Monday, February 27, 2012
Not too long ago, my wife, Gwen, and I were with a group of people. At one point, while Gwen was talking, someone said something and Gwen got a look on her face. There was frustration and pain. It was a look of exasperation and hurt. The look said "I give up." It said, "I feel disrespected." It was a fleeting look and she quickly recovered and continued her conversation.
The embarrassing thing is that the look registered with me; I remember thinking at the time, wow, I don't often see that look. I hope Gwen's alright. But, after we left the gathering, I didn't remember to follow up with her.
A couple of days later, Gwen revisited that conversation and it was only then that I remembered the look. I say I was embarrassed because it sort of felt like Gwen was reminding me that she'd been shot a couple of days ago and I forgot to inquire about how she felt. Now, she didn't rub it in or anything, but I was more than a little mortified. The reason is that I am supposed to hold a position of spritual leadership. That means that I'm responsible to be aware of the spirits of those under my care. And certainly, Gwen is one of those. I'm reminded that I can become lax, callous, and unfeeling. I can be forgetful and a procrastinator.
It's weird, because as a businessman, I have been taught to pay attention to body language and voice inflection to read people in negotiations. It's especially important to observe the face and especially the eyes to gain insight into where someone is at in their emotions and psyche. As businessmen we do this to gain some advantage in negotiations. To pinpoint some weakness. To catch a lie. To find an opening for compromise. To exploit a fault.
But, as a husband, I need to remember to observe and to observe for different reasons. With Gwen, I need to watch her face, to listen to her voice inflection, to observe her body language to read her emotions. To read her spirit for the purpose of ministering to her. You may wonder what I mean. I've realized that when I talk about spiritual matters they will, or should, be couched in some form of Galatians 5 spirit language. That is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Or the lack thereof.
When I sense that Gwen is not experiencing this fruit, then it's my responsibility to be there to do what I can to tend to her spirit. What can be even worse is when I'm the cause of her spiritual drop. Then I must not only quit sabatoging her spirit, I must move to repair the damage. This is a huge responsibility. But, I've come to believe that that's exactly what I signed up for when I became her husband. Now I gladly accept my work. And. it is work.
Jesus said, "My Father is always at his work, to this very day, and I, too, am working." My work includes belief. Belief includes action. Jesus encouraged Peter to express his love for Him by tending His lambs. So, in a way, Gwen is my lamb to tend. Given me by God to watch over. God help me in my work.
Friday, February 17, 2012
I am the last person who should be writing about self sacrificial love, because I have so little experience. What will follow, then, are humble suggestions; a few from my poor experience and some from my imagination.
Continuing with the idea of letting others go first, there is a lot of precedence for this in Scripture. This idea enmeshes the actions in the world with the spiritual consequences of those actions. So, when Jesus responds to the rich young ruler's inquiry about how he can enter the kingdom of heaven by telling him to sell his earthly goods, give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him, He's really giving the rich young ruler a path to Spiritual belief. A path to expressing love. What Jesus is saying is: put others first in a worldly sense to express love and believe that by doing so, you will gain Spiritual benefits. You will be on the path to the kingdom of heaven.
Don't feel bad if this strikes you as counter-intuitive. In spite of being directly under Jesus' influence, His Disciples found it hard to embrace self-sacrifice, as well. They bickered over who would be greatest in Christ's kingdom. They wanted to be seated one on the right and one on the left of Jesus' throne. These were positions of great honor and they wanted to occupy them with Jesus. Jesus consistently counselled against these aspirations. He said that we should resist the urge to put ourselves in a position of honor, because we risked the disgrace of being asked to move out of the way for someone more deserving of that honor. Instead, He suggested that we take a humble position, which would allow for the opportunity to be moved to a position of higher honor. That could not be the motive for taking the humble position, but only as a gesture of true humility.
We have had our shining examples of selflessness. Mother Theresa. Ghandi. Dr. Rick Hodes (if you've never heard of him, check out Making the Crooked Straight). Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Jesus, Himself. But, when we idolize or immortalize these, we make them inaccessible. We set them apart from ourselves and believe that we could never approach their selflessness. But, we shouldn't excuse ourselves from making the effort to emulate these examples. We can't just throw up our hands and say, "Well, I could never be like that, so I'm not even going to try." I use them as encouragement to go forth and sacrifice my Self. To pursue humility. To crucify my ego. To consider others more important than myself. To put others first. Especially my wife.