Lent and the Love Dare – Part 2 of 4

As I laid out in the first portion of this four part blog series, I had enjoyed watching the movie “Fireproof” with Kirk Cameron a few years back, bought the DVD, but hadn’t watched it in a while.  I was contemplating a Lent plan, and watching the Olympics.  During a commercial I was thumbing through channels and “Fireproof” was on.  It clicked with me instantly.  There were 40 days in The Love Dare and 40 days of Lent.  You remember all that.  I’m now on Day 11 of my journey.

I mentioned to you all when I began my journey that I had a couple buddies that I could share my experiences, thoughts, and concerns with.  I would now tell you that a fellow Christian male that has considered things like this in true biblical terms is a wise companion to have along for the ride.  I’ve had a discussion or two that were helpful.  I don’t mean to imply that there are chasms so wide in my marriage I couldn’t traverse them without the counsel, but I will tell you that a true “personal relate” in this trek is welcome.  Thank you guys for being a friend and confidante.

Day 11 – Love Cherishes – Ephesians 5:28

Today’s dare you ask?  I love this one, SO much.  I’m being tasked with showing my wife warmth and a sincere gesture that shows how much I cherish her.  I made her and the kids a special breakfast.  It happened to fall on a special day for her anyway, so it was fitting that I maybe I make the whole family breakfast.  I do that from time to time, but I thought I’d toss in a twist.  Mommy and the children awoke to the smells of a fine breakfast and big smiles were accompanied with the start of her day.  There was some dialogue and a long embrace to seal the deal.  I think I accomplished the mandate today.

Day 12 – Love lets the other win – Philippians 2:4

Today I was tasked with giving in to an argument or disagreement regardless of my position.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, in truth this is an area of constant contention for me.  I don’t do this well.  Not one bit.  In case you were worried about whether a difference of opinion would come up or not throughout the day, fear not friends.  I managed to wander into the muck before most of you get out of bed.  HA!  Seriously though, this wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be.  Many of these challenges are based in large part in one’s approach.  That’s a huge part of the take-away from The Love Dare.  If I’m well prepared then each scenario I enter into, knowingly or otherwise, becomes something I am equipped to handle in good fashion.  So there were a couple of minor disagreements that came up as part of our routine day, and I simply acquiesced.  Nothing earth shattering.  I simply let it go, and said, “sounds fine, let’s try that” to her desire to handle those two differently that I might have ordinarily.

Day 13 – Love fights fair – Mark 3:25

Today was the day.  She figured it out.  Well, kind of…  I knew it was inherently wise if I came clean about what I was doing, so it was high time I tell her.  My dad had experienced several aortic aneurysms that were rapidly growing, so grafts (stints) were necessary to keep him in good health.  We knew this time was coming, so the family all joined dad at the hospital.  Surgery went well.  The day was spent with my mom, siblings, and my wife in the waiting room.  We talked, joked, and played cribbage as we waited for the medical staff to do their work.  With my wife gone on a trip to the bathroom I shared with my family my Lent vow to complete The Love Dare.  Mom was familiar with it, but my siblings weren’t.  They were supportive, as usual.  However…  I knew my wife suspected something and when I had called her work colleague, who I wouldn’t have ordinarily reached out to just for kicks, she was not only growing suspicious, but a tad owly…

On the ride home from the hospital complex, we had about three hours of windshield time, so I took the opportunity to embark on today’s dare.  I needed to dissect past rules of engagement with her so I could establish better and more healthy means of engaging one another.  That might sound a little odd, but it came very quickly and easily for us.  In essence when I asked what her things bothered her about my choice of words or actions that may have lead to a fight, she was able to quickly narrow them down to three items of consideration.

Subject, timing, and approach.  Not so odd, those same bullet points mirrored my own reflection on the same query…

Had I been asked to make a list of the things I’d like to see demonstrated with more ‘health’ those would be the three I would eventually refine the many down to…  Approach is the easiest one for me if you can believe it.  As a life long salesman, I manage people’s concerns for a living.  I have the ability to alter my approach and still stay on point.  That I can do.  The subject and timing?  Uhhh…  I’m not nearly as capable with those.  Why?  Because both of those items assume that when my wife isn’t a willing participant in either, that I accept “No” for an answer and put the topic of discussion on indefinite hold.  In my frail little mind what that translates to is, “My wife doesn’t want to talk about this subject or it is the wrong time for her, so she’s tossed out her line item veto card and that pisses me off to no end…”

That’s a hard one for me folks.  When my gives me the proverbial, “You’re talking to the hand,” as she walks away, I leave the conversation feeling as if there wasn’t one.  …That she ‘won’ the battle because she was in total control of the outcome, if any.  Think about that.  I just referred to a conversation where the subject or timing of the topic didn’t work for my wife, and because I need to let it go, I’ve ‘lost’ the battle.  Therein lies my problem.  This isn’t about winning.  I know that.  I’m just being honest with you when I say that’s how I tend to feel in the heat of the moment.  …And THAT needs me attention.

The conversation we had that stemmed from my questions about healthy engagement made it necessary that I spill the beans on The Love Dare.  She’s a shrewd and savvy woman.  She investigates for a living.  I wasn’t going to continue to keep her in the dark about this without risking a perceived betrayal of her trust, so the time was right for me to explain what I’d been up to.  Of course I didn’t assume she act or respond differently and I asked her not to.  However, I think she was tickled and bit relieved that there wasn’t some unwanted surprise headed straight towards her.  Our conversation was really good and I’m glad it came up in this fashion.  It was very illuminating experience and I’m supremely glad we made the time to go over those things in that depth.

Day 14 – Love takes delight – Ecclesiastes 9:9

Neglect.  That’s what I’m supposed to have done today.  Neglect.  Neglect her?  No, silly.  Neglect something I’d do ordinarily that’s none too important, and spend that time and energy on her instead.

I had a moment to spend and the kids wanted me to make them a wood airplane.  We bought the little boy one of those for Christmas and we hadn’t glued it together until the other night.  It was dry now, so we painted it – the kids and I.  I wanted to spend that time with her, but I did it with the kids on that little project instead.  Sure, we did the project there at the kitchen table when mama bear was making us vittles, and she smiled, but I should have chosen something specifically to ditch in favor of her.

I’m not really sure I did well today at all.  In fact, I’m not happy with my performance and dedication.  I intend on adding this in either yet this week or over the weekend, and I’ll include it in the blog here.  Let’s say for now that the dare from Day 14 is a work in progress.

Day 15 – Love is honorable – 1 Peter 3:7

I was well at home with my errand today.  I was to make the choice to show greater honor to my spouse  above my normal tendency.  I listened more intently and gave more weight and consideration to what she was saying and stating in our volley of conversation.  I’m really tickled with today’s outcome.  I was able to park my typical autonomous responses and consider what she said more carefully.  Now…  I wasn’t necessary altered in terms of my thoughts.  But I was a better listener and better communicator and I think that was really the core mission.

Day 16 – Love intercedes – 3 John 2 

Begin praying for your spouse’s heart?  Pray for three specific areas where I desire God to work in her life and our marriage?  Huh…  I guess I didn’t see this one coming.  It does make total sense though.  By thinking through this, I’m identifying the areas of concern and sharing them openly with the Lord.  That kind of examination is truly step one.  Praying for them keeps me honest as I share them with the Lord.  That’s a great step two.  I did this.  I’m guessing there is a step 3 in my future, but I won’t cheat and look ahead as much as I’d like.  😉

Day 17 – Love promotes intimacy – Proverbs 17:9

Today’s dare was to build intimacy.  When it comes to an act of guarding my spouse’s secrets, I can certainly do so.  As can she.  When we’re in social settings and people ask her about something she’s got intimate knowledge of that isn’t for public consumption, she says something like, “Can you keep a secret?”  Invariably the person wanting the 411 will respond in the affirmative, to which my wife might say, “Great, so can I…”  #LOL  Ok…  In truth, my wife would never say that out loud.  I would, but not her.  The point is, she’ll guard important information, as will I, so the challenge today wasn’t tough in that we have a track record for trust on that level.  There was also a component of this that I’m not sure I understood.  The dare specifically stated I needed to make her feel safe.  I’m not sure I did that.  It isn’t that she’s not, but what I need to do is actually come right out somehow and ask her if she feels safe both in the physical and mental aspects of our marriage.  Now that I’m writing this down, I shouldn’t assume those things.  …Better to touch on this and know than figure otherwise.

Side note…  I fell flat on my face today.  

I demonstrated a set back today.  I’m not sure it was epic in terms of failure mode, but I was disappointed in myself.  My daughter isn’t a morning person at times.  I think it can be a crutch or excuse to continually say that someone isn’t a morning person.  Essentially you’re giving someone a pass for bad behavior on some level, and I tend to reject that on face value.  But…  It doesn’t change the fact that I know there are some ways to guide her morning routine as well as her morning variances that are better than others.  Today, I’d had my fill of the foot dragging, belly aching, and general snippiness this soon-to-be 9yr old has been demonstrating.  So I told her in no uncertain terms to knock it off.  She escalated, wouldn’t look at me, and I turned her head so she was looking at me and with a stern voice (not yelling) told her that kind of disrespect wasn’t warranted or allowed.

Of course she cried.  …Which also means all progress grinds to a halt and we’ll be late for school, getting her brother ready, etc.  Wifey was there and told me she thought I startled her with my actions.  So I took a breath, apologized if I’d scared her but also told her we weren’t going to be the family that disrespects one another.  Moments later we were ready to head out the door and she was still boobing.  Mom, son, and I went out the door while daughter continued to blubber.  Mom held the door wide open in the cold waiting and baiting daughter to pick up her backpack and come with us.  She didn’t.  So, I told my wife several times to shut the door.

To give you some back story, this isn’t the first time my daughter has pulled this same stunt.  I usually handle it now, by disengaging with her.  I’ve said my piece, and she knows where I stand.  So I say things that are normal and treat her as usual, even if she’s bawling.  So I walk out the door just like any other day, and she always follows with her things eventually.  With this particular child, any playing into the drama and crying results in more of the same.  I have learned to sever the reprimand from ongoing life so to speak when it comes to dealing with her.  Typically she bounces back pretty quickly.  Oddly enough, she leaves behind the drama afterward too and literally in minutes we’re all laughing and joking and having a great time again.  That isn’t mom’s dynamic.  Hers isn’t better than mine and isn’t worse of course.  But it is certainly a different one than mine.  So when we were walking out to the truck I told wifey to close the door and come along.  She didn’t acknowledge me.  I told her again two more times to just leave it be and my wife didn’t.  That made me all kinds of miffed.  To be frank, I felt it was my doing to rectify this situation since I called my daughter out on it.  I need support from my wife to do so.  I didn’t believe I was getting support, and rather, subverted.  That kind of thing really grinds my gears.  Of course, my mistake came directly after what I just described…

Wife and I had brief words over it.  Nothing awful, but what I realized is that it didn’t matter whether I was right.  Frankly, I think I was.  But, who cares.  I can be ‘right’ all day long, and if my wife isn’t well kept and respected ‘right’ won’t be enough.  Not nearly enough.  I could’ve handled that better.  I suppose the thing to do next time is to do two things.  1, talk with wifey about the expectations that each of us have for the shape of discipline and the ensuing responses.  2, decide to keep my mouth shut when we’re in the middle of something like that and address it later.

Don’t take this little entry and assume my wife is soft.  She’s not.  She tends to be the more consistent and level-headed among us.  It just so happened I was irate and she didn’t come along for the ride.  No more, no less.  But…  I knew the moment I engaged with my bride, although briefly, that I’d stepped in it.  It wasn’t The Love Dare that taught me that, just so you know.  Every man worth his salt knows better.  But, considering recent Love Dares, I had an immediate reminder that I can do better and some sure fire methods to try…

Day 18 – Love seeks to understand – Proverbs 3:13

Prepare a special dinner at home?  Just for her and I?  Focus on getting to know your spouse better?  Pick an area that is rarely discussed to explore?  Dude…  I’m pretty handy at the dinner part, but I wasn’t sure I’d done the other stuff in a long time.  Especially just her and I.  As luck would have it, we had family up all weekend, and items scheduled, so I’m going to do this one, but I’ll have to push it back a few days and slip this fun little evening in with another dare.  …So double dare, if you will.  😉

Day 19 – Love is impossible – 1 John 4:7

Today’s dare is largely self reflection.  I looked back upon previous dares to identify areas where I have improved and areas where I need the help.  I was able to spot specific places where I need God’s help.  An act of Grace from him would go a long way.  However, I know that’s not how this works.  I’m not going to sit around and pray for a better outcome.  It’s incumbent upon me to walk the path.  …And I know what the path is.  While I ‘walk the line’ I also need to ask Him how I measure up and seek Him simultaneously.

Day 20 – Love is Jesus Christ – Romans 5:6

“Dare to trust what God is saying to you through His word,” was the written text of the book in the very first line of today’s dare.  This followed:  Dare to trust Jesus Christ for your Salvation.  Dare to pray, ‘Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner.  But You have shown Your love for me by dying for my sins, and You have proven Your power to save me from death by Your resurrection.  Lord, change my heart, and save me by Your grace.  Fill me with Your love.’

I have that trust in the written word of God.  I have that warmth in my heart knowing Jesus paid my debt.  It shouldn’t be a stretch for me to come at being a spouse rightly, among the other things I seek to do.  It was a great dare today.

Circle back to Day 14 – Love takes delight – Ecclesiastes 9:9

I had a brilliant opportunity to show her she is important and delight in her presence.  A usual evening after the kids are in bed consists of reading, watching the tube, or some sort of ‘wind down’ from the day.  There’s some social media, texting, catching up on messages from the day that weren’t terribly important at the moment, thus they get some attention now that we have time.

Wifey had recently taken some self-evaluation tests and had been viewing her results.  She began asking me about each component and if I agreed with the eval summations.  Ordinarily both of us would listen and respond all while doing something with our smart phones.  Opportunity knocked.  I put my phone down, and just as I was doing so, it rang.  I answered and told the person I needed to call them back later.  “You didn’t have to do that,” she said.  “No.  I want to put this down and give you my full attention.  You deserve it,” was my response.  I listened, we discussed her eval results.  It was a minuscule item in the grand scheme of things, but was just what the doctor ordered.  I need to do that more often for her and it felt great for both of us.  Pretty good day…  😉

 

What great daily devotional this is proving to be.  You’re nuttier than squirrel poo if you don’t give this the time and energy it deserves when you know the time is right to implement this in your marriage.  I’m half way through and the method in which my wife and I are both approaching and responding to one another is nothing short of fantastic.  I’m loving this!

Wish me luck on the second half of our journey!

Ephesians 5:25-29 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

Be salt and seek light my friends.  I love you all!

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