After Valentine’s Day

We’re all in different relationships where we want to love and be loved well – friends, or spouses, daughters or colleagues.

A couple weeks ago was Valentines Day.

The first year we were married my husband took me to a car wash on Valentine’s Day.  One where you have to do the washing yourself.  Ahem… We’ve both learned a lot since then.

This year, John, who is the best anywhere, delivered flowers and donuts to me at Starbucks. He’s getting better at my love languages, although I’m multi-lingual so it’s pretty easy.  I just don’t understand “car wash-ese”.

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But I can speak it so I tried to communicate in his dialect by washing his car and buying him mocha chip ice cream.

It was a good day.  But I’m not crazy about the idea that there’s this one 24 hour period of grand romantic gestures with a lot of bling and pizzazz.

As I’ve reflected on this, it’s the everyday behind the scenes moments when John steals my heart over and over again.  We talk, not just about “love languages”, but the small ways we can love the other the way they want to be loved, not necessarily the way WE want to love them (read: not the most convenient and comfortable for ME).

This is especially important around holidays and stressful times (like when we’re expecting a houseful of guests)  The only way to “get there” is to talk about it.  What if you just ask your spouse, or your son, or friend, “How can I love you well in this situation?”

And let’s face it…if you aren’t sure, the universal love language is service.

John loves me the way I want to be loved when he rolls the huge trash bin down to the curb through 6″ of new snow.

Or calls me on his way home to see if he can pick up anything at the grocery store.The times he hugs me when I’m in my furry frumpy robe with fuzzy pigs on my feet and he says I’m the cutest.

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They’re the times when he drives to the drugstore for medicine in the middle of the night.

It’s the gift he gives me when he doesn’t laugh at my dumb questions, or the one he gives when he finds me no matter where I’m sitting in the sanctuary and comes to sit with me.

I think these everyday gifts are hardest to give in the marriage season when you have little kids and you feel more like business partners than lovers.  

It’s hard when you’re both sleep-deprived and over-extended, not to feel like someone else ought to be serving YOU for once!  It’s so easy to keep score and feel like it’s not fair when the score is two poopy diapers and a vomit clean-up to one car-pool turn.

In those seasons especially, we need to remember that grace truly is the new math* – it totally doesn’t make sense, and it’s never fair and it never keeps a tally.

Here are some things I try to remind myself:

  • Don’t count on your spouse or anyone else to fill you up in ways that only God can.
  • Every small act of love is a big deal.
  • You’ll get through this.
  • Put away your scorecard.

What’s your experience with loving others the way they want to be loved?

*Thanks to Shauna Niequist who wrote “grace is the new math” in Cold Tangerines.

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