Loving your spouse when they feel like the “enemy”…

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So we say we love God and want to be like Jesus, obeying His commands, and loving unconditionally. And we do so as long as our spouse behaves perfectly, never stumbling or growing grouchy or saying or doing something unkind.

But when they fall from grace in their moments of weakness we hardly turn the other cheek and instead turn on our heel and walk out the door. Or maybe shut ourself behind a closed door, not emerging for hours, skipping meals, and generally abandoning spouse and marriage with the explanation, or perhaps the excuse, that “You hurt my feelings!”

In life and in every instance where one chooses to love some one else, feelings will, at some time or other, get hurt. And no one likes that because it does hurt.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48

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But God commands us to go the extra mile, especially for our one-flesh other with whom we have committed to share our lives. Our Lord commands us to put the other person first, to try to understand their heart, always remembering that love — as expressed in 1 Corinthians 13 — is not touchy nor does it keep a record of wrongs.

On the contrary love delights in the right and rejoices in truth, always trusting, always persevering. Never quitting for too many spouses have taken the easy way out, exiting a marriage when God was calling them to climb a little higher within the confines of their own shriveled heart. {And this is not addressing issues such as abuse, addiction or adultery, but rather the mundane life challenges that beset us all, and some of us who may have gotten more broken along our way — a little bit more.}

Now there’s nothing wrong with a husband or a wife calling a time out when in the midst of a heated disagreement and no headway is being made. But a time out is a set period of time with assurances that:

I love you and I value our marriage, but I need some space. Honey, I’m going for a walk but I’ll be back in an hour. I’m not sure we should pick up the conversation today, but I know we’ll work it out so lets keep moving forward in our partnership and marriage.

Putting aside the sin which so easily besets us but never putting off our mate, ignoring them, rejecting them or abandoning the marriage and taking off for hours or maybe a day, without a word, and maybe shutting off your cell phone.

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Passive-aggression is still aggression. One spouse may be more vocal but unkindness and a lack of love come in all flavors. Let us be attentive lest we think that somehow we are better than they because we tend to be quieter, yet we punish with a fiery vengeance that leaves no room for grace.

Somehow that seems punitive and very small and not loving at all. And we can’t stand before Jesus, either now in our prayer closets or someday before Him, and say, “Father, you just don’t understand what I put up with in that man!” or “She made me do it, Lord!”

Actually, Father does knows that you and your spouse, when all the he saids-she saids are said and done, are one in the same. Broken. Struggling. Wanting nothing more than to love and be loved wholly.

United as lover-best-friends-for-life in all it messy glory. And some days will not be happy ones.

But God. But Grace.

And Jesus’s own words: But I say love your enemies! especially when your beloved spouse feels like the enemy.

There really are no buts to His command that God accepts when we ourselves choose to be unloving, unkind, unforgiving, paying back an eye for an eye.

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So maybe the next time your spouse gets on your very last nerve, or speaks unkindly or disrespectfully, and you need to set a boundary, pull yourself up to your full height in Christ and leave the door to the relationship wide open.

And when your prodigal spouse comes back asking forgiveness, and maybe begging when you withhold your’s saying they don’t seem sorry enough yet — well, you’ve got some repenting to do, too, and would be well served to take the plank first from your own eye.

Would Father ever say to you, Sorry child, but you don’t seem sorry enough so I’m going to hold you at arms length and leave you outside the city gate until I feel like you’ve served your punishment. Wow. That would be a scary stand for a spouse to take putting themselves in a position where forgiveness of their sins would not be forthcoming.

And if Scripture says that love is not easily offended, but yet you are, where’s your love? Really?

Just something for me, my Michael, and all of us marrieds to prayerfully ponder as we purpose to come and follow Jesus more closely, making our marriages better and happier one day at a time.

Shining as true little lights more brightly united in our very darkened world…

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