In effort to explain the difference between doing things for God (in order to get Him to like us) and doing things with Him (because He is with us and for us and loves us already), I talked about planning for a wedding anniversary.
[Full disclosure: I got the idea from a different version of this shared by John Piper years ago. I have no idea which sermon or I would link to it here.]
It went something like this…
Imagine me planning and executing a 20-year wedding anniversary for my wife because I felt like I needed to because it was my duty. Imagine the process it would take for me to plan an anniversary date if I felt like I needed to do it so that Katie wouldn’t be mad at me for doing nothing.
I call the florist and order flowers. The florist asks, “What’s the ocassion, Mr. Pearson?” I reply, “It’s our 20th wedding anniversary. I better do this to keep her happy. I know she likes flowers. It will be a nice touch.”
I call the restaurant and make reservations. The receptionist asks, “Is this a special occasion, Mr. Pearson?” I reply, “Yes. It’s our 20th wedding anniversary. This is her favorite place to eat. I am hoping if I do this, she will let me stay with her another couple of years. Maybe this will buy me a little more time.”
I go home with the flowers behind my back and ring the door bell. She comes to the door, I pull the flowers out and say, “Happy Anniversary, Katie.” I tell her I have made arrangements with a babysitter, made reservations at her favorite restaurant, and have packed her bags. I tell her to take a few minutes to change and that we are leaving in a few minutes. She says, “Why are you doing this?” And I say, “Because it’s my duty, Katie. It’s our anniversary. I’m supposed to, right?”
But what if the planning and executing went like this:
I call the florist and order flowers. The florist asks, “What’s the occasion, Mr. Pearson?” I say, “Ma’am, I have been married to the most amazing woman for 20 years. I am planning a weekend where I get to be with just her. Where I get to celebrate just her. Where I get to enjoy just her. She has loved me through incredibly difficult times, and she is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
I do the same thing with the receptionist at the restaurant.
I go home with flowers behind my back. I ring the doorbell. She comes to the door. I pull the flowers out from behind my back and say, “Happy Anniversary, Katie!” I tell her what I’ve done and what the plans for the weekend are. I tell her she’s got about half an hour to get ready before the babysitter arrives. She looks at me and says, “Why did you do all this?” My answer: “Are you kidding? What else would I want to be doing on a weekend like this? Where else would I want to be? Nothing makes me happier than spending a weekend with you. Just you!”
There is a certain air about me, depending on why I am doing what I am doing. Depending on why I do what I do, there is a sense of joy and peace and delight in one sense and a sense of drudge and duty and requirement in the other.
The person who is a living letter with the Spirit of God pouring love into their hearts will live with a sense of joy and delight, rather than a sense of duty and dread.
Preacher, you can maneuver this illustration to make it fit your situation with your spouse. Be creative. Liven it up when you set up each scenario. I have found people really connect with this.