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Love without an Exit Strategy: Paul Miller

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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February 14, 2023 5:15 am

Love without an Exit Strategy: Paul Miller

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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February 14, 2023 5:15 am

We’ve lost the definition of real love. But author Paul Miller has found the Bible’s brand of love—with no exit strategy—changes everything.

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I heard a quote the other day. I'm pretty sure it was Paul David Tripp who said, if you're disappointed in your marriage, it doesn't mean you have a bad marriage.

It means you're married. You know, he's getting at the point that, you know, we think if we're disappointed almost in anything, then we need to step away from that event, that person, and find, you know, life. And he was saying that's going to be part, we need to learn to love well. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. It's a part of every relationship. We will be disappointed, whether it be a work relationship, a friend relationship, a marriage relationship, we will be disappointed. And so I think our tendency is to run away from those relationships.

But man, when we step into them, we can grow deeper in our relationship with God and with our relationship with others. Yeah, and so we've got Paul Miller back in the studio to help us get over our disappointments in love. Paul, welcome back.

Thank you, Dave, and it's good to be here. Now, as you hear that, you know, the disappointment, we talked about it a little bit yesterday, that, you know, we can be disappointed and that's sort of the, talking about your J curve, you sort of die and there's hopefully a resurrection coming, how do we dig out of that? Because that's where a lot of us live is I get in a rut or I get in a disappointment and it could be a dating relationship, it could be a marriage, but I feel stuck. It's like, how do I dig out? What would you say?

Wow, there's so many ways to dig out. I mean, I would just practically begin with just prayer, you know. I mean, it sounds oversold and it's just a first reflex and longtime prayer. But just one little side comment, and this is the beauty of what we're going to talk about, this idea of hesed love, which is covenant love, and I'll explain that in a minute. But the whole idea of covenant love is that I am going to make a determination to love you regardless of how you respond to me.

It's really, I mean, what I've just probably described for some of you is like, oh, let's go climb Mount Everest tomorrow. You know what I mean? But bear with me on this. Like, I got this out of the book of Ruth and the book of Ruth, I would read it once a year and my tears would wet the pages because it was Ruth doing this covenant love where I was in situations where I was doing covenant love. And Ruth is so alone in that covenant. You know, she's so alone when she loves Naomi. No one's with her. Sorry, it chokes me up.

Abraham at least had wealth and, you know, and servants and he heard God. And Ruth has no voice. Her husband has died. Her husband has died.

Her mother-in-law, who she loves dearly, is a little on the cranky side. You know, I don't want to beat up on Naomi because she really is a wonder of her own version of hesed love. But she makes a determination to love this person come hell or high water. It's really amazing if you think of this idea of hesed love, and the word is all through the book of Ruth. And the whole book is about hesed love.

The Hebrew is actually, you're supposed to kind of cough when you say it's hesed love. But it's one way love, or I call it love without an exit strategy, where you're just going to love. And this is your glory. You know, what a beautiful thing that is. And if you have children, your children will eventually see that. It's really an absolutely lovely thing. And it's only something that can happen if the Spirit is in you and possesses you.

So I know this is impossible. But I love to paint pictures for people of these biblical pictures of love that is pristine. And so what we're hunting for, just back to, is we're hunting for the perfect marriage.

And what if the perfection, and I think we're all perfectionists, what if the perfection is not in how the marriage looks or feels, but is in your love? Explain that. What do you mean?

Yeah, describe what that means. It's in your love. Because I don't think we understand what you just said. It's like we are so immersed in, I feel love. Or what I'm getting back. I look like it's perfect, but what if the love was perfect? So if your spouse 10 times during the day, let's go with critical.

That's an easy, that's a very common one. Or as moody, you're praying for them, you're praying for yourself. Because you cannot do this without the Spirit of Jesus. You are gentle. When they're critical, you are listening.

When they are boastful, you're humble. We love the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace. Patience, kindness, goodness.

Faith, gentleness, and self-control. But they live in an environment of the fruits of the flesh. If you read Paul's list of the fruits of the flesh right before that in Galatians 5, it's this ugly soup of anger and witchcraft and adultery and slander and jealousy. So the fruits of the flesh exist in that world. We live in this world of evil. And so that's so interesting. I think about a home that's, you know, it's not peaceful.

There are a lot of arguments. Kids are up and they're sick and they're angry and the relationship is strained. You're saying in the midst of that stress or pain, or maybe you've lost a loved one. In the midst of that. Right. That's where the fruit of the Spirit come. That's right.

Yeah. And how we discovered that, you know, in our marriage. Having a disabled child for 40 years.

Losing a daughter four years ago to cancer. And who just shined with Jesus. And I had a very difficult boss for a number of years in ministry that just, I knew God had called me to that. It was very clear. But to work with him was to be constantly humbled.

And so learning to endure, because really what we're driving at is how do you endure in love? And we're living in a culture. If that was happening, people would say, I'm out. Right. I cancel you.

I cancel you. Yeah, I'm done. I mean, we talk about the broader council culture, but it's actually a whole way of relating. I mean, Jesus picks up hesed love in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.

Towards the end when he talks about how to love your enemies. And we don't have a sense of how incredible the Sermon on the Mount is, because we don't have a sense of how mean paganism was. I mean, paganism was just all about boasting and revenge and your tribe.

So I was like, what our world is going to. Yeah. And so the fact that you would actually love an enemy and care for an enemy and take that pack an extra mile. Here's a silly example. My wife likes a clean house. Okay.

And this is fairly recent. And she loves animals too. So we have two golden retrievers, one who's really very bad. We call them devil dog and angel dog.

You really do? Yeah. My wife came up with a name. His name is Tully. And so her nickname is Tulsifer. She would like me to say it, but a couple of nights ago, she doesn't like me to yell at Tully, but I heard her yell at him.

She was out at 5 a.m. taking him out. And he's just bad. I mean, he's not mean.

He's just bad. Tulsifer. Yeah, Tulsifer. Everybody who comes to the door, he has to give them a gift. Like one time, sort of his most unusual gift was he ran upstairs to Kim's bed when a plumber came to the door and pulled her bedspread off the bed and hauled it down the steps and presented it to the plumber. Because it's a retriever. Yeah, he's a retriever. He just retrieves.

Anyway, I lost track with my story. So your wife likes to keep a clean house. You get angel and devil dog running around dirtying up your house.

We had our floors redone, and it's raining. She wants me to wipe their feet when I've brought them in from a walk. I don't want to wipe their feet. I mean, I've been studying, and I wrote a lesson on the foot washing in John 13. But that's people, and that's Jesus. You know what I mean?

I was teaching on it, but that's one thing. You're going to wash devil dog's feet. And he fights you when you wipe his feet. It's not like normal. You know what I mean?

This is J-curve on top of J-curve. There's no resurrection in this. It's just this stupid dog. And so it took me two months.

And finally it broke through, and I thought, you know what? Jesus washed feet. I can wash these dog's feet.

I'd rather wash human feet than these dog's feet. And it takes, we're talking two minutes here. You know what I mean?

And so I now wipe the dog's feet, and it's actually been okay. You know what I mean? Once I took the cup. I was going to say, it's become like a worship moment for you. Yeah, it really becomes like a worship moment. Because you don't want to do it.

You don't even see the point in it, and so you're doing it unto Jesus. I remember when our kids were little. We have three boys, so I'm cleaning the toilet. Like, I have to do it every day because things are all over the place, and it's terrible. And so I can remember thinking, like, why do I have to do this? And I remember in that moment, I thought, I guess I could make it something that would be like dying to myself.

And it's your J-curve. He meets you down in the toilet, is what he does. Yes. I was counseling one couple a number of years ago, and they were having a lot of tension in their area. The husband was really angry, and as I kind of dove into it, he had a full-time job.

He was a teacher, and he was doing all the cooking, all the cleaning, and all the laundry. And she was hunting for a deeper relationship with Jesus. And I said, you'll discover Jesus at the bottom of the laundry basket. In other words, in that foot washing, in that cleaning of the urinal, that's where you'll find Jesus. And so many people want an experience of Jesus just like they want in their marriage.

They want an experience of love. But the route to closed fellowship, and that's why Paul calls it a fellowship of his suffering, that when you embrace that fellowship, whether it's the toilet or the dog's feet, it becomes a— The word there is that koinonia. It's actually a very strong business word, partnership.

It's a binding partnership. It actually picks up that idea of hesed love, of I'm binding myself to the object of my love, and I will love them no matter how they treat me. We're talking with Paul Miller about his book, A Loving Life, and I love the subtitle, In a World of Broken Relationships. And as you were talking, Paul, I thought it reminds me too of David, how he just confessed to God. In the Psalms, he'll just confess to God, why are you doing this? Or this guy is trying to kill me.

And the more he would just confess the truth, God, this is where I am, down in the depths of that, he would have this encounter with God, but you, God, but you, God. I feel like sometimes my pride keeps me from going there. Well, I feel like, as I'm listening, whether it's washing a dog's feet or the laundry basket, it's like the dogs haven't really done anything to me. They're a laundry basket. But when it's a spouse— Other than the fact that laundry baskets have a way of growing.

Yeah, they do, and overflowing, right? But I was thinking, you know, when you've been hurt by someone, like they've willfully done something, said something, acted in a way to hurt you, which a lot of us feel in marriage. You felt it with your boss at that time. That's where hesed love, that's where covenantal love, you have to access it in some way.

How do you access it? When the person you're supposed to love is the person that hurt you. It isn't some innocent bystander. I'm supposed to love this person who right now I do not like. Two or three things come to my mind.

One is just a very practical thing. In Jesus' teaching on loving your enemies, he does not mention dialogue. In other words, the normal thing to do is to have a dialogue with someone where there's speaking honestly back and forth to one another. With an enemy, everything you say, like that famous lawyer thing, will be used against you. So sometimes within a marriage or within relationship with your children or whatever, or friends or, you know, someone is either a low-level enemy or I call them temporary enemies.

So it's just wisdom from Jesus that when you're carrying the Roman soldier's pack, you don't talk with a Roman soldier about how oppressive Rome is. You know what I mean? So you pull back from honesty when someone has really gone into kind of enemy mode and really, really damaged you consistently or hurt you.

It's really, prudence needs to kick in. But then the other side, which we talked about in the last, is the faith side, is it takes energy to love. And where do you get that energy from is faith. And where do you get faith from and every believer is, you know, knowing the depth of God's love for you.

So you need to slow down the interior of life. What about the person that's saying, but I don't feel God's love for me. I don't even know if he loves me. Well, that's why I love the phrase, preach the gospel to yourself, because you actually just read scripture. You know, when I've discipled guys with sexual struggles, I want them to confess and then I just share some aspect of God's love with them. I want them to go through the pain of confession and the openness of that. But then the first thing that I want them to hear out of my mouth is the depths of God's love for them. Because they have forgotten that.

That's why they got into that. The gospel reshapes that interior narrative. But here's the third thing. And this gets back to hesed love, it really, really helps to just make these commitments that God's called me to this and I'm just going to stick it out. And again, there are many footnotes to this.

But in general, that needs to be the banner statement. Eventually with that one job, as I waited and endured in that very difficult job with a boss who was shunning me, but also needed me to run the work. He eventually, five years later, he passed away. And I actually found out, this is 25 years ago, that on his deathbed, he had said, I have sinned against Paul. So, I was at a restaurant and I just burst into tears. Oh, Paul, is that the point you talk in your book about a time that you felt totally betrayed to the point where you felt like you were suffocating?

Yeah, yeah, I felt I was suffocating. What happened in that moment that hit you that he knew that he had sinned against you? In your heart that made you cry. I had really, really loved my boss and he had returned my kindness and even my kindness in his honesty with, I mean, evil is too strong a word, but it was certainly in that area. He had responded to my blessing him with a kind of a curse and to have that, it was truth. And he had never done that before and I had faced terrible consequences in my life because of his shunning me.

Many of his coworkers and other friends had begun to pick up that shunning. So, I had felt the brunt of that and it was 25 years ago that this happened and it still, I still feel the consequences of this in my life. So, it was God wrapping a story up. I mean, it just, it was remarkable. Was there something about that he called it sin, that he was wrong? Did you feel justified?

Yes, that's right. And I think there's a, obviously we're justified in Christ, but it was just such a, yeah, yeah. He was righting a wrong that he had done. And that's actually a rare thing.

You know, when you turn the other cheek, not everybody comes back and apologizes to you. And how sweet that God probably knew that you needed that. Yeah. You wouldn't have had to have had it, but it was a gift to you.

Yeah. It was one of the things that when I was writing the book, A Loving Light on Ruth, it was one of the narratives that shaped my understanding hesed love. You know, this love without an exit strategy. And when you love that way, God meets you in that love the way he met Ruth. So, you know, when Boaz shows up in the field and he's heard all about Ruth and her love and her endurance and her commitment to endure in love. I mean, she's really basically committing herself to childlessness and never getting married, which is to be, in that culture, would be very shameful. So, when she binds herself to Naomi, she's doing hesed love. And it's really, she's, more than any other Israelite, she shows what God is like. So, God has to take this Moabite woman, who has certainly learned from Naomi about that kind of hesed love, she ends up teaching all of Israel how to love.

A foreigner. Yeah. I love your emotion. Like, I get emotional too. It makes me, because I've always loved the book of Ruth. Yeah.

But it makes me want to go back and read it now through your eyes. Yeah. Well, I'm thinking, you know, feeling the emotion of hesed covenant love, it makes me think God made us for that.

He really did. That's why we're emotional. It's in our soul. That's why when you go to a movie and you see covenantal love, at least I do, I weep. Yeah. It's like, that's in our human DNA. We long for it. That's why when we don't get it, it's so hurtful.

Because we were made for it. Yeah. And one of the principal shapes of hesed love is landing versus floating. And I'm always telling this to young men. Now, again, God does call some people to a life of singleness, and it frees you from ministry.

I'm not talking about that, okay? What I'm talking about is young men who are fearful of commitment, fearful of losing their freedom. They will never mature as people.

They'll stay at the level of sort of advanced video game pleasure seeking because it's only when you land. And what I mean by that is that to love someone, to do hesed love, which marriage is, you narrow your life down. It's a constriction. And all love involves that kind of constriction.

People are fearful of that constriction. But if you float through life on sort of this low level pleasure seeking, my next vacation, the next toy or whatever, then you will be a shallow person. You'll never mature. You'll never mature. And the maturity comes from, the broadening of the person's soul comes from when you narrow yourself down and you commit. And I'm going to love this one.

I'm speaking to young men still here. I'm going to love this one woman for the rest of my life. And I'm going to bind myself to them. Again, there's all kinds of footnotes to this, you know, abusive relationships.

And of course, it depends on what, you know, I think actually, I think people use that though as a cop out when just things get hard though. And I love the scripture you've used all throughout your books. You always have so much scripture. But I'm thinking of that, what you just said in that covenant of love, even Ephesians 4, 2, be completely humble and gentle. Be patient bearing with one another in love. 1 Peter 4, 8, above all, above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. You know, and notice in those two passages there, Paul in Ephesians and Peter in 1 Peter, they are perfectionists. The perfection is not in the situation. The perfection is not in the performance, but it's in your love. It's so otherworldly. It is otherworldly.

This is heavenly realm talk. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Paul Miller on Family Life Today. Paul has written a book called A Loving Life in a World of Broken Relationships. You can pick up a copy at And later on this week, we'll be joined by author Philip Yancey.

He has a book that's a memoir called Where the Light Fell. We'd love to send you a copy as our thanks when you partner financially with Family Life. You'll help more families hear conversations just like the one you heard today, conversations that point you to the hope found in Christ.

You can give at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Well, today is Valentine's Day, and so we need to ask ourselves some questions. How much time are you spending with your spouse? And what could your family look like if you spent intentional time this year pursuing the people you love the most?

Now, it could be inspiring when you look at that, or it could be eye opening. Well, one year, 500 hours, a lifetime of impact. Family Life has developed a resource called 500 Hours Together.

It's a one year marriage challenge. To learn more, you could go to the link in our show notes at Well, make sure you join us tomorrow where Dave and Anne talk again with Paul Miller about a heart-wrenching story of the loss of his special needs daughter.

He shares how he found revival in praying and suffering alongside her. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-20 22:59:18 / 2023-02-20 23:09:15 / 10

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