I agree with Alice Cooper. He claimed embracing Christianity was the real rebellion of his life. So in that spirit, I did something a bit different this year to recognize the season of Lent. I took a dare.
Like the slumber parties of my youth, I enlisted the help of six girlfriends. Together, we confessed the truth … that none of us was exactly a candidate for spouse of the year. The dare? For 40 days, we would love our guys unconditionally. Radically. Rebelliously. The world doesn’t exactly approve of selflessness, but it is often the path to peace.
Blazing this new trail with trepidation and excitement, we met each week to read and discuss The Love Dare, by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. Using scripture verses in tandem with daily encouragement, the authors argue that love isn’t just an emotion we fall into. While the burning fire of new love cools to an ember, mature love is something we practice. Love, especially in marriage, is an effort. Love is a choice. Love is an action.
Rats. I, like many hopeless romantics identify with love against a backdrop of cascading waterfalls and candlelit dinners. But in the midst of diapers and mortgages, jobs and soccer practice, romance gets scrapped for other luxuries, such as sleep!
The book challenges the reader to redefine love as being “built on two pillars … patience and kindness … and all other characteristics of love are extensions of those two attributes.” The true test of authentic love takes root in those moments where your spouse’s actions or words elicit anything but compassion. When he or she is angry, surly, frustrated or rude, he or she often needs our love the most. Hey, I said it was radical!
Someone has to step up to the plate and turn around the predictable pattern that often takes shape in the intimate context of marriage, whether yours is careening towards disaster or lapsing into complacency. And for those of us navigating marital mine fields, setting a peaceful, harmonious tone in our homes means “everyone must be slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Not my strong suit.
Taking that first, risky, humbling step often requires selflessness, and it isn’t easy. Each day, The Love Dare challenges you to express love to your spouse without expectation of reward or recognition. The idea is that once you’ve invested 40 days in the process, a transformation is likely to take place.
Our group of rebels had plenty of setbacks. But overall, we learned to appreciate love in a new light. After all, we have the perfect role model. Easter reminds us that God sent His son to serve as His ambassador, revealing for us His unfailing love and devotion. We didn’t exactly deserve His sacrifice to bear the human consequence of his life here with us. It was good to pay it forward.
Go ahead, love your spouse with the same spirit, unconditionally, radically, rebelliously … especially when they don’t deserve it. I dare you.
Diane Meehl takes her dares in Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband and three kids. They worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.