“Being a parent basically means that your entire adult life is crammed into a two-hour block each night after the kids go to bed.” Or so says a meme that is currently floating around Facebook. And in our family right now, that’s about it. Sadly, that means for my husband and I our entire adult life consists of washing dishes, sweeping up the two inches of food that somehow managed to fall onto the floor during dinner, wiping up spilled milk, and maybe (if we’re lucky) reading a book or watching a show. Most of the time we don’t have the energy for adult conversations unless they involve some issue we are working on with our children, our work schedules, or prayer for a full night’s sleep. However, God did not create us to survive on so little enjoyable, stimulating conversation. After a long exhausting day at work or at home, engaging in stimulating conversation can seem like more effort than it’s worth. However, God created us as three-dimensional beings: mind, body and spirit! Therefore, to neglect one part of ourselves is to do our life (whether married or single) a disservice. Our mental and emotional needs cannot be ignored.
I love to read, and I read widely. This year alone I’ve tackled 50 books, including Les Miserables, which was 1,400 pages long. I’ve read fiction, biographies, mommy books, middle-grade books, theological books, and educational books. I say this not to brag on myself, but to say that through this reading I have been exposed to great ideas that make me think and thus give me fodder for conversations with my husband. When I talk with him about an idea I’ve encountered in a book, I allow him to have a glimpse into my heart, and by his response I get a glimpse into his own heart. I allow him to have an opportunity to speak my love language, quality time, through stimulating conversation.
My husband is not an avid reader, but he does like to run races — especially through mud. To me, the idea of intentionally diving into a puddle of mud and then running in wet shoes for three miles is asinine. Why would I want to do that? However, this year I tied my shoes and completed my first mud run. While it wasn’t my favorite experience of the year, it wasn’t terrible, and I agreed to do it again some time in the future. While it does not seem like a traditional “act of service,” to him it is because I did it out of love for him. There are plenty of things we both enjoy doing, like working in our garden or taking the kids on walks in the woods, but it’s the things we do that are not necessarily our own preference that speak the loudest to the ones we love.
As Ben said this weekend, “The more you give, the better it gets.” So as we give our time, put aside our own preferences or step out and join our spouses in an activity that seems crazy in our minds, we also benefit. My husband benefits from the ideas I encounter because it makes him think about things that he may have never considered. I benefit from running a muddy race because we are spending time doing something together that does not involve our children, creating memories, and getting some exercise. He shows me he loves me by listening and responding to my thoughts, and I show that I respect him by entering into his world because he wants to have experiences with me.
In Ephesians 5, Paul is giving instructions to husbands and wives on how to truly love one another.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In her short book to her daughter, Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot says, “One of the most joyful discoveries of life is that in recognizing, affirming, and comforting another person we find ourselves recognized, affirmed and comforted.” When we as wives respect our husbands, we value what they value and seek to join them in activities they enjoy. We set aside our preferences to participate in what they enjoy. A husband can love his wife by seeking after her heart, listening to what she is really saying and responding appropriately. When we make the effort to engage with our spouses mentally and emotionally, we are not depleted but are actually filled.
Think about the last time you really talked with your spouse about something other than the kids, your schedule, or work. How did you feel after that conversation?
What is one thing your spouse would love for you to do, but you really don’t want to do? What’s keeping you from actually doing it?
This week, plan on spending a night with your spouse without handheld screens. Go out on a date and talk to each other or go to a movie and talk about the movie afterward. Keep the screens away. Focus on the person sitting across/beside you.
God, thank you for giving me my spouse. Thank you for all the ways they make my life better. Thank you for the ways I experience you more fully through them. Give me your eyes to see how to engage more fully with them on a mental and emotional level. Give me the desire to follow through on what I see. Thank you for your grace and the opportunity to improve the relationships with those we love the most. Amen.
This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her four young children.
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