Learning to Love, Part 4
“Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
I thought I understood how to love my spouse when I said “I do” in 1977. But I discovered I didn’t know much about love at all. The task was far more comprehensive than my little girl Cinderella fantasies had ever imagined. Nothing about our marriage looked like a fairy tale, and we had seasons of doing almost everything wrong.
When we married as teenagers, I didn’t know:
- that love is hard work,
- that love is comprised of a series of deliberate choices to do the kind thing rather than to simply choose what we each want,
- or that love endures much hardship during a lifetime.
“For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” is part of the vow because these comprise real life. I knew this intellectually when we married. Now I know it experientially.
Things may get bad and never get better. We may become poor or never gain wealth. At some point we will get sick and never regain our health.
Will we remain committed to one another through all of that? Do we promise?
During your life together, your spouse may change political parties, gain a hundred pounds, lose all her hair, become chronically ill, tell others about the intimate details of your sex life, become a porn addict or alcoholic, break the law, go to jail, never truly understand you, cling to rotten communication habits, prove to be a bad parent, or cheat on you with your best friend.
There’s no way to know. If you’ve been around a while, you already know people who have experienced each of the items on that list.
Then there are the challenges of aging. Unless we die young, we will grow old.
You’ll be annoyed with him. He’ll be annoyed with you. The two of you will converse through the bathroom door.
“What did you say?” he will holler.
“I said, ‘What did you say?'”
“What did you say?” you will holler back.
“I said, ‘What did you say?'”
“Oh good grief! Why don’t you listen?”
“Why don’t you…Never mind.”
A sense of humor and a foundation of committed love held by both is essential.
It boils down to this: Are you willing to attempt to believe the best of this other flawed human being, to remain faithful to him, and to place him ahead of your own desires?
And is he willing to do the same?
Do you promise? Do you really mean it? Will you keep this promise until you die?
This is a sacred vow and a terrible risk. Only God can get you through doing it, and only God can get you through your partner not doing it.
If you mean it, and your partner says she does, too, when she really doesn’t, you will be hurt more deeply than you’ve ever been hurt in your life. Likewise, if you make this vow but then you break this covenant, you will have committed the most grave and treacherous betrayal of your entire life.
This promise is deadly serious. Will you keep your word?
God intended only death to end this relationship. He intended no unfaithfulness to sever any marriage. There are few legitimate reasons for ending a marriage. Therefore, if both of you are not firmly and soberly committed to Christ, don’t risk it. Don’t marry.
Only Jesus actively working within each of your lives will keep your marriage together.
But there are no guarantees. It only takes one to harden his or her heart, stop listening to God, and destroy your marriage. Only Jesus actively working in your life will enable you to survive if your spouse walks away.
You need Jesus. We all need Jesus.
Therefore we must strive to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our spouses as ourselves. Otherwise, we will be the ones who break the marriage.
The primary relationship in your marriage is between Jesus and you. This is the essential truth that changes everything and makes this possible.
When I married I didn’t know this. Christ first.