Recently I came across an exceptional article focusing on spiritual health written by Dr. Allan Handysides, Director of the General Conference Department of Health Ministries. What a perfect topic for this month’s Journalwith its emphasis on revival. He kindly agreed to write an article for us with a similar theme but with special focus on relationships as we women understand them. I’m sure you will find his message helpful, practical, and enjoyable, too, as you catch some insights into his love relationship with his wife, Janet.
Thank you, Dr. Handysides!
Rae Lee Cooper
Take birthdays, for example. I went home to the farm many years ago, and there was a lovely birthday cake on the table. “Wow!” I exclaimed. “What a great cake! Whose birthday is it?”mnot sure about you, but sometimes I get preoccupied. My mind focuses so intently on something that I can tune a person out without trying. It’s a wonderful attribute when I need to get something done (like writing this article), but it’s a major hazard when it comes to relationships.
“It’s for Janet,” they replied. That was wonderful except that Janet is my wife, and this was June 9, her birthday was June 6, and I had completely forgotten.
I have also been known to forget my own birthday, and I’ve been surprised by friends taking me out for lunch and wishing me a happy birthday! But to forget my wife’s birthday? Mind you, I only did it that one time because I felt so ashamed afterward—and I’m telling this story now as an act of contrition. My wife never, ever brings this story up; she doesn’t have to. Like David, I feel my sin is “ever before me.”
Incredibly, about 10 years ago, I nearly repeated my mistake! I had purchased a bottle of perfume for Janet’s birthday and hidden it in my briefcase. We were in Montreal to get our green cards, and when June 6 came around, I was all set—except my mind must have been preoccupied with something else. On the way back from the embassy, it dawned on me: “Today’s the day!” Impulsively, right there on the street, I grabbed Janet, wished her a happy birthday, gave her a big kiss, and then dragged her to the perfume counter of a department store where I bought her another bottle of perfume.
We were laughing and joking at the cosmetics counter, and the young lady working there looked at us wistfully and asked, “Could I ask you something personal?”
“Sure, you can ask,” I said, “but we won’t necessarily answer!”
“Are you two newlyweds?”
We laughed. “Yes! Only 35 years married!”
She replied, “You look so happy and so content; I thought you must have just been married.”
Our spiritual relationship is like our marriages. From time to time, it also needs a wake-up call. There is a grave danger that we can become preoccupied. Our preoccupation can be with very legitimate things, even church work! After all, when I work so hard, I’m doing it for “the cause.” I’m not gazing with doe’s eyes at another woman. I have no thoughts about romance with anyone else but Janet, but the daily grind does wear one down. In our spiritual lives, it’s possible to get ground down, too.
When Ellen G. White wrote, “The greatest need of the church is a revival of true godliness,” I suspect her emphasis was as much on the godliness as on the revival, though both are necessary if the statement is to make sense. It’s important for me to listen—yes, to listen to Janet with both ears and be engaged with my brain.
A friend told me last week that he had his hearing checked and it was fine. His wife told him she knew he could hear, but could he listen?
For marriage to escape the tedium and humdrum existence of the mundane and ordinary, a couple has to communicate. For there to be a spark of freshness and newness, there must be the unexpected, the surprise, the out-of-the-ordinary. Flowers for no special reason a gift because Janet is Janet. A hug, a squeeze, a kiss, a cuddle—because Janet is Janet.
In our spiritual lives, Bible study and prayer are equivalent to listening and communicating. Sometimes, like the legalists we so intrinsically tend to be, we want to systematize our spiritual lives. Our leaders prescribe, in the old Methodist tradition, a plan for our spirituality. This is a wonderful idea, but the great food of an institutional cafeteria becomes despised, not because of its taste (or lack thereof) but because of its repetitive sameness. A revival may have us up at 4:30 a.m., reading and praying, but there has to be a true godliness in the revival for it to be meaningful. True godliness is far more than disciplined Methodism. True godliness comes from an exquisite, focused adoration, a sustained and sustainable living together, a relationship, a romantic fixation on the object of our love. That’s what makes it sustainable.
Janet is my soul mate, my daily companion. She knows my thoughts and can finish my sentences. She senses my highs and lows, as I do hers.
Jesus wants us to be His “bride.” No wonder the Old Testament is full of matrimonial examples of the relationship God wants with us. He wants to draw us to Him, to give us a hug, to run His ideas by us, to be involved in our daily routine. That’s why a revival has to be more than a prescription; it has to be a lifestyle.
As I write this article, it’s 5:30 a.m. “Good morning, Jesus,” I’m thinking as I write. “Today I’ll have this piece delivered to Rae Lee for the magazine. It’s three days past the deadline, but did I get the message right? Is there more you want me to say, Jesus?”
“Tell them I love them,” I hear Him saying. “I don’t want a mechanical set of behaviors. I want their happiness. I want their joy to be complete. I want to be their friend.”
So, dear reader, I’m passing on the message. I have found that Janet responds so well to a hug, a compliment, or a kiss given for no other reason but that I love her. I think Jesus would like the same—a wave, an acknowledgement, a smile—all through the day. He said, “Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it unto Me.”
A revival of true godliness will be exemplified as much in our caring, our loving, and our living as in anything else. It’s little acts of random kindness, given like the love of God with no strings attached, that count.
Try giving the checkout cashier a little bar of chocolate. Pay for the car behind you at the toll booth. When asked why, say, “It’s free, no strings attached—just like God’s love.” Then move on. It’s the little things that make the marriage. It’s the little deeds that show we love God. It’s not the sermons I preach or the columns I write; it’s the little kindnesses and the little talks with Jesus that revive my relationship with Him.
How great it would be if people were to ask of your relationship with Jesus, “Are you two newlyweds?” That’s why we need a revival—every day and all day long!
“Lord, speak to me that I may speak in living echoes of Thy tone;
As Thou has sought, so let me seek Thy erring children lost and lone.
O lead me, Lord, that I may lead the wandering and the wavering feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed thy hungry ones with manna sweet.
O strengthen me, that while I stand firm on the rock, and strong in Thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand to wrestlers with the troubled sea.”1
1 Excerpted from Frances Ridley Havergal, “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak,” emphasis supplied.