“Wow, that didn’t even occur to me.”
This is the thought that occurs when a person asks a question about something that doesn’t even cross their mind. It doesn’t have to be something important, just a topic that you haven’t really thought about or thought through. In marriage, it is the thought that comes when one realizes that he or she is living in their own little world and not thinking about anything outside of it. The busyness of life often gets in the way…as does the sinful and selfish nature. When we live in our own little worlds too long, we look to others as being a part of our worlds…but their existence is to make our worlds better…easier. We forget (or pay little attention) that others are important. We forget that their needs and desires are important. We forget or have not even realized yet that they do not exist to serve us, but in Christ, we exist to serve them. This is our sinful, self-centered nature. Thoughts of others’ desires and needs do not occur to us because we live in our own worlds. How do we change this? Well, admitting it is the first step. Confess this to God, and by His Spirit, begin to apply the love God gave you to your spouse (or others).
“Aw man…I should have thought about that before!”
This is the second step of process. It is the beginning of awareness of the sinful state of the selfish mind and awareness of the desire and need to love others. Demonstrating love may not be easy at first, but as one becomes more aware of God’s call to serve others, the afterthoughts occur more regularly. These afterthoughts are not intended to bring guilt, but are a sign of greater things to come…if you remain aware of self-centeredness and begin to place priority in loving others. Chances are, as you continue to be aware, you will at other times begin to plan out times of serving, date nights, giving praise, making love, etc (for your spouse) or serving other people in other ways.
“Let me think about this first.”
This is third step in the process of loving well. This is the intentional practice of Christ-likeness, where thought, effort, and humility merge into an action of love for another person (or people). It is the full awareness of others’ needs and in love, placing those above your own. I remember several getaways with my wife and I. Our trip to Niagara Falls on our 15th Anniversary was thought out, planned, and, I must say, well executed. At this time, I loved well (though sadly other times I fail). Another time my wife had planned a secret getaway for my birthday where she kidnapped me and we went to a Bed-and-Breakfast. The thought and planning behind the action meant she loved well. Both trips are etched in our memories. Fore thought (or before-thought) is essential when we are not in the regular practice of loving well. Jesus had thought of us when he went to the cross. So, too, we must think of others before ourselves.
Loving well can be difficult, especially since we often go against the grain of our sinful natures where our desires are for others to love us well. However, when we recognize our self-centered natures, confess and repent, begin to be aware of others needs and desires, and then intentionally commit to loving well, we will move forward by God’s grace to love others well. So, how are you doing in this area?