Read an Excerpt
A Devotional for Couples
By JAMES DOBSON SHIRLEY DOBSON
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2000
James Dobson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter One WEEK ONE
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by Laura Jeanne Allen
My grandparents were married for over half a century. From the time they met each other they played their own special game. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was his or her turn to hide it once more.
They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring. "Shmily" was written in the steam on the bathroom mirror, where it would reappear after every hot shower. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet.
There was no end to the places "shmily" popped up. Little notes with a hastily scribbled "shmily" were found on dashboards and car seats or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. "Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture.
It took me a long time before I fully appreciated my grandparents' game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love-one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection that not everyone experiences.
Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome an old man he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em." Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other.
But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: My grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside.
Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, she went to church with him every Sunday. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, Grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone.
"Shmily." It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby.
Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty.
S-h-m-i-l-y: See How Much I Love You.
Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for letting me see.
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LOOKING AHEAD ...
Is there any doubt that this tender couple knew the joy that springs from true love? That they understood the meaning of intimacy and commitment in marriage? Through a simple message sent in simple ways-traced in a flour container or on the bathroom mirror-this husband and wife continually expressed their love to each other for over fifty years. And when the time came for "Grandpa" to face the world alone, through his tears he sang his bride a lullaby that told her one last time, "See how much I love you!"
So many couples today reach the end of their days without ever experiencing such genuine love-the kind that includes stealing kisses, finishing each other's sentences, and holding hands whenever possible. They sincerely desire a deep, intimate love, but they assume it will just "happen" somewhere along the way. When it doesn't, disillusionment and even divorce follow.
We'll talk this week about true love-what it means and how you can achieve it in marriage. I'll close tonight's reading with this question: What does true love mean to you?
Love At First Sight
Love is of God. 1 John 4:7
Some people believe that true love can occur the moment a man and woman lay eyes on each other. But "love at first sight" is a physical and emotional impossibility because you cannot love someone you don't even know. You have simply been drawn to the package in which they live.
A lifelong emotional attachment is much more than a romantic feeling. It is more than a sexual attraction or the thrill of the chase or a desire to get married. Such feelings usually indicate infatuation and tend to be temporary and rather selfish in nature. A person may say, "I can't believe what is happening to me. This is the most fantastic thing I've ever experienced! I must be in love." Notice that those who make these statements are not talking about the other person-they're excited about their own gratification. Such individuals haven't fallen in love with someone else; they've fallen in love with love.
Genuine love is not something one "falls" into, as though he or she was tumbling into a ditch. One cannot love an unknown object, regardless of how beautiful or handsome it is. Only when a person begins to develop a deep appreciation and admiration for another-an intense awareness of his or her needs, strength, and character-has one begun to experience true love. From there, it should grow for a lifetime.
Just between us ...
Do you remember thinking that you were in love as a teenager, only to have that feeling fade over time?
What did you think and feel when we first met?
How did God show you that I should be your marriage partner?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful gift of love. Grant us your blessings, Father-more than we can even imagine right now! Amen.
"Then You Came"
Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8
The young husband was desperate. His wife had abandoned him and their two children weeks before. Though she still called occasionally, he had no idea where she was. On the phone, he pleaded with her to come home and told her how much he and the children loved her, yet she continually rebuffed him. Was it time to give up and move on?
No. The husband used his meager savings to hire a detective, who found his wife living in a third-rate hotel across the country. The husband borrowed money for a plane ticket. Soon he was on her doorstep saying, "We love you so much. Won't you come home?" She fell apart in his arms, and they went home together.
Weeks later he asked why she hadn't come when he expressed his love repeatedly on the phone. "Because," she answered, "those were only words before. But then you came."
True love is more than words. It may involve flying across the country, even when it costs you your last nickel, to bring your spouse home.
Just between us ...
How have I shown you my love this week?
If "actions speak louder than words," are my deeds shouting or whispering my love for you?
What can I do this week to show my love for you?
How, specifically, did Jesus show us His love?
Dear Lord Jesus, we want both our words and our actions to say "love" in personal, powerful, and positive ways. Show us new ways to "honor one another above ourselves." Amen.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER?
Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. 1 Corinthians 7:27
What you have observed by looking around your social circles is born out by the numbers: According to nearly every relevant statistic, the institution of marriage is in serious trouble. The Council on Families in America reports that half of first marriages are likely to end in divorce. The National Center for Health Statistics tells us that the number of Americans choosing to marry is declining. And Brent Barlow, professor of family sciences at Brigham Young University, says that if cohabitation and divorce trends continue, "married" could become a minority status within ten years.
Obviously, millions of couples who were once deeply in love and believed they were wonderfully suited for each other are seeing their marriages fall apart. If you and your spouse are going to beat the odds, you will need to bring dedication and hard work to your relationship.
Does this challenge seem more like a threat than a promise? We have good news. First, couples who are willing to invest in their relationship will find the greatest fulfillment and meaning that life has to offer. That is the promise of a godly marriage. Statistics bear this fact out too! Second, you need not try to beat the odds alone. In fact, you were never meant to. But more on that tomorrow....
Just between us ...
What, specifically, does having a "happy marriage" mean to you?
Are you happy? Why or why not?
What can I do to bring more happiness to your life?
Heavenly Father, You designed the covenant of marriage from the beginning, and our marriage belongs to You. So bless our union with Your best! Draw us together, and draw us to You. Amen.
The Third Party
No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11
To experience genuine love with our mate, we must bring a third party into the equation-Jesus Christ. Only through this spiritual connection with Him can we begin to fulfill all the potential of the relationship we call marriage.
Anyone who studies the Bible will recognize numerous principles woven throughout that apply to married life. Judeo-Christian values have effectively guided men and women from the beginning. These values were inspired by the Creator Himself, the originator of the institution of marriage. No matter what society says, or how laws change, the precepts that make up this scriptural system remain the way to find e love and happiness in life.
Establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the critical first step toward attaining every meaningful goal, including the intimacy we all seek. If you haven't already given your heart to Him, we urge you to do so. It will bring meaning and purpose to every dimension of your life-including your marriage. Tomorrow we'll explain how.
Just between us ...
How have we been putting biblical principles to work in our marriage?
How can I encourage you to spend more time in God's Word?
Have we both personally invited Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives and of our marriage? If not, can we take that life-changing step right now?
Lord Jesus, You are the foundation of our marriage. Help us look to You and Your strength in every way as we build a life together. Amen.
The Moment Life Begins
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
If you and your mate genuinely want to experience true love-the kind that lasts throughout eternity-you must face the truth about your standing before God. According to the Bible, we are all born with a sinful nature (Romans 3:23). This sin problem prevents us from living God's way, whether as individuals or as a married couple. In fact, unresolved sin will block even your best efforts to have a successful marriage, because the inescapable outcome of sin is slavery to our worst impulses and-eventually-death (Romans 6:23).
But there is a wonderful alternative! Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin through His death on the cross. And through His miraculous resurrection, He rescued you from eternal destruction. You can reach out in faith to receive your free gift of new life. Jesus put the Good News this way: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
It really is that simple: If you choose to repent of your sin and receive the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, you will be forgiven and receive His gift of eternal life.
If you do not know Jesus Christ in this intimate way, we invite you to offer the following prayer tonight. For every human being who invites Jesus into his or her heart, that is the moment real life begins!
Just between us ...
Have each of us made a choice to receive God's gift of salvation?
If not, what is keeping us from making that choice?
God, I am a sinner in need of You. I can't live right or hope for eternal life on my own. Please forgive my sins. I believe that Jesus Christ is Your only Son. You sent Him to die in my place and set me free from sin. Thank You! Amen.
I love you!
"This is my command: Love each other." John 15:17
One of the best ways to sustain true love between you and your mate is to build a bridge of loving memories. I am reminded of a husband named Jim who was tragically killed in an accident while driving home from work. It was his wife Carol's fiftieth birthday. Rescue teams found two plane tickets to Hawaii in his pocket; he had planned to surprise Carol with them.
Months later, Carol was asked how she was coping. She answered that on their wedding day, she and Jim had promised to say "I love you" before noon each day of their marriage. Over the years it had become a fun-and often difficult-challenge. She recalled running down the driveway saying "I love you," even though she was angry at Jim. On other occasions she drove to his office to drop a note in his car before the noon deadline. The effort it took to keep that promise led to many positive memories of their years together.
The morning Jim died, he left a birthday card in the kitchen, then slipped out to the car. Carol heard the engine starting and raced outside. She banged on the car window until he rolled it down, then yelled over the roar of the engine, "Here on my fiftieth birthday, Mr. James E. Garret, I, Carol Garret, want to go on record as saying 'I love you!'"
"That's how I've survived," Carol said later. "Knowing that the last words I said to Jim were I love you!"
We can build bridges across the span of our lives in many ways-with cards and flowers, through special shared moments, or, like Jim and Carol, with a simple "I love you" expressed each day. Cherished memories established over the course of your marriage will give you and your mate the foundation for a genuine love that endures a lifetime.
Excerpted from NIGHT LIGHT by JAMES DOBSON SHIRLEY DOBSON
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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