We’ve all heard this verse a wedding or two. 1 Corinthians 13:4 is a verse most of us whether we grew up in a church home or not can recognize and recite. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
I recall my wedding day as being one blissful event. I remember the doors opening, and I am walking down the isle to my fantastic groom waiting at the alter. I remember the preacher, the words spoken, the prayer that my father read and the vows that Scott and I made to each other. I meant them. I really did, and more importantly, I know my husband meant them as well.
Settling into life though turned out to be less than blissful. Scott and I struggled right from the get go. Here we were, both in our mid-thirties, and were selfishly settled into who we are and how we liked to live our daily lives. The word compromise was something neither one us truly understood. Worse… we did not start our marriage under the covering of the Lord. We weren’t in church. We were trying to live our lives on our terms, making one bad decision after the next. It was bad enough that we couldn’t seem to get settled on the same page when suddenly we start piling on top of it all the recurrent miscarriages and infertility issues. While there were many good times… I look back on the early years of our marriage and truly feel like it was all out war.
I foolishly thought that all of our problems were Scott! If he could just change all the things that got on my nerves and drove me nuts… we’d get along great! And I didn’t know how to pick my battles and keep my mouth shut. I had to state my opinion about everything… whether it was warranted our not. At our darkest moments, I said things that have wounded him deeply. He’s got scars that are still healing today… years later from the damage that I did because I didn’t have an instruction manual to marriage.
I remember thinking one day that if I didn’t do something drastic I would be separated by the end of the year. God began to gently show me that I had absolutely no understanding of marriage. After all… I thought it was supposed to be roses everyday! See when Scott and I were dating… he literally sent me flowers every week! So I went into marriage and became instantly let down when the flowers stopped arriving. I treasured every moment of our courtship. I yearned for it. I missed it. And let me tell you that I massively hurt my spouse because I continually threw it in his face.
I missed the part where roses need lots of love, attention, nourishment and pruning to survive and thrive. Scott was my precious rose… and I was completely neglecting him in so many ways. I remember a friend telling me about a book called Love and Respect. I remember thinking I don’t need this… Scott needs professional help! He’s the one who changed from the man I dated. He the unloving one! I totally respect my husband. But as I started thumbing through the first few chapters, I realized that my friend had suggested to me the very instruction manual I desired. I wasn’t five chapters in before it was clear I was hugely responsible for the breakdown in my marriage!
Love and Respect is based on the biblical verse Ephesians 5:33 which commands that “husbands must love his wife as he loves himself.” Hey! I like this… I get unconditional love! But the verse also commands that “a wife must respect her husband.” WHAT? Unconditional respect? You’re kidding right?
No joking… ladies! See I had to get a clue! God had to teach me that my man, like yours and every other male on the planet, needs respect as much as he needs food! Respect is his nourishment! It’s fuel for his soul. God wanted women to understand that men do not have to earn our respect. We are commanded to give it to him freely as a loving, Godly wife! When this sunk in… I was heartbroken. All the times I rolled my eyes, judged him about trivial things, created arguments unnecessarily. The worst of it was that I actually believed that he must not love me enough to make things work. It was then that the stark reality hit me – how could he truly show me unconditional love when in every way possible I was telling him “I don’t like you!” Talk about deflating a man! I was anything but a Godly wife!
I realized that even though I am not at fault for all of our early issues, I was to blame for my fair share. I couldn’t use the excuse “I acted this way after you treated me poorly” anymore. When I grasped the Love and Respect principle… I finally understood that while it was true that some things in my marriage were unacceptable to me, I made things much worse by crushing my husband’s spirit.
After I read the book, I put that book into action! It transformed my marriage. We still have issues… who doesn’t? But today we both understand what nourishment the other needs to feel safe and secure in our marriage. We know that neither one of us ever means to hurt the other. And we try very hard to stay off the crazy cycle. With God’s gentle nudges, I know when I have to retreat back into the important chapters of my instruction manual!
Ladies… God knows best! Trust that if you are struggling in your marriage… there is hope! One verse… put into action can truly change the entire dynamic of your marriage. I pray tonight… that my words to you are like my friend’s were to me. If you feel led… buy the book! I promise it will transform you and your spouse!