Thursday, February 25, 2010

Contentment & Love

Linda and I generally wake up in the morning to our clock radio, which is tuned to K-Love. This morning as I woke, Dr. Larry Crabb of New Way Ministries was speaking about his marriage and what makes a good one work. As I was listening in my morning stupor, a statement jumped out at me. He said, (paraphrased loosely) ”I’ve never disappointed anyone as much as I’ve disappointed my wife.” I snapped to on that one, thought for a second and said to Linda, “boy ain’t that the truth,” or something like that. (She wisely didn’t respond.) Then he (Dr. Crabb) started to speak of how his wife had let him down. (Thank you Lord, I didn’t touch that one!) Disappointment is a part of life, and particularly a part of human relationships. We let each other down. Quite frankly, we treat each other like crap sometimes. Sorry if that offends you, but it’s true; we all do it. We withhold truth, we manipulate, and we break our covenants! It’s a travesty how we treat one another.
So, how do some relationships rebound, and others can’t seem to get over it? How in the world have Linda and I made it 30+ years? First of all, I can by no means answer that question in one blog entry. But, here’s the revelation for today. And in that is part of the answer too. It’s that looking for new ways to love and care for one another on a regular basis. There’s a phrase that has been frequently coming to my mind lately. It’s this-“wife of my youth.” I knew I remembered reading it in the Bible, so I went to and looked it up. Sure enough, in Malachi 2 it occurs twice in the NIV. God points out in the text how He can’t bless you when the covenant relationships you have are messed up, (Very loosely paraphrased) especially the covenant with the wife of your youth.

Today’s words are for me, but I hope they might be helpful in some way to you too.

Love is a choice. The definition I’ve chosen over the years is, “unconditional acceptance.” This simple definition covers it for me in the most simple yet profound way. I “CHOOSE” to love, or accept whomever, and whatever I want. I push aside conditions of acceptance to the object of which I decide to show love. When I decide to put conditions on others, I choose to not love them. That’s where a lot of relationships falter. I think we put conditions on one another in order to control each other, and that seldom works.
I’ll love you if…
If you wouldn’t click the fork with your teeth…
If you didn’t talk so much…
If you’d lose a little weight…
If you’d pick up after yourself…
The list goes on and on and on!
What a horrible way to live and love! Choose love, and in so doing you will choose life.

The second part for today is this thing called contentment. One of the letters the Apostle Paul wrote from prison is the little letter called Philippians. (You’ll find it close to the back of the Bible) In chapter 2:11b Paul says,
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Did you catch that? Contentment is a “learned” trait. You can learn to be content. No way! Yes way! I have to confess-I am not content in all things, so when I write about it, and point out observations I have of others discontent, I am looking in a mirror.
By nature, people are discontent. This is a simple illustration, but this has been a particularly late and snowy winter here in east central Indiana. Are people discontent? You bet they are! They are complaining about the snow and ice and weather, longing for spring. I’ll say, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I usually get a hardy, “what’s so good about it?” One of the other common responses I get is: “I hate this weather.” It’s on the radio, the TV, it’s everywhere! Discontent!
How about relationships? Divorce rates are still off the charts; families are split up in alarming numbers. I submit that in most cases, it’s just plain old discontent. I believe it starts with the first part of this entry...It starts with love, unconditional acceptance. You can choose to love, in fact, it is a choice. We learn to be content from there. Real contentment can’t happen without loving first!
Here are some of the best-known words in the Bible about love, also penned by the Apostle Paul.

1 Cor. 13:1-8a:If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. I
t does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

You’ve maybe heard the old phrase, “live and learn.” I’d like to change that to Love and Learn! Choose to love others, especially those you are in a covenant relationship with. And learn to be content by loving them without conditions.


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