In marriage, love is easy to give when you’re getting it back. Are we still called to God’s plan of how to love when we’re getting none in return? What’s the outcome when we dare to follow God’s audacious outline for love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 even in the face of adultery and divorce? What happens if we take God at his word and assume the love chapter was really meant to be followed literally word by word?
Bible Gateway interviewed Shauna Shanks (snshanks) about her book, A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage (Zondervan, 2017).
How did you react when you were blind-sided by your husband, Micah, telling you he didn’t love you anymore?
Shauna Shanks: At first I thought he was joking. I had no idea he was that unhappy. He said he wasn’t attracted to me anymore and he asked me for a divorce that night.
When it started sinking in, I couldn’t stop crying. I tried to answer him softly and change his mind but it became obvious he had planned this. His mind was made up and my crying seemed to make it worse.
In my desperation I turned to God and begged him to give me peace. I have three children, whom at the time were little and they would need me to get up with them in a few hours. I begged God to give me one thing to focus on, so I could calm down and have peace. He answered me with the words hope and endure.
What did those words mean to you?
Shauna Shanks: Immediately I thought of 1 Corinthians 13 because the words hope and endure are both in that passage. I actually resisted God at first over this chapter because it’s so well-known and easily recitable. It’s the love chapter!
Yet I was so excited that God spoke to me and I heard him, that I began studying it in every version I could find.
How did you respond when your husband told you he was having an affair?
Shauna Shanks: Well, it was two weeks after I had become obsessed with 1 Corinthians 13, so I’ll say I had an advantage to receiving this unwelcome news. By then I had already established what I end up calling a “Love Filter:” Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
If my actions, impulses, or responses to my husband didn’t match up with any one of the things on this list, I was challenged not to do them. I filtered my thoughts and actions using those verses as a guideline.
I remember sitting on the couch with Micah in the middle of the night. He stumbled around with his words a bit before quietly admitted he was having an affair.
Love is patient, I reminded myself. Be patient. Love is kind, I remembered. Be kind.
I responded gently to him that night, because of my list. Love is a lot of things. I never knew it before as a discipline.
How did you work through the dark time?
Shauna Shanks: The love filter I was using might sound restricting, but this list was liberating. I didn’t have to be a slave to emotions at this time. Feeling like I had no control over my husband’s feelings or my own marriage felt defeating. But it felt victorious that regardless of what he was doing, I could guard over my own thoughts and actions.
2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive. This was another discipline I learned in this season. There was plenty of depressing, worrisome, emotionally tormenting thoughts I could entertain that, if left unattended, would steal my peace every day.
But when I learned I could take those destructive thoughts captive, this was a game-changer. I do think because I didn’t re-play all of the bad things that happened in that situation over and over, I was able to begin healing.
Philippians 4:8 says, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
I guess I like lists! I also used this as a guide to monitor what stayed in my brain or not. For example, my mind would try to tempt me to dwell on the affair, but thinking about it had the opposite effect of the words I found in Philippians 4:8.
I think in my desperation, I began viewing the Bible as more than beautiful poetry or mere suggestions, and started taking them as literal commands.
What’s the meaning of the book’s title?
Shauna Shanks: To me, it’s about the fierce love of God. If he loves us according to the measure that’s recorded in 1 Corinthians 13, then it’s the fiercest, most unrestricted, illogical, wild, engulfing love and I found it freeing.
There’s so much cushion for my failure. There’s enough grace to swallow you whole. I kind of felt like my marriage collapsing was one big giant object lesson for God to teach me that if I—being a mere, flawed, human—am capable of loving my husband in this way, how much more does God love me? I felt like he was giving me a taste of his divine love, and I just got a glimpse of it, and it was life-changing. I mean, here I am, four years later, with a book about it, and still ranting on and on about the love of Jesus.
How did your husband respond to you in that season?
Shauna Shanks: At first I think he was annoyed because he thought the divorce would be mutual; quick and painless, and he could get on with his new life. But after a while, he knew there was no way I was just in denial. I should have been crazy, angry, defensive. But the Love Filter prohibited me from acting on those impulses—and he definitely noticed.
As much as I knew I was being empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow that tough list of rules, he knew it too; and I think, when you see God clearly showing up, you do take notice.
Why did you decide to be publicly vulnerable in recounting your story in this book?
Shauna Shanks: My husband and I are still stunned by that whole season, honestly. We got a front row seat to experience grace, forgiveness, redemption, and the goodness of God in such a personal and powerful way.
We don’t feel like that’s our story. The story of grace and redemption is free for every believer; every human. We can learn deep spiritual truths either by experiencing things ourselves—like my husband and I did—or by hearing someone else’s story in such a way the truth finally clicks. I hope the depths of God’s power and love click for people as they journey through the trenches with us.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Shauna Shanks: It’s funny I get to interview with you because when I began studying all the Scriptures used in the book, I did it on BibleGateway.com. I can easily look at all the versions that way. I like to mix and match versions to create a fuller list, just in case I missed anything. For example the NKJV translation of 1 Corinthians 13 includes (love is) “not provoked” and “thinks no evil” in it’s version.
I really struggled with doing these things literally in that situation. There were definitely days I felt my husband was “provoking me” and I wanted to “think evil.” Reading all the versions helps me to get a more in-depth feel for what I’m studying and helps the Scripture to come more alive in this way.
Bio: Shauna Shanks is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. She started Smallfolk, a health food café, out of her passion for health and fitness. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, with a focus on world missions. Shauna and her husband, Micah, who is a police officer, have been married for more than a decade, and they live with their three boys on an Ohio farm. Her website is www.shaunashanks.com.
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