Don’t you just love it when the Lord uses your life experiences to make such profound connections to His Word? I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit because He is always speaking, guiding, teaching, and correcting us so that we can live out our lives in a manner that reflects Christ and be most effective for the Kingdom and eternity! Recently, I had one of those moments where the Lord made a clear connection between something I had went through and His Word and it allowed me to see His Word with such clear understanding. The Word of God is alive and active and I have found over the years that when the Lord reveals Himself through His Word to us, it always prompts action on our part! My heart has been stirred friends and I am on a mission to live out my days here on earth loving God in a way that is so clear that He wouldn’t ever need to ask me the question “Do you really love Me?”
Let me begin by telling you what happened to me earlier this year. But before I do that, I need to lay some ground work. My husband and I have quite the love story. Our story goes all the way back to grade school, but we didn’t officially become “sweethearts” until junior high. We dated for six years before getting married and he truly was (and still is) my very best friend. I love that man with all of my heart and I would do absolutely anything for him. It’s hard to find the words to explain how much I love him. My love runs so deep that just the thought of him can bring happy tears to my eyes and a flood of emotions can well up inside of me. There’s not many relationships in my life that have that kind of effect on me. Have you ever felt that kind of love before? I can’t help but think about him and be overwhelmed with gratitude that I have someone and something so special. I don’t ever want to take him or our relationship for granted so any time we have the opportunity to invest in our marriage and show each other how much we love one another, we are both pretty good about making it known…whether that be through words or actions. We have been married for 15 years and I have poured everything I have into loving my man! Sure, I have moments when I fail and there have been days I could have loved him better, but for the most part, I have loved him the best I could.
Recently, we started seeing a marriage counselor and one of the first exercises he gave us was to write down a list of love nuggets. Love nuggets are specific, yet practical behaviors that our spouse can do to make us feel loved. In our 15 years of marriage, I had never really thought about what it was specifically that my husband does to make me feel loved. I just knew he loved me well! But you know, as I began to think about it all week long, I started to realize that when my husband calls me or texts me throughout the day, that really makes me feel loved. When he leaves me an encouraging note or gives me a card expressing his love for me, that makes me feel loved too. Embracing me with a big squeeze when he gets home from work, holding my hand, or wrapping his arm around me to hold me close…those are all easy and practical ways for him to make me feel loved. Even things like filling my car up with gas or helping me clean up the house…those were indeed my love nuggets! Those were the kinds of things that truly make me feel loved. As I made my list of love nuggets, I couldn’t help but think back to a book I read years ago called “The Five Love Languages”. As I looked over my list of love nuggets, it was apparent that my primary love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation, but acts of service was evident too. What do you think your love language is?
Nathan and I didn’t talk to each other about our lists of love nuggets all week. Our counselor asked us to wait and discuss them together at our next session so I had no idea what Nathan’s love nuggets were. I figured Nathan could guess all of mine because I’m a pretty good communicator when it comes to letting him know what I like and don’t like. He knows me pretty well and after being together for over 20 years…he gets me. Honestly, I figured I’d know his love nuggets too! As he began to read them off during our session, I was shocked that what I thought were his love nuggets didn't make the list! Out of the 10 love nuggets that he listed, I only did a few consistently and knowing that…well, let’s just say it crushed me! Here I have been married to this incredible man for 15 years and to discover that I have been falling short for so long in making him feel loved…it made me feel sick to my stomach…literally! Everything on his list was so easy and effortless…if only I had known. I would have been doing them all along! As I processed the fact that for so long I have been loving him the way that I best felt loved, I realized that in doing that, I failed to love him the way he deserved and desired to be loved. That hurt my heart so much and later that night, I just broke down and cried. My husband tried to reassure me that he has always felt loved by me and that he loves all of the ways I show him that I love him, but these were just some of the first things that came to his mind as he quickly made his list. I felt a little better by the end of our conversation because he explained to me that he had procrastinated on his assignment (gasp…not my husband!) and was having a hard time thinking about specific actions so he scanned the list of ideas that our counselor provided and chose some of those ideas that he thought sounded great and thought that would definitely make him feel loved! Even then, because of my deep love for him, it tore me up to think I could have done more to make him feel loved and appreciated over the years. It didn’t upset me because I felt like I failed. It upset me because he’s been too good to me…I WANT to give him everything he ever needed, wanted, or desired! That’s just how much I adore him! I didn’t want to start doing these things because he was making me or asking me to…I simply wanted to do these simple things for him because he was worth it and so much more! Since we made our original lists of 10 love nuggets, we have gone back and added many more! Any time Nathan does something for me that makes me feel loved, I always tell him, “I’m adding that to my love nuggets list! That made me feel really special and loved!” and he does the same for me! It has completely transformed the way we love each other! He is worth the extra effort to love him in ways that may not necessarily come natural for me and he thinks I’m worth it too! I just wish we had communicated these love nuggets to each other earlier in our relationship because I don’t want to waste a day when it comes to loving my husband. It’s an honor to love him and it's been so fulfilling to know that when I do these little love nuggets that he feels just as loved as I do. That’s what I want him to feel all the days of our lives! I wake up every single day now thinking what can I do today to show him he is loved and I make sure to hit as many love nuggets on the list as possible! We thought we had a great marriage before, but man, our love nuggets have only intensified the love we share! I encourage you to make a similar list with your spouse! My husband appreciates a good sappy love note, but he’s an acts of service guy! If I cook a good meal and have dinner ready for him when he gets home or plan a golf outing together or even a night for him and his buddies…now that really makes him feel loved! Whereas, my husband could buy me gifts all day long, but if he isn’t giving me enough physical affection or words of affirmation, I may be asking myself, “Does he really love me?” We need to learn what our spouse’s love nuggets are and then love them whole heartedly in those areas!
Fast forward a few weeks later after learning this about my husband…the girls and I had been studying about the death and resurrection of Jesus in preparation for Easter. One morning, as we wrapped up our unit on Christ’s resurrection, we camped out on the story of Peter and the disciples having breakfast with Jesus on the shore before His ascension into heaven. Peter still hadn’t gotten over that awful night when he had denied Jesus three times. He was absolutely heart sick over his actions and he had wept bitter tears as he was truly sorry and repentant for his failure. He loved Jesus with all of his heart and I’m sure after hearing about Christ’s resurrection, he probably wondered if Jesus still wanted him as one of His special disciples. As Jesus and Peter sat together on the beach, apart from the others, we see in John 21 that Jesus turned, looked into the eyes of Peter, and gently said, “Simon (Peter), do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed and care for My lambs.” Jesus knew that He would soon be going back to heaven and He wanted Peter to become a good shepherd and help teach His Word to all of the new Christian believers.
Jesus asked Peter a second time, “Simon, do you really love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter answered, “You know that I love You.”
“Then take care of My sheep,” Jesus said. Jesus meant that Peter must help care for all who would become His disciples and followers. He knew that His flock would have trouble, temptations, hard tests, discouragements, and battles; and He wanted Peter to help them to grow strong and become true, steady Christians who could lead others to know Christ.
Once more, Jesus asked him, “Simon, do you really love Me?”
Peter was grieved and hurt that Jesus asked the question this third time. Once more Peter assured Him, “Lord, you know my heart and You know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed My sheep.”
That day on the seashore, Jesus ended His conversation with Peter by saying, “Follow Me.”
As I read this story, I felt the Holy Spirit impressing that same question on my heart, “Do those who say they love Me really love Me?”
Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked Peter the same question three times? I don’t think it was because Jesus needed to be convinced that Peter loved Him…He already knew all things. I believe He asked the same question three times so that Peter was convinced! Peter loved Jesus with all of His heart, but He didn’t know how to show that love! He was loving Jesus the best way He knew (kind of like I was loving my husband the best I knew how, yet if I had only known his love nuggets I could have loved him so much better!) So, look what Jesus did…He gave Him a list of love nuggets before He ascended! Did you see that? Just as Nathan listed out clear as day what I can do to show him I love him, Jesus told Peter as clear as day, “If you love Me, then feed and care of my lambs and sheep and follow Me!”
As the Lord began to make this connection in my spirit, I just began to weep. “Yes, Lord! You know I love you!” I cried out. My heart hurt just as it did when I realized I had wasted so many years not loving my husband in the best way. The Lord has been so good to me…to us all! It broke my heart that He may not feel loved by those who profess to love Him. I found myself asking the Lord, “How can I love you better?” He deserves our best love! I don’t love Him simply to be promised heaven, I love Him because He is worthy of my love. It’s an honor to live my life loving Him the way He desires to be loved. But the Lord began to reveal to me that He has so many children that say they love Him, they profess to love Him, they profess to be devoted to Him, yet they are loving Him the way they think is best, meanwhile, their love falls so short from what the Lord really desires! They are missing all of His love nuggets! You see, many Christians believe reading their Bible every day means they love Jesus or praying often and going to church is how they show Jesus they love Him. Others think volunteering and giving to charities show they love Jesus. Those are all great things to do, but that’s not what makes Jesus really feel loved. You see I was doing a lot of great things for my husband…all of which he appreciated and enjoyed…but when I realized what his love nuggets were, I was loving him in a way that assured him I really loved him. That’s what Jesus wants from us! He hears us tell him we love him, He sees us trying to show Him we love Him, He knows our hearts desire, but He gave us His love nuggets list and He’s waiting to see if we really love him.
John 14:15 says, “If you love me, keep my commands.”
John 14:23, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”
So, when Jesus asks each one of us the question over and over, “Do you really love Me?” It may be that He’s trying to tell us, “I know you say you love Me, but if you really loved Me, you would be keeping my commands and obeying my teaching.” The ten commandments are in essence God’s love nuggets to us and just as Nathan and I have added to our original list of 10 love nuggets, Jesus has done the same thing throughout His teaching! Everything that was taught in God’s Word after the original commandments, are more love nuggets for us so we can know what it looks like to love Christ! God’s Word says anyone who believes in your heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord”, you will be saved. We are saved by grace and we don’t have to earn salvation or follow a list of love nuggets in order to be saved. However, just as in marriage, our relationship cannot withstand the pressures of this world if the only thing we have is a marriage contract. When we said our vows, we said them in faith that each one of us would keep our vows and live in a way that reflected the love we professed for one another on our wedding day. So it is with our relationship with Christ! Our relationship with Jesus can’t withstand the pressures of the world on words alone. When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are making a profession of faith that we are going to live like Jesus is Lord. He’s asking us today, “Do you really love Me?” I say “Yes, Lord!” I choose to keep His commands even when it’s hard. I choose to follow His teachings even when everyone else has compromised. I choose to follow all of his commands, and not dismiss the ones that don’t line up with today’s worldly views. I choose to stand alone. I choose to obey his teachings even when persecution comes. I choose to keep his commands even when it’s unpopular. I choose to give Him my whole heart for all the days I have left here on earth because He’s worthy of my love and He deserves my best love. I choose to love Him the way He desires and not just what is comfortable for me. He’s been too good to me. What an honor it is to keep His commands and obey His teachings…it’s not burdensome at all when you truly love someone. Can I ask you the question today…”Do you really love Him?”