Today is a day to be grateful and full of thanksgiving for the blessings the Lord has given us.
Continue with us on our devotional challenge! Get ready to dig into the word together.
This is my lover, this is my friend. Song of Songs 5:16
Throughout our marriage, Gary had boasted jokingly that I (Barb) could never surprise him with a birthday party. For two weeks on either side of his birthday each year, Gary was suspicious, so I never tried anything. But when Gary turned 40, I got him big time – by springing a party on him through a ruse he never would've expected! I secretly planned a spectacular evening with many friends, some Gary hadn't seen in years. It was a big "gotcha" for me, and Gary loved me for it.
Robert and Maria were married on the first Saturday of May. Throughout their 11 years of marriage, on the first Saturday of every month, Maria finds a wrapped gift from her husband somewhere in the house. Most times it is something small and inexpensive: a pair of earrings, a new paperback by her favorite author, a package of bath salts. But sometimes the gift takes her breath away, like the time Robert gave her a suede jacket she had admired at the mall. And every gift is carefully and beautifully wrapped, something Robert has practiced over the years. Her husband's thoughtfulness has helped keep Robert and Maria's love alive.
As one of their Christmas presents to each other several years ago, empty-nesters Grant and Audrey got a lifetime pass to the national park system and a "passport" booklet for recording their visits. They enjoy spending vacations and periodic long weekends traveling to new parks around the country and filling up the pages of their booklet with official stamps. And staying in motels on vacation makes them feel like honeymooners again.
Virginia thought she was just going out for a nice dinner with Walt to celebrate their anniversary. But when her husband took the exit to the airport and pulled into a long-term parking garage, she was puzzled. Walt playfully rebuffed her questions as he pulled their suitcases out of the trunk and led her into the terminal. An hour later their plane took off for Hawaii and a romantic vacation Walt had been planning for months. He had even packed Virginia’s suitcase and arranged supervision for their teenage son and daughter. Walt and Virginia came back from their anniversary trip more in love than ever.
Celebrating love is all about reveling in the emotional, physical, and spiritual connections that bond you to your spouse. It's a kind of love that protects you from drifting apart and enables you to fall in love and feel discovered all over again. It's not always about occasional gifts and surprises. Celebrating love rejoices daily in the marriage you have and helps you feel cherished and captivated by the other. It is a reflection of God's celebrating love as seen in Zephaniah 3:17: "The Lord … will rejoice over you with great gladness… He will exult over you by singing a happy song."
Without celebrating love, your relationship will stagnate, and you will drift apart emotionally. When you cultivate celebrating love in your marriage, you will reconnect with the heartfelt love you discovered when you first fell head over heels for each other. Celebrating love means growing deeper in love year after year, rediscovering what you almost forgot about each other, appreciating again what may have lost its shine, and displaying affection and appreciation for all that you find in each other. Celebrating love prompts you to exult with Solomon: "This is my lover, this is my friend" (Song of Songs 5:16, NIV).
Celebrating love usually isn't something that "comes over" you. You don't just sit around and wait for the old, warm feelings of love to well up again. You cultivate celebrating love intentionally. One of the primary ways to inspire daily celebration in your relationship is to purposely put each other first. Move your spouse to the top of your to-do list, just a bubble behind your love for Jesus.
This means you must make spending time together a priority, just as you did when you were first dating. We're not just talking about "quality time." Sometimes you need hundreds of hours of "quantity time" before you can enjoy real quality time with your spouse. You need frequent periods of time away from the kids and other responsibilities. Find enjoyable activities – everything from hobbies to foreplay to conversation – that will rekindle intimacy of heart and spirit. Give your spouse priority access to your time instead of just the leftovers.
Priority time for your spouse means occasional date nights and getaway weekends. These events should be scheduled on your calendar ahead of time, because if you wait until the last minute, you may have trouble fitting them into your busy life. But priority time also means smaller time slots each day, such as having dinner together, taking a brief walk, spending time talking, playing a game, or watching a favorite program together.
Priority time for what? Among all the enjoyable things you may do when you set aside time to be together, make communication a priority. Sure, you may spend a couple of hours in silence watching the ballet or a movie. But make the effort to fit meaningful conversation into your time together. By meaningful we mean something more than how you liked the movie, what the kids did today, or how the economy is faring. Talk about the two of you – your goals, your dreams, even your disappointments and your hurts. Try to learn something new about your spouse every time you enjoy uninterrupted conversation.
Meaningful conversation also means what you say through your body language. When you talk together, put down the phone and turn off the TV. Make eye contact, and get undivided attention. Make physical contact through an occasional affirming touch. Draw out your spouse with questions that demonstrate your interest in what he or she is talking about. Ask God to help you focus strictly on your spouse.
Lavish on your spouse the honor and pleasure of putting him or her first among earthly relationships. It will prompt a daily celebration that will help you soar above the knotty problems and humdrum of daily life.
How does your spouse put you first? What does your spouse do in day-to-day life to make you feel like a priority? How do you demonstrate to your spouse daily that he or she is first in your life? How does he or she make you a priority in his or her schedule? How do you make him a priority in your schedule? And what special, extraordinary ways has your spouse honored you in the last three months? When was the last time you made a special effort to honor your spouse?
Lord and Savior, I affirm today that you are the top priority in my life, my most cherished relationship, my dearest friend. Though my spouse is very dear to me, I acknowledge that my relationship with him or her is subordinate to my relationship with you. And yet I desire to honor my spouse as my most precious early earthly relationship and make him or her a priority among all my relatives, coworkers, and friends. Show me ways to put my spouse first, and equip me by your Spirit to walk in those ways. Amen.
Renew Your Love
Review your schedule for this week. Have you put your spouse first by purposely taking time to be together? Make specific plans for spending time with your spouse this week. If you haven't been out for lunch or dinner recently, take the initiative to plan time away from the house. If the busyness of your lives has limited your time to talk, carve out an hour or two this week to sit down over coffee just to chat and pray together. And that would be an excellent time to block out a weekend in the near future just to get away together. Sit down with your calendar, and begin the celebration!