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Learning to Love Extravagantly

By Marita Littauer
Guest Columnist -- While writing Celebrate Your Path, a chapter in Youve Got What It Takes about the value of a mission statement, I looked at my own life. I had a defining statementthemefor my professional ventures, but I did not have a personal one. I knew how valuable my professional statement was, so I could see the importance of a personal oneeven recommending this to my readersbut I did not have one myself. I mulled this over for several days, focusing on the need for a personal purpose statement, the path of my personal life.

At the time I was attending a womens Bible study on the book of Ephesians. As part of my preparation for the study, I would read the assigned chapter in several different versions of the Bible. One night I read Ephesians 5 in The Message. I wasnt looking for a personal mission statement, although it was still in the back of my mind. I was simply preparing for the lesson the next day.

Marita Littauer & Chuck NoonBut as I read, this verse jumped out at me and I instantly knew it was my personal pathat least for now; Observe how Christ loved us. His love is not cautious but extravagant. He didnt love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that (v. 1). As I read that, I knew that my personal mission is to love my husband with extravagance, not to get, but to give everything of myself. As I cook breakfast or dinner, as I do the dishes, as I do the laundry, I can give something of myself, not expecting to get in return. My husband has had a rough time in the last year. He has not been in a place to be able to give much. But I am. I wrote that verse on my bathroom mirror to remind me of my mission.

I find that I have to frequently repeat this verse to myself, as it is contrary to my human nature. As Glenn T. Stanton says in his book Why Marriage Matters, The depth and quality of love can only be sustained by a conscious act of will; it never simply happens.

Shortly after embracing this idea of loving extravagantly, I had to put it to the test. Chuck has a large radio-controlled model airplane that has been a part of his life for over thirty yearshe started building it when he was sixteen and finally finished it twenty-five years later. We have painstakingly moved it from house to house. He has too much of himself invested in it to risk flying it. With a five-foot wingspan, you cannot just tuck it any place. In our current home it hangs near the peak of the cathedral ceiling in the family room. Bright red with Red Baron-like decals, it is sure to be noticed. Since it is important to Chuck, I have accepted it as a conversation pieceand you can be sure it is! It has traveled with us to eight different houses.

Recently he took the airplane to a model airplane show. He spent hours cleaning off the accumulated dust that had firmly attached itself to every surface. The plane was very popular at the show, and he discovered how valuable it really is. Before he put it back on its hook, he wanted to protect it. So he covered the body and wings with plastic dry cleaning bags, advertising and all.

I like my home to look like a showplace; even having the airplane there is an act of compromise and love. Having it covered with baggy dry cleaning bags with words on them went too far. Ill never be able to entertain again! I wailed to him. After my outburst, which I knew was an overreaction, I went outside and trimmed my roses. As I took a deep breath, love extravagantly came to mind. Does it really matter if the airplane has bags over it? What is more important, that my husband be happy or that I have a lovely home? Hmm ... that was tough. Love extravagantly, I told myself. I came back in and apologizedready to accept the dry cleaning bags. Meanwhile, he had decided that I was right and it really was ugly. He had taken the plane down, removed the dry cleaning bags, and was replacing them with clear plastic wrap that clings tightly to every horizontal curve and doesnt even show!

Ah, the power of a personal mission statement: not cautious but extravagant, not to get but to give. What changes do you need to make to love your spouse extravagantly? Make it your personal purpose statement. Love extravagantly.

I told this story in Youve Got What It Takes, and I include the story every time I speak on that book. Repeatedly after I share the story, people tell me that love extravagantly is what they needed to hear.

The first time I shared it I was speaking at a womens conference in Oregon. At the end of the day, a woman came up to me and said, Out of everything that has gone on here today, love extravagantly is what I am taking home with me. I thanked her and smiled. I realized I had hit upon something that wasnt just important to me; it resonated with my audiences. I shared the same message with a group of women in Phoenix. At the end, an older woman came up to me and said, What you shared about loving extravagantly was for me. She explained that her husband was terminally ill and she was his caretaker. She needed to remember to love extravagantly.

After hearing the love extravagantly story at a womens conference, a woman sent me the following e-mail:

"Brad has given me an opportunity to love extravagantly!!! While I was at the conference, he must have gotten bored, because he decided to take all of his old LPs out of their box in the garage, along with his old turntable. The turntable has replaced our cassette deck on top of the stereo in our living room (for all to see), and his albums are stacked in the hall. Im not talking five or ten or even twenty-five albumsIm guessing there are at least two hundred or more (I dont have the heart to count). They are not something you can pretend to overlook. So ... before I called him at work to ask how long they would be sitting there, I decided to love extravagantly, as you have challenged me to do, and not say a word.

As I continue to speak on the message of Youve Got What It Takes, Ive found the need for the love extravagantly principle to be universal. What began as a small part of my previous book has grown into a book of its own. On the following pages you will see snapshots of many marriages and how following Christs examplenot to get but to give, not cautious but extravagantcan make a significant difference. From their examples, you can apply the same ideas to your own marriage and expect similar results. With all the changes in todays family structure, couples need something more than just love to make their marriages work. They need to love extravagantly!

Related Articles:

It's Not Fair

Looking For Better Opportunities

Order your copy of Love Extravagantly: Making the Modern Marriage Work

More from Marita Littauer

Marita LittauerMarita Littauer is a professional speaker with over twenty years of experience. She is the author of ten books including Love Extravagantly:Making the Modern Marriage Work, and You've Got What It Takes. She is the president of CLASServices Inc., an organization that provides resources, training, and promotion for speakers and authors.

Excerpted from: Love Extravagantly: Making the Modern Marriage Work by Marita Littauer & Chuck Noon
Copyright 2001, Marita Littauer
ISBN: 0764222767
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.

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