Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. —Psalm 25:20
“Marriage is not what I expected.” Have you ever thought that? “Military life is not what I expected.” Perhaps you have had that thought a time or two. The truth is, not much in life is what we expected. Day 27 of The Love Dare addresses this matter at the heart level.
What is it that you want married life to be? Do you want to feel secure, free to be yourself even if/when you fail? Your spouse wants that, too. The bottom line is that it is a choice to live by encouragement rather than by expectations. Towards your spouse you are to be encouraging—pouring in to them words and actions which allow them the freedom to be themselves, feeling loved. Towards yourself you are to take responsibility for your own words and actions in order to improve yourself, rather than demanding more from others.
Jesus says it this way in Matthew 7:3-5: “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” If you tend to be a “speck inspector,” the dare today will challenge you to first be a “log mover.”
Maybe when you were dating, and when you first got married, you thought your spouse was “perfect.” Your expectations were high that you would “live happily ever after.” The fairy tale ended when you discovered that your mate could be thoughtless and selfish. If you have decided to bring that constantly to their attention you probably have noticed that they have resisted your critical “help.” Your disapproval has not brought improvement, but resentment.
Love would have us take a different path—one of encouragement, not discouragement. You know that you respond better to kindness than criticism, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that your spouse is motivated in the same way. On page 133 we read: “If your wife or husband has told you on more than one occasion that you make them feel beat down and defeated, you need to take these words to heart. Make a commitment to daily let go of unrealistic expectations and become your spouse’s greatest encourager. And the person they’re created by God to be will begin to emerge with new confidence and love for you.”
Here is today’s dare during deployment: It’s time to eliminate unreasonable expectations in your relationship with your spouse. Identify one area where your spouse has said that you’re expecting too much from them—and apologize for pressuring them in that area. Then assure them of your understanding and unconditional love.
If you would like to continue the discussion concerning this dare, consider asking these questions of each other:
1. What are your expectations for reintegration?
2. In what ways has this deployment been different from what you expected?
3. In what ways has military life not been what you expected?
Here are Scriptures to encourage you in truth:
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. — Isaiah 35:3
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. . . . We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14
Kendrick, Stephen and Alex, The Love Dare (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2008)