Relationships That Matter, Relationships That Last – Sharing the Secrets of the Heart

An important Mother’s Day announcement:

Ladies, If you’re still waiting for that man of your dreams…

Unless you’re dreamin’ about Jesus…

FORGET ABOUT IT! That other guy you’re with? ‘Little shot!

In fact, there’s little chance any of us are going to make anybody

the-person-of-our-dreams.

NOT OUR SPOUSES. OUR KIDS. OUR FRIENDS. OUR PARENTS. US.

But should we be willing to forge relationships that matter,

that last, we can help make those-we-hold-dear

nearer to the person-God-dreams-for-them-to-become!

We can do it by sharing the secrets of the heart.

And here’s the greatest secret of them all. PUT LOVE FIRST!

We began this 4 week series last week. We rediscovered God made us for relationships. “It is not good that humankind should be alone,” declares God. Marriage, the most basic (earthly) relationship touches us all! Mastering love, marriage, intimacy, goes a long way in all our other bonds. God has staked everything on relationships! Our two biggest challenges. #1. Difference. If only he/she were just like me! #2. Our condition. Sin! By ourselves, we could never overcome difference-and-sin. But when we invite in Christ, the Holy Spirit makes all things possible. Even the best get better when we mutually invite in Christ. Why settle for less? Christ brings the best! ‘Turns out all relationships are like banks. Love Banks. (Willard Harvey) Every loving, caring pairing is maintained by a series of deposits and withdrawals. We put into and take from each other. Grace works like compound interest, giving more than we deserve. Remember the kinds of deposits women desire? Affection. Attention. Active involvement in family life. Appreciation. Just 4 A’s. Even men can remember 4! Maybe it all comes down to one. Put love first. Like Jesus. Torn hands, pierced feet, Easter rising are too much to ask of us. But the kind of jaw-dropping (agape) love that puts our loves before ourselves is possible! Available. Doable. And Yes, Holy! The secret’s out!

Mothers Day’s a good day for understanding the ½ of humanity moms, wives, sisters, aunts, grammas and cousins have to deal with. Curious critters: men! Women want Affection. Men: Admiration. It’s not just our fragile male egos. God made us this way for a purpose. It’s our way of assessing how we’re doing at providing for, sustaining, caring for (impressing) our partners. Married, dating, friends: men wanna be somebody’s hero! Ladies, just a little encouragement now and then keeps the whole system hummin’! Women want Attention. “Let’s talk.” Men want Announcement. “Let’s talk…about me!” Women do feelings. Men, action. “Ta da! Here’s me.” We’re generally glad to hear about our loves and lovers, but sometimes, we just need it to be about us. Singer Toby Keith’s right, “We talk about your work how your boss is a jerk….your church and your head when it hurts. …About the troubles you've been havin' with your brother, daddy, mother, and your crazy ex-lover. …We talk about your skin, the dimples on your chin, the polish on your toes, the run in your hose. And God knows we're gonna talk about your clothes. …Talkin' 'bout you makes me smile/grin, but every once in a while, every now and then… I wanna talk about me: number one, what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see… I like talkin' 'bout you, usually. But occasionally, I wanna talk about me.” A Mothers Day truth: “Toby ain’t the only guy singin’ this tune!” Women want Active assistance. (Now I’ve been dreadin’ sayin’ this. I know women know what men really want. It’s embarrassing. But I have to report it.) Men want Active pampering! ‘Just what you were thinking, yes? (Willard Harvey) Domestic support. (Gary Chapman) The love language of service. 20s guys are less into this, but 30’s on… we’re still into the favorite meal, the spiffed house, the drip dry shirt you ironed, liberation notwithstanding. And: this gives us the chance to love you back, expressing Appreciation. Any friendship can offer similar moments. Believe it or not, Accessible Affection comes in #3. Intimacy more than sex. (More about this later.) Men find it difficult to articulate feelings about this, but report it’s more than physical. Women need to know men like simple touch, hugs, kisses in their own right. (They’re just more ready than women to say it’s OK if it leads to something more. Hamilton. It is worth noting intimacy ranks #3 for men. A recent poll put this at #13 for women. Gardening was #12!) One more thing. Men desire At-the-Ready-time. Women say Quality Time and crave it for sharing tenderness and talk. Men want time too. Play time. Go to the game, out on the boat, maybe out in the yard. We want you to carve out time, just for us. That’s our A list.

‘Must be a 100/100 combinations and variations in the A Lists of women and men. No wonder home life, school life, work life send us to our Bibles for renewal and relief. Scripture describes the passion and joy of love-at-the-first. Jacob will work 7 years for Rachel. David risks his throne for Bathsheba. And so on. But in Bible days, as ours, eventually, the honeymoon ends. We move from the clench to the crunch. Lovers see flaws. Co-workers have to compensate. Favorite teachers ask too much homework. Children tantrum. Parents, too. Dates become duds. Now we gotta figure out what love means. Deeply. Biblically. That morning comes when you roll over and he’s snoring… again… in his raggy old PJs or “T”. She’s got that bonnet thing on. She drools. “Who is this, and why am I here?” we wanna know. Who and why moments come to all relationships. If passion is the whole of love, beginning/middle/end we’re in trouble. Three choices. Drift into parallel worlds of quiet, resigned estrangement. Part (hopefully as friends). Re-imagine love, rekindle connection, reclaim redemption.

Now we’re talkin’ Bible kind o’ lovin’. Love does, maybe before it feels. Sometimes in spite of what it feels. Love transforms feelings. Love, deep love, makes all things new!
Perhaps the greatest insight of the Bible is this: love is a verb, not a noun. Doing love enables feeling love. “God so loved, he gave….” Look at the bulletin frontis. Love waits patiently, acts kindly, trusts politely. It refuses to insist or suffocate, rejoices in the right; it bears, believes, hopes, endures all things. (I Cor 13.) Those who love Jesus love as Jesus loved. We’re told to hold compassion, do kindness, live humbly, hang-in-there with one another, forgiving as the Lord has forgiven us at the cost of the cross. We’re urged to open our hearts so widely the peace of Christ can live in us. (Col. 3: 14 ff) Now let me say that none of this excuses abuse, in any relationship. Sadly, some unions (at home, work, school, play) are a danger. They need to be severed. And we are not unloving or unfaithful when we do so. But these are the extreme. Mostly our mistake is substituting a desire for passion with the prerequisite for perspiration. We want sweet when love requires sweat. John Gottman (7 Principles…; Why Marriages…) suggests concrete ways to make relationships work (in Christ-like ways). Try these. 1. Know your partner! Ask of them, engage them, their feelings +/- and desires.

(Remember Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me.”) 2. Nurture mutual fondness/admiration. For years I’ve invited quarreling couples to write notes to each other or share lists, Top 5 best about you, big or small… It breaks barriers, builds bridges. When Jesus says, “You ought to wash one another’s feet,” service counts; but so too, loving even the unlovely. 3. Turn toward each other, not away. A super date, a great dinner, a grand gesture: all good. But the pair that calls each other regularly, goofs off together, unloads the groceries, divvies up the dirty work does best. (Remember Jesus’ story of the fella who thought himself given too little he just buries it, instead of investing? Jesus wants us to invest in each other!) 4. Let your partner (in any relationship, but marriage above all) influence you. Here’s a Mothers Day tip to dads and husbands. JUST DO WHAT SHE SAYS. LIKELY SHE’S RIGHT ANYHOW! Jesus trusts those he loves. He tells Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom.” If Peter gets heaven’s keys, we can fork over the Ford or give up our stubbornness. Oh, one more thing. Gottman’s Bible-on to say it’s less how we fight that holds us together than how we talk together. He says the key is 5-1. Five good words/times of affirmation-and-love for every fuss. This may be enough to goof-proof our unions. [Jesus holds a similar, though tougher formula: 7 (or 70) X 7!]

It’s Mothers Day. Every mom wants for all she loves, loving relationships that last. Rabbi Jesus never said this. But he would have approved. The Hebrew word for a wedding (nisuim) is the plural of to count. Marriages, as all relationships, are about making each other count. Adding to each other, not putting each other down. Moms, you wanna guide your kids in love? Ask them this of all their pairings, “Do you make each other better?!” Sweet is good. But often, sweat will be required. In Fiddler On the Roof, Tevye asks Golde, “Do you love me? After 25 years I’d like to know.” She sings, “For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house; given you children, milked the cow. After 25 years, why talk about love right now?” Together, they sing how much they’ve counted for each other, “It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after twenty-five years: It's nice to know!” Real love is jaw-dropping. Like Christ’s love for us on the cross. To love a wife is to love her as Christ loves the church. To love a husband is to do for him as you would for Christ. All relationships that matter, all that last can build on this foundation! How do I know? The Bible and my Mamma taught me so! A joyous Mothers day to all!

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