Once upon a time, I fell in love. My dreams, fueled by many great tales of love, were finally coming true. With great anticipation, I walked the aisle as a bride to give my hand and heart to my husband. It was a new beginning, a tale yet untold, and the promise of great things to come.
There have been many wonderful moments through the years but, as with any story, challenges occur. The covenant made at the alter is often tried and brings a deeper level of understanding that love truly is a choice. Choices can be hard to make. Promises are significant because they are not easy to keep.
Over a cup of coffee I shared my heart with a godly woman who has walked the marriage road longer than me, “My husband and I love each other, but does it ever get any easier? I want it to be like it was at the beginning when we fell in love.” She replied, “Marriage is a process where we learn to love the other.”
I pondered her words for several days. One morning I read from the book of Philippians a passage that said, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… [He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:3-4, 7a).
God gave me clear understanding that day. “Falling in love” is as thrilling as the birth of a newborn. But, just as a baby changes, love begins to look different with the passing of time.
The focus of “falling in” or even “being in” love is typically about… me. I’m thinking about what I want, how I feel, and what is best for me. It’s love in infancy and can be, frankly, a rather selfish stage.
“Learning to love the other,” however, forces a shift in focus from inward to outward. It brings about growth and maturity. Instead of fixating on my wants, the goal is to treat my spouse as I would want to be treated. I must work to love him in such a way that he feels cherished. It means being quick to forgive. I strive to empty myself and do what is best for him.
Sound unrealistic? It is until Christ changes the heart! The more time that I spend in the Bible, the deeper understanding God gives of how undeserving I am that Christ would love and give Himself for me. I am forgiven much but God grants mercy every day! This comprehension transforms me in such a way that it radically alters the way I love my spouse! How can I not give what I so freely received?
I am finding that one of the most revolutionary things I can do in marriage is to acknowledge what a great sinner I am and how it is my sin that so often gets in the way! Humility is hard to practice because it doesn’t come naturally, but God works in amazing ways when we humble ourselves before Him and others!
My prayer is that God will help me learn to love my husband well. He gives plenty of opportunities to practice! There are many times I fail but, even then, God is working to make me more like Him. And that, friend, changes marriages in ways that are nothing short of miraculous.
Maybe you’re reading this while deeply hurting in your marriage. Maybe you feel unloved. Maybe you’ve lost hope that change could ever happen. Hold fast. God knows. He is the loving shepherd of our hearts. I can’t tell you how God might work in your spouse, but I can promise one thing: If we want to experience a deeper love in our marriages, it starts with asking God to change us. We can trust our hearts with the one who calls us “Beloved.”
As a child of the King, it with great anticipation that I begin each day as a bride who gives her hand and heart to her husband. Learning to love as I am loved by my Father, each day is a new beginning, a tale yet untold, and the promise of great things to come.
“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3:16,18