"When your husband asks you to go somewhere with him, GO, or he'll quit asking."
A friend gently encouraged me with that several years ago when my husband surprised me with a once-in-forever trip to Hawaii for our anniversary. I offered her a pocketful of heartfelt excuses on why this trip should not happen.
1) "I hate flying." (I even turned that fact into a fight with my husband claiming that if he truly loved me, he would never have planned a trip requiring such a long airplane ride.)
2) "I'm terrified of the ocean." (Thanks to Jaws, I'm part of an entire generation of ocean-goers ruined by that incredibly realistic movie of a shark taking revenge.)
3) "I don't want to be that far away from the kids." (Never mind that my parents had joyfully offered to stay with the kids that week. That was not the point.)
4) "I especially hate flying OVER the ocean." (Combine two of my biggest fears and the result is a borderline panic attack at the thought of crashing into the ocean...and surviving.)
I overflowed...burst forth...with passionate reasons this trip should be postponed. "Not canceled," I claimed, "just postponed." Postponing the trip provided the hope...the potential...for something major to come up that would wipe this trip off the books FOREVER.
Go. With. Your. Husband.
So, we ventured to Hawaii, braved the airplane ride, frolicked ankle deep in the ocean, and came home pregnant. (Not really. I was actually already 7 months pregnant when we went, but it sounded like a good souvenir from a trip to Hawaii.) We truly had a fantastic time and I was incredibly thankful that my friend didn't let me sit in my excuses and fears, and encouraged me to GO and love my husband by choosing to spend time with him.
My husband texts..."Want to go to lunch with me?"
Obviously he's been fired...or he needs to introduce me to a son he didn't know he had.
(Oh My Word...I have no idea why my loved ones chide me for being a worst-case scenario person. Doesn't everyone think this way? An optimistic pessimist; one who prepares how they are going to positively react to the worst possible situation.)
"What happened?" I texted.
He texted back, "Nothing. I just thought it might be nice to go to lunch with my wife."
Had he sent the text, "Can I come home and help you with something?"
Capital letters, "YES!" Because I have this crazy thought pattern in my brain that says "If he loved me, he'd want to help me, not just want to be with me." Help equals love in my book.
Had the text read, "Can I come home and keep Hope for you so you can take a nap since I know you didn't sleep well last night?"
Enthusiastically, I would have sent back, "YES! Hurry!"
But to take time off to go to lunch? Hmmm...let me get back to you on that. All I could think of were the dozens of things I wanted to get done today. And the kids weren't going to school themselves. And the laundry wasn't going to fold itself. And...and... My friend's words from years ago tickled my ears. "When your husband asks you to go somewhere with him, GO, or he will quit asking."
I texted back before I could think about it too much.
"Yes, let's go to lunch."
Then I thought about it. My mind instantly blew up with better days for this lunch...better times...more convenient seasons of life. I started a new text, "Friday would be better..." For some reason, I didn't send it. Maybe because this is the first time my husband has asked me to lunch in seven years of living in Missouri. Maybe he knows me well enough to know that I would most likely say, "How about another time?" My husband wasn't asking me out to lunch on Friday. Or Thursday. Or when our kids are a little older. He was asking me to lunch TODAY.
What in world might happen if the laundry doesn't get folded or some third grade math flashcards are skipped? Could we possibly ever recover from such a setback? It might ruin the schedule for the year.
Way back when we were dating, if my beloved had called and said "Hey, can I come see you for a couple hours?" I wouldn't have thought twice about clearing my schedule, "HECK YA, you can come see me. How soon will you be here?" I would have raced to brush my hair, exchanged tennis shoes for some seriously cute Birkenstocks (after all, I did go to college in Boulder), and I would have counted down the seconds until he arrived, energized by a silly giddiness that occupies early enchantment.
When did my daily chores become more important than spending time with my husband?
Probably so long ago that I can't even recall the moment I first chose the chore over the person.
It's happened more than I care to recall.
It's no coincidence that today my husband asked me to lunch. Just this morning, I prayed that God would help me-teach me-to really love my husband. To really really love him. Not just partner with him, not just like him as a person, not just tolerate him, but to really love him. I wasn't sure what that might look like today. I guess it looked as simple as clearing the schedule when my husband asked me to lunch and GOING with him, joyfully, as though there was nothing else in the world that was more important. Loving my husband better will most likely always involve recognizing the opportunity to set aside the schedule and choose my husband over my "to do" list. In reality, my husband always has a hundred things "to do," but today, he wanted to have lunch with his wife...he chose the relationship over the work. So he asked the question. I swallowed my excuses and went. GO...or he will quit asking.
We had a quiet lunch with the two little ones. (Where are the older kids in the family when we need them?) There were no earth shattering discussions, no romantic candlelight, no life-changing decisions, and thankfully no surprise introductions to a long lost son, just the choice to make the marriage relationship a priority. The choice to look away from the "stuff" and look at one another. One small choice at a time has the potential to add up to a legacy of making the marriage a priority. So the opposite is true also. How much sweeter would our marriage be if we purposefully practiced prioritizing each other a little more...or maybe a lot more.
Jesus showed us how to love in a way that I'm realizing I don't really understand.
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)
This looks different for everyone, but for me, laying down my life might look a little like this...choosing people...prioritizing my marriage above all other earthly relationships...choosing to read a book to the littlest when I want to put her in front of Barney...choosing to make an extra sandwich for the teenager at 10:00 pm...choosing to turn off the phone and look at the changing seasons...choosing to lay down my "schedule" for a lunch date with my husband...choosing to extend grace when I really want to lash out...choosing to forgive quickly...
The schedule survived today and the laundry will eventually get folded (and seriously, who cares if it doesn't? It will all be re-washed in two days anyway). There was greater satisfaction in choosing to love someone else than in choosing to love my plans for the day. There was deeper joy in choosing to GO with my husband.
I love many people in my life...I could probably fill pages with family and friends that I "dearly love." Yet, I'm so selfish...so selfish. I know very little about how to love sacrificially. I always hang on to a piece of myself when I'm loving others, protecting myself just a bit. I'm asking God to grow in me a spirit of love that enables me to love with the same depth that caused Christ to lay down His life for such a sinner as me. By this love, the world will know that we are His disciples. (John 13:35)
It might be years before my husband asks me to go to lunch again in the middle of the week, but goodness, I'll send the "YES!" text back quicker next time he asks. I trust that God wants to grow His love in us so much that tomorrow another choice will be presented allowing me to extend love to my husband. God is good like that to give us chance after chance to grow in ways that honor Him. In this world, there might be no greater opportunity to learn how to love like Christ loved us than within the walls of our home with our husband or wife.