When you travel a lot, you eat in restaurants a lot. And so I’ve seen my share of waiters and waitresses – some who do a good job, some whose service leaves something to be desired, and a few who are outstanding at what they do. You try to say a special thank you with a special tip for that kind of server, right? One example of stellar service: those servers who check regularly to see if you need more water, without being asked for it; who automatically check to see if you want ketchup or steak sauce or more bread or more anything. It just feels good when someone cares enough to anticipate what you might need.

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Loving by Anticipating.”

If anticipating your needs means something in a restaurant, imagine how much it means in a marriage! Actually I saw some married friends in a local restaurant, friends who have been married a long time. Based on some things he had said, I made this observation, “These sound like the best years you guys have ever had together.” He smiled broadly and said, “Yes, because after 40 years, I’m learning not just to meet her needs, but to anticipate her needs!”

That’s husbanding in keeping with what Jesus called the second greatest commandment of all … what James calls the “royal law” in James 2:8, our word for today from the Word of God. He writes, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you’re doing right.” We know how we love ourselves. We’re really good at that. We think ahead about our needs and we make sure we have a plan for taking care of those needs. Jesus teaches us to think that way about other people.

In the great marriage passage of Ephesians 5, God applies this kind of selflessness directly to how a man treats the woman he’s married to. He says, “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). Again, look after her needs as much as you would look after your own.

Some years ago, the Lord really spoke to me about coming home all full of my day, my concerns, my agenda, my needs. I learned to sort of, well I called it, ‘close my briefcase’ mentally on the way home so I could think through what was going on that day in the life of my wife, each of my kids. I did my best to try to anticipate what they might need from me when I got in the house. Not always, but more than I had. And to the extent that I did that, I found out that I was loving with anticipating love. I know the second Commandment is for wives, too. Of course we’re each supposed to be anticipating the needs of the other.

Anticipate the times that they’re going to need you physically to be there. Anticipate when your spouse will need help, or comfort, or intimacy, or reassurance, maybe extended debriefing time, or tenderness, when they need prayer together, or just some encouragement like praising small progress in an area where they’ve really been struggling. Usually, the love that really makes the other person feel loved means sacrifice on our part. But then, what did the cross teach us if it didn’t teach that real love almost always involves sacrifice.

Love is really at its best when it’s thinking about the other person; thinking about them enough to anticipate their need and to do all you can to meet that need. Actually, that’s loving like Jesus loves.