“If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love.” – Oswold Chambers
I have had the blessing of loving and being loved by two husbands, Matt and Michael. I’ve learned a lot about love and marriage, but one thing is certain: I don’t always love well. During the time that Matt had cancer, and even more after he died, I spent countless hours reflecting on my failings as a wife. Why couldn’t I love him the way it is described in 1 Corinthians 13? Why did I have to be so self-seeking, easily angered and downright rude?
After months of regretting myself, I began to realize two things. 1) I was so focused on my self-loathing that it was becoming a distracting form of worship, and 2) I felt a sense of responsibility to change my ways, not only for the sake of my second marriage, but also to share what I’ve learned so that others might come to appreciate and honor the spouses they have chosen, without having to live through a horrific experience in order to gain a clear perspective.
Love is thrilling, especially when it’s new (a time when we often confuse love with lust). But love isn’t merely a feeling… it is a constant, proactive action and reaction to those we claim to love. The redundancy is intentional. Early on, it’s easy to demonstrate our love in every thought, word and action. Our reactions are tempered and gentle. It comes naturally to put our best foot forward to woo the one who has caught our eye.
But after 8 or 15 or 20 or more years of marriage, we have to be proactive in our love for our spouse! We even have to be proactive in our reactions! In other words, prepare yourself for the fact that your spouse is imperfect. Be ready to react in a way that might just surprise him/her. Don’t get pissy. Don’t yell. Don’t give the silent treatment. Don’t turn your back and walk out of the room (this is my personal favorite). Go back to the days of ‘tempered and gentle’. Prepare yourself for the fact that the success of your marriage has a lot to do with how you react to the imperfections of your spouse. In equal measure, success also has to do with how you proactively behave toward your spouse.
If we can make it our goal to have a 1 Corinthians 13 or a “1C13″ love in our marriage, we can actually maintain the thrill of love in our marriages! You’ve heard these verses read a thousand times at weddings, maybe even your own, but have you really listened and made a conscious effort to love this way? Here’s a link to the verses…
To back up just a bit, the real key to the whole thing is this: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Get that! God, who, by the way, is love, is also unfailing, perfect and forgiving in his love for us. He knows everything about us… every hideous thing… and he never stops loving us. A bit humbling, would you agree? If you do, then you must make every effort to demonstrate it in your marriage and in every relationship. Easier said than done, I know!
Being intimately known by another person is scary. Your spouse knows your annoying quirks. He/she knows you ugly and nasty, and loving and tender. The gift of love comes when despite being known, you are still loved. Herein lies the one of the secrets of marriage… if we commit give love (God) in spite of our spouses daily failures and shortcomings, we will succeed in marriage. If we pursue our own interests instead of love, we will fail. It’s really simple. “Love never fails.” Ha! Except when we twist it, and bend it to suit us. Then it leads to disaster! Don’t be fooled. I know lot’s of lonely married people who have decided that love means staying together by staying out of each others way. Tragic.
Giving away a genuine 1 Corinthians 13 (“1C13″) love, is something that I believe will more often than not, be returned to us. Stew in that for a while. Make a real attempt at it and see what happens. Marriages go off the rails, when we focus on the “failings” (or more appropriately, how we’ve been let down) of the other person, rather that focusing on how well we are loving God and our spouses. Write a love letter to your spouse, (or your parents or your sister or your friend) and sign it with, “1C13 Love,”. Put a post-it note on the fridge. Post it on Facebook. Make this part of your thinking so when you are tested, you are ready!
I’ve made plenty of mistakes. But thankfully, I am being transformed by them. I try to demonstrate this by moving forward through faith to give purpose to my experiences. My daily hope and prayer is that I would reflect a life lived in the unfailing, perfect love, of a God who forgives, appreciates, and guides us in finding purpose for the time we are given. I’m in constant pursuit of this, but every time I fail, I’m thankful that I married and am loved by Michael, a man who demonstrates 1C13 love for me even on my worst day.
I’ve given you a lot of verses you could memorize, but my memory verse for today is the one that Matt chose for our wedding day October 9, 1992. I didn’t fully understand it then. Today, it makes perfect sense:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5