When I first thought about this theme of Love, I instantly thought about marriage. My husband, Steve, and I went on a faith-based “Engagement Weekend” through our church before getting married. It was a weekend full of discussing topics and sharing thoughts to set us up for a successful marriage. One of the things I remember most from that weekend was the repeated message of “Love is a decision”. We would have to wake up each day and make that decision. It wasn’t just a given, or an automatic feeling, and that decision would be tested repeatedly. Over our 19 years of marriage, I’ve learned that loving is harder to do some days than others. That decision to love my partner in marriage isn’t always based on my current feelings at the moment. I’ve had moments of frustration where I just want to give up and throw in the towel. The decision to love is a commitment. An unconditional acceptance for my spouse and an ongoing decision to be loyal to one another in the midst of both the good and the bad.
Through my reflection on Love, I began to go back through some old books and love letters from when we first got married. Taking a moment to think through some of the wisdom hidden within the pages, it was an enlightening experience. These are words from 20 years ago, but they still ring true for me today. One of the reading excerpts was from a book by John L. Thomas called Beginning Your Marriage. It discussed the very ideas of loyalty, faithfulness, and permanence being under attack. Even in 1994 when the book was written, the author referenced the rapid change in the world and how our society offers us instant everything, creating a sense of anxiety or irritation when we are forced to wait. That feeling of anxiety fuels impatience and intensifies, even more so in today’s world I believe, where everything is available online with just a click. The idea of “new” being better than “old”, “improved” over “proven”, and “current” outshining “traditional”.
I think the expectation of instant gratification, whether it’s from receiving what we want off Amazon or getting immediate responses through texts, are just a few ways “instant everything” is spoiling us. Like me, I’m sure you’ve had those moments where you’ve wondered, “Why hasn’t he responded to me yet?!” We often get impatient when we have to wait for an answer, whether from the Lord or within our personal relationships. I think that these “instant everything” examples definitely challenge the idea of permanence, weaken loyalty and faithfulness, and increase our irritation with one another. Don’t you think this translates to our marriages as well??
John L. Thomas also stresses “the idea of unconditional acceptance necessary for faithful marriage places a couple in a very special relationship to God. It is God’s own nature to love without limit.” Think about it..He sent his only son to die for us so that our sins may be forgiven. We are reminded how much God loves us so many times throughout the Bible. We see in Romans 5:8 (NIV):
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Thinking of my own marriage, isn’t God calling me to love my spouse in this same way?? It may seem like an impossible task sometimes, but through my faith in my Father, it is made possible. I have truly seen how our “decision to love” each day has developed trust in our relationship. It has created permanence and comfort so we can relax in the joy of each other, instead of constantly feeling that we are being put to the test. There is no stress that our love for one another has to be proven daily, over and over again. It creates a sense of security, which we all yearn for.
I found a book that my friend, Ashley, gave to Steve and I on our wedding day. The bible verse she wrote on the inside cover drove this home for me even more….
“And more than all, have love; the only way in which you may be completely joined together.”
Looking back, I can see that as the chapters of life continue, the decision to love becomes all the more complicated and, as any marriage, ever-evolving. I often think about how our hearts can love so much. We give our whole heart to someone we love and it doesn’t seem possible to love anyone else to that degree. Yet, children come along and your heart grows as you love each child with your full heart, an amount of love that cannot be explained. It is limitless… just as God’s own love for us. And how amazing His love for us is!
”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NIV)
Can you imagine that amount of love? God gave up his only son and Jesus obeyed and died on the cross for us….that is a greater love than I can ever imagine.
“See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are!”
1 John 3:1 (NIV)
As a child of God, I am so grateful that Jesus died on the cross for me so that my sins could be forgiven. I fail many days in handling the challenges of parenthood with the grace and mercy that Jesus exemplified. No matter what my crazy kids do, I still love them. God loves us just like that as well! He forgives us and extends to us his grace and mercy… NO MATTER WHAT! Isn’t it incredible that we don’t have to second guess that love or spend our days trying to earn it?!! At times we stray away like lost sheep, getting caught up in the busyness of life and instant gratification. It is a daily decision to love God, make time for him, and show obedience so we can become more like Jesus. Out of that love for God, and to please our Father, we choose to love and serve others, immerse ourselves in His word, and spend time in prayer. This does take discipline and focus though. Our commitment to loving God will be tested and we have to remain steadfast. One of my very favorite bible verses is Corinthians 13:13 (NIV),
“The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.”
Love is the greatest of all virtues because God IS love. By learning to love better or more deeply, we become more like Jesus. Let us remember to make the decision to love every day, even when it is difficult. God commanded us to “love thy neighbor as we love ourselves.” I pray each day that the Holy Spirit leads us to love like Jesus… whether it is within our marriages and families, with our enemies, or even with strangers on the street. May we strive to be diligent in faith, visionaries of hope, and to make the decision to act in love every day.
Thomas, John L. Beginning Your Marriage. ACT Publications, 1994.