Recently I read my umpteenth public post of romantic gushing from one long-married partner to the other. This one was after 34 years, and was the husband, no less. It was sweet. Some of my closest friends and church family openly praise and verbalize affection for their spouses. I am deeply grateful to those that honor their commitment to each other and their children and stay on the journey together. I am encouraged by the examples set for me and others. It is a joy to be around loving and steadfast hearts–it buoys us all toward higher plains and adds stability to all of us.
And yet..and yet, each time I read or hear such words, there is a tugging at my heart. I wistfully compare the way my husband and I relate with those that openly gush, and feel a dissatisfied longing when I see the differences. Turn again, and there is another posting of a daughter extoling the virtues of her mother, or vice versa. Ugh. There’s that knife of longing and comparision, twisting again.
I am not, by any stretch, married to a gusher. For that matter, I am surrounded in my immediate family by four (plus the one blessedly grafted in) non-demonstrative souls. At times, I seem to be a foreigner in land where conversational and free-flowing physical demonstrations of love are banned.
I, on the other hand, was born to gush and hug. Sometimes I can’t stop myself, much to the embarrassment of my children. Thank goodness for my sweet dog, who soaks it up appreciatively no matter how thickly I pour it on–particularly when it is enhanced with a tasty treat.
Neither personality tendency is better or worse than the other, that is not my point. They just are. People are wired differently. We sometimes speak vastly different love languages, and hear them differently as well. There is no judgment on that here.
What’s nagging at me is how wily the Adversary is. He attacks our weak points and pulls our hearts and eyes and ears toward noticing differences and making negative judgments. He prefers to keep our hearts unbalanced and preoccupied with focus on what comes up short in our relationships and situations, rather than what is good and right and positive.
Here’s something God has allowed 5+ decades of experience to teach me:
When our hearts are unbalanced, we seek fulfillment outside of Christ and we will always come up short. When we look for affirmation and emotional filling from every other source but the One who knows us best and loves us the most, we will always stay empty.
My own experience with family and teaching tells me that if one dwells on what’s not right, or satisfying, or fulfilling, then before you know it, that’s all you see and hear and feel. Even if, in reality, the positive far outweighs the negative, what is good becomes obscured and difficult to reach.
Sometimes becomes always. A little becomes a lot. Occasionally becomes never.
This is true in family. In church. In work. In community.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
This murderer from the beginning kills our relationships. He would have us believe the lies of complaint and negativity rather than focus on hope and value.
A long time ago, I heard a very vivid illustration: Take a white bedsheet. Make a small black ink mark somewhere on it, perhaps in the corner. Hold it up to someone, or yourself, even. Describe what you see. Chances are, despite the vast amounts of white and unblemished linen, your eyes will be drawn to the ink mark. Though the stain does not render the sheet useless, or prevent it from being used as it was intended, we are loathe to see what is RIGHT about the sheet and instead see what is WRONG. It’s human nature.
What would God have us do, to pull us away from the relationship-killing negative and toward a healthy positive?
We don’t need to do God’s work for Him. He’s already taken a good long look at what isn’t right, and who isn’t measuring up, and He lovingly provides the gap-filler. The cross draws our gaze upward and out of this limited, human-imperfect world that is fraught with disappointment. He provides hope and eternal, final, completeness and satisfaction.
2 Corinthians 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.
Wow. That’s a tough call to heed. But it’s the Truth.
My spouse, children, friends, co-workers, boss, other family members, fellow Christians of the church– are not to be regarded from my selfish, human point of view. I am not to regard them by how they fulfill me, but from how I can fulfill them. More importantly, how I can fulfill God’s purposes for me in their lives and our work together. The worldly point of view has me looking at how they affect me, rather than how I may positively affect them. Living as I am anointed to, by the conviction and power of God’s Holy Spirit, I am called not to choose to see where they fall, but join them where they are. I am called to extend the grace and love that has been extended to me.
This means, that instead of reviewing and affirming the mental list of how people don’t measure up or meet my needs, I instead deliberately count and acknowledge their value through God’s point of view. I focus on Whose they are, and what is good about them.
Sometimes, the wall of negativity we must chip away is thick and tall and very stubborn. So I must use a strong chisel and start at the very beginning. Making different lists helps, and everyone gets the same #1:
They are a precious soul housed in an imperfect body with an imperfect will.
This means, that instead of the mental list of how, for example, my spouse is not measuring up, I deliberate count and acknowledge that he:
*makes me laugh *goes to work every day, despite the frustrations *is respectful
*deeply loves our children *gets our nighttime apple snack far more often than I do
*fixes what’s broken *watches over our finances carefully *does the dishes
*grocery shops during the school year *rubs my back when it’s sore
*fills my birdfeeders *doesn’t put up a fuss when I go play with my friends
There’s the beginning of my list for my spouse. What about yours? Whose spirit can you bless by making a list? What relationship can you nurture by listing?
The challenge set before us today (and every day) is to make these lists from God’s perspective in all situations. How about with our children? Our siblings? Or in-laws? Our coworkers? Our country? Our church leaders? Our fellow church community members?
Pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:17-18
Do you care to share your list here? When we live Christ real for each other here in this space and everywhere, what a blessing of encouragement it is! May God give us His eyes and heart to live and work alongside His valued children.
I love the heart of this song by Amy Grant:
My Father’s Eyes
I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world
But that’s alright as long as I can have one wish, I pray
When people look inside my life, I wanna hear them say
She’s got her Father’s eyes
Her Father’s eyes
Eyes that find the good in things
When good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can’t be found
Eyes full of compassion, seein’ every pain
Knowing what you’re going through, and feelin’ it the same
Just like my father’s eyes
my Father’s eyes
my Father’s eyes
Just like my Father’s eyes
On that day when we will pay for all the deeds we’ve done
Good and bad they’ll all be had to see by everyone
And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me
More than anything I know, I want your words to be
She had her Father’s eyes, her Father’s eyes.