Many of you already know, Lori and I are celebrating 21 years of marriage this week. It’s funny, because whenever this younger generation hears me say that, they are always really surprised. “Whoa! 21 years! Seriously? How did you do it?”
I guess that’s the big question. What’s the secret?
I call it “flove.” (No, that’s not a misspelling.)
Simply put, if a husband and wife just try really hard to love each other… then that’s exactly what it’s gonna be: really hard.
The key isn’t trying really hard. The key is giving up.
The one thing that Lori and I did right from the beginning (probably one of the only things we did right that first year) was admitting that this thing was way beyond us, so we gave up trying to do it by ourselves, and we brought God into the relationship. This opened the door to “flove.”
Here’s how it works. When I try really hard to love, it’s an imperfect love. Selfishness gets mixed in. Jealousy gets mixed in. All the drama you see in reality shows—that stuff creeps in.
Doesn’t it happen in your house? Sometimes even when you’re trying to do something nice?
“Hey baby, come here for a minute and help me make the bed. I don’t want you to have to do it by yourself later.”
“Why would I have to do it later? Because I’m the woman?”
“I didn’t mean that… it’s just that you do make it by yourself a lot, and I wanted to help.”
“But why can’t you make it by yourself sometime. Is that so unfair?”
“No, it’s not unfair, but you know how busy I am. Can’t you just be happy that I’m helping you!”
“What? Like I’m not busy?”
I’m sure you’ve never had any arguments like this one.
That’s why we need “flove,” not this imperfect version of love we try to produce on our own. Flove seeks to please, not to be pleased. Flove isn’t defensive. Flove isn’t looking out for “me.”
This wisdom isn’t mine… I stole it! It’s straight from the book of Ephesians in the Bible, but surprisingly, not from the part of the book that most people point to when talking about marriage. Whenever someone writes or preaches on marriage, you can almost bet that they’re going to open up the book of Ephesians to Chapter 5, the famous part of scripture where Paul encourages husbands to lay down their lives for their wives and wives to serve their husbands. Yes, there’s a lot of debate over some of the strong words in this passage, words like “submit” or “head.” But anyone who gives this passage a fair reading can’t deny that the marriage relationship is presented as a two way street, with each party (and I quote) “submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ.” (vs. 21).
But to simply read this “submitting” passage from Chapter 5 is like starting the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding after Toula’s makeover. You don’t know how she got there. These verses don’t tell us what happened to us, giving us the strength to submit to each other.
Let’s be honest. This “submitting” to one another is easier said than done. What about when the husband is being selfish or insensitive. Do wives have to submit to him then? What about when the wife is nagging or backbiting? Do husbands have to love them “as they love their own bodies” then?
That’s really hard!
So what’s the secret? Again, please, no one tell me, “You just need to try harder!” If that’s the case, Lori and I would have given up long ago. Because neither of us, no matter how hard we try, can serve, submit and love each other enough by our own efforts.
And that’s the key. We can’t do it on our own. We need “flove.”
The Source of “Flove”
So where do we get this strength or power to love and serve each other when our partner is acting like a turd?
We need to turn back and read a little bit earlier in Paul’s letter… a verse that might surprise you
Ephesians 5:18 (NIV)
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
People often use this verse to talk about drinking, and they neglect the most important parts of the verse: be filled with the Spirit! Paul is saying, stop filling yourself with these temporary pleasures that lead to mistakes we’ll regret—instead, let God fill us with his Spirit which will guide us and give us a new perspective.
This verse provides the source of the strength. If we want the power to submit to one another, we need to spend time with God so his Spirit fills us. As his Spirit fills us, we’ll have the strength to submit.
That’s “flove.” Think of Ben Kenobi telling Luke, “A Jedi can feel the force flowing through him.” When we stop trying to do it on our own, and allow the Spirit (not the force) to flow through us, that produces a pure love that isn’t thinking from a selfish, earthly perspective. It produces a love flowing from the Spirit—flove.
This concept is way bigger than just one verse—it’s all throughout scripture. If you flip back to Ephesians 4:22 and 23, you’ll hear Paul encouraging us to get rid of our old ways (the old sinful nature, vs. 22), and instead, let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes (vs. 23). He uses the same wording when he talks about God transforming us through the “renewing of our minds” in Romans 12:2.
This is foundational belief in Christ. It’s Gospel. It’s “I can’t do it on my own. I put my trust in you.” That’s when the Spirit takes over and produces “flove.”
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing magical about the word flove. I just made the word up because it was a catchy nomenclature for this Biblical concept. The key is where it comes from and what it can do for you.
Flove can change your marriage. It changed mine. But flove is also bigger than marriage. Flove can change all our relationships. When we go back to this “filled with the spirit verse” we also see a slightly bigger picture than just the context of marriage. Marriage is just one area of our life where we allow God to fill us so we can submit to one another. That’s why this marriage passage is followed by instructions about kids submitting to parents, and even slaves submitting to masters. Paul is helping us understand that when we allow God’s spirit to transform us, “flove” can transform our relationships.
It’s a simple concept. Give up. Let His love flow through us.
Then why is it so hard? Maybe it’s because it’s against our nature, against our culture, to just “give up.”
Lori and I gave up 21 years ago… and our marriage gets better and better each day.