just yet, OR they are a little too personal to my own life to be shared just now. All that said, this is not by any means a new idea, it is basically a further examination of something that I shared quite extensively last year, about legitimate self-concern versus unconditional love, I am offering it up in this reworked version because I believe I understand it better, it was actually while I was writing the postscript that further clarity dawned.
So here is the thing: marriage is a balance, but it is a very strange balance. (The irony is that I said all these things in my previous posts on the subject, which I am going to say now, but I am only truly grasping it myself now – it made sense intellectually then, but it is only now that my heart is really “getting” it, or seeing it!)
For marriage to work excellently, as an individual, you have to commit 100% to your spouse’s needs – no matter what. So imagine there are two huge boxes, balanced on a huge pair of scales: one is titled “My own needs” and the other is titled “My spouse’s needs”. As a spouse, I am making the commitment to focus only on the package called “My spouse’s needs” regardless of whatever may or may or not be happening with the box called “My own needs”. Even if he never, ever, meets my needs, my commitment is that I will always, always meet his own. This might be why it is called “unconditional love”. It is something that we have to commit to. It goes beyond a feeling, for this simple reason: we realise that even the most excellent spouses will sometimes drive us to exasperation, anger and frustration. We know that at those difficult moments we will not be “feeling” any great desire to love them. The only thing that would keep us loving them, putting them first is our commitment to love them unconditionally. As human beings, we are all inclined to place our own needs or desires and feelings first. At these difficult times with our spouses our natural reactions would be to lash out in anger, to retaliate, and we acknowledge that we sometimes will succumb to this, through our human imperfection. However, our aspiration, our commitment is to transcend our natural reactions, to keep extending love and grace to our spouses, even when they are acting in ways that hurt us, even as they also commit to doing the same for us.
That is why unconditional love is more than a feeling, because it will require us countless times to act above our natural feelings and inclinations. So it has to be stronger than a feeling, otherwise our behaviour towards our spouses will vary depending on how we are feeling. For there to be true stability and security in marriage, both parties have to be sure of unconditional love from one another.
I’m just thinking to myself now that you might not display unconditional love to one another before you decide to commit to one another for life: why would you? It takes so much effort, and it is all-consuming. However you spend the time before you get married deciding whether or not this is someone to whom you could make this huge effort. So this is the unconditional love part of marriage: in my relating to you, I’m only looking at the box of your needs. I’m not pointing at the box of my own needs, and saying: “What about that?! Please deal with that promptly!” Pragmatically speaking, in marriage, we will obviously discuss our needs with one another – sometimes with raised voices! To be candid, this is likely to be inevitable. The point I am making here is that I will aspire not to make demands of you before I fulfill your own needs. I’ve got to genuinely bring myself to the point of saying: “It sincerely does not make a difference; whatever he does, I am still going to pour my utmost into loving him. Concerning him, my only consideration is going to be: “How can I love him? How can I increase him? How can I serve him? How can I bless him?” So that is going to be absolutely all that I think about, whenever I relate with him.
However, concerning legitimate self-concern, as a human being, I am obviously fully aware of my own needs and desires. I will try to communicate to my husband, as far as is possible, as far as he is listening, as far as the relationship between us can bear it, what I need, and how I need it. By the grace of God, he will also be responsive, and living to fulfil my needs, and to nurture me, and to love me as Christ loves the church, as I will commit to submitting to him as the God-given head of our home. But let’s just say that he is not as responsive as I would like. Instead of a) cutting back in my own service to him or b) beating him over the head with it, making demands, shouting at him etc, as a Christian spouse I have a far more effective weapon at my disposal – I will go and shout and cry to God instead. Thankfully God does not complain about being nagged; for some reason He actually seems to like it!
So this is how it is a balance – that I am totally, wholly, unconditionally focused on his needs, while he is totally, wholly, unconditionally focused on my own – with each of us refusing to consider our own needs in the way we treat the other person. As an individual, I am not thinking about balance at all, it is not my responsibility to create balance – I am just thinking about giving my 100%. That is my only consideration. The balance comes when we are both doing that, he at his end of the scales and I at mine, and each giving 100% into the box of our spouse’s needs, and also gaining 100% placed into the box of our own needs. However, if my spouse is refusing to play his own part, instead of moving from my own place from my own place of love and service towards my spouse, I simply invite God to take my spouse’s place at the scales, and I commit to patience, while God does His thing, as I generally commit to patience in all things of God. I also pray for God’s help and grace to continue loving my spouse, serving him, being a wife of beauty and delight. Yep, this sounds great to me!
Now the challenge is to find a man to whom I could dedicate this unconditional love, who could equally commit to loving me unconditionally, a man whom I would still endeavour to love unconditionally, even when he is totally failing in his own commitment, even as he would still endeavour to love me when I totally fail in my own commitment to love him and meet his needs. While I will commit to love him unconditionally, it is best to seek out a great man to start out with, otherwise the only thing I will ever do with my life is to pray for myself and my marital needs! 😉
1 Corinthians 13v7:
[LOVE] 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Photo of weighing scales from Pixabay