Just as there are a myriad number of reasons why people get married, there are an infinite number of reasons to love. But in examining the biblical model, I’ve seen a consistent pattern of characteristics which are revealed in the life of husbands and wives. These characteristics form an impenetrable barrier that is impervious to destruction, deception, and the death of love. The three characteristics I believe are consistently revealed in a loving relationship are:
- The commitment of love
- The strength of love
- The endurance of love
What is it that sustains love?
How is it that love endures?
Where does one find an enduring love?
Who is capable of both giving and receiving that kind of love?
When is that kind of love revealed?
Why is it that not all know the depths of that kind of love?
These are questions I pondered, hoping to find answers that would transform me into the man God desires me to be; a man after God’s own heart. While I've not yet attained my goal of the upward call of Christ (Philippians 3:14), I press on because it is my hope and desire to hear Him say, “Well done!” (Matthew 25:21)
I believe these questions on love are necessary because they demand to be answered. They place us at a fork in the road where we must choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). Yes there are expectations from any kind of relationship, but expectations don’t always demand answers. Love demands answers. Love makes one accountable for what I choose to do. For two people in a casual relationship, they may have the fleeting thought of tomorrow, but there is really only today for them. Love requires two people to look into the eye of tomorrow and answer whether they see one another through that same lens.
I thought about something a married woman said to me about her neighbor who was home alone waiting for some guy to call her, “While my friend is waiting for a sign of commitment, my husband and I kiss again and say, I love you.” Love demands commitment, doesn't it? How could it be love otherwise? Commitment contains its own version of passion; it is the passion of endurance. If there is one thing that will test the measure and mettle of love, it is time. Time is the great equalizer, because it levels off all the excess and fluff; leaving you with only a foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11-13). Everyone has a foundation, but not all foundations endure. Without the ability to endure, love is only temporary. It is like a seed resting gently on the surface of the ground, only to be scorched by a blazing sun, blown away by a gust of wind, or plucked away by a scavenging bird. There are so many things that can exert pressure on a marriage that determines whether the love of a husband and wife can be sustained; it will not endure unless they are both committed to love, nurture and care for each other.
I was talking with a friend about the topic of love and I asked her, "Why is it a woman can love her child, be accepting and tolerant of her child, be patient with her child, be forgiving of her child, be understanding of her child, yet she seems so incapable of giving herself in these areas to her husband?" Her response was not only obvious, it was it was also honest and sincere. She expressed that there is the time and nurturing aspect between a mother and child that does not exist in the relationship between husband and wife. As I thought about her response, I realized how important it is for husband and wife to nurture one another. I don't mean from a parent/child concept, but an adult version of genuinely nurtured love.
Us guys don't give much thought to the concept of nurtured love, probably because we view it from a gender functional definition; but we guys need to be delivered from our archaic notions of love. We must be strong enough and committed in order to express our love in a way that nurtures our spouse. I believe this is true for some of you sisters out there as well. If you're not comfortable expressing love for your spouse through an attitude of nurtured love, then you need to get busy. Nurtured love of your spouse not only transforms you, it also transforms your spouse into someone who recognizes the quality, character, and value of love in their life because of you. Subtract you from the equation and what do I have? I'm like Adam all over again (Genesis 2:20, Genesis 2:18).
When two people grow old together in love, they’ve learned the lessons of endurance. It's easy to see that a husband no longer looks solely at the external appearance of his wife, who had such beauty as a young woman. His wife no longer sees a man with broad shoulders and ripped muscles. What they now see is not visible with the eyes, their love has exceeded the boundaries of physicality; they are no longer imprisoned by their perceptions. Perceptions are deceptive. Someone you see may not be who they really are, once you get below the surface of their exterior. It doesn't make them unlovable. At one time or another, those of us who say “Yes”, to the question, “Are you in love”, were indeed unlovable.
I'm going to personalize what I'm saying here because it will hopefully illuminate what I'm trying to say. When I talk about being unlovable, I don't mean to say that no one wanted to love me; I simply didn't make loving me an easy endeavor. For example, I wasn't an easy person to communicate with. I was suspicious and guarded about the motives of anyone who sought to learn about me. Now I use to tell myself this it was because I grew up in Chicago, a place where people turned out to be deceptive, manipulative, and envious. Now, I felt totally comfortable with members of my immediate family, but since we were all indoctrinated into an ideology of trust, I interpreted it to be mistrust. So while my grandmother taught me not to trust strangers, I expanded my scope to be inclusive of everyone; including to some degree her, my grandfather, mom, and brothers. I just didn't reveal what I was thinking or feeling to anyone. So loving me was difficult and challenging. I made it difficult because I constructed an emotional minefield and obstacle course for anyone seeking to get close to me. OK, that's my version of Truth or Dare!
I’ve come to realize that in love, you at some point stop looking merely at the external qualities of a person. This doesn’t negate that a beautiful woman isn’t desirable. I’ve never met a man that failed to acknowledge the beauty of a woman. I doubt that you’ll find a shortage of women that want a good looking man; but both men and women eventually give way to time. Time strips away those looks. We gain weight in places that expose us. We lose hair in the most visible part of our appearance, and we find those follicles growing in unwanted areas of our body. Our faces begin to show the wear and tear of time and sometimes, the effects of how we have lived. I realize that over time, it becomes easier to look beyond the surface of who a person is, and love them for who they are. Those who realize this early in the marriage relationship are way ahead of the curve, because they know, “it’s not what's up front that counts”, “that image isn’t everything”, and “looking good, doesn’t make it good”.
When you love someone, you learn to look beyond their flaws, their frailties, and insecurities, and love them anyway; come rain, shine, hell or high water, you still love them. That's a love that endures. And it's not in a word, because words become shallow and forgotten. It's in a life committed to living with and loving someone. It doesn't mean they never get on your last nerve, because there will be times when they do, and believe it or not, you are just as capable of aggravating them. In spite of that nerve-wracking aggravation, you're still, loveable old you. Maybe you'll evolve and become less of a pain, but you're still loved in spite of it; and that's the really cool thing about love, it endures.
A lot of things fail in this life. Cars break down, food spoils, memberships expire, and things sometimes just need to be replaced, but love hangs in there. Love doesn't give up, and love won't wear out. Long before Eveready ever started their advertising campaign with that bunny, some guy, in love with some girl, sat in an advertising strategy meeting, as he and others tossed out ideas for a client. As he sat there thinking, he thought about the fact that despite all the grief he’d given his wife over the years, she somehow managed to hang in there with him. How many times had he forgotten her birthday or their anniversary? How many evening dinners had he missed because he chose to work late? When would he keep that promise to take her on that trip she always talked about? She didn't give up on him, she didn't give out, and she kept going and going and going. Suddenly, he jumps to his feet realizing this woman loves him unconditionally, and he’s so excited because he knows what to tell his client. All eyes are on him, watching this man make a fool of himself, imitating a bunny with an inexhaustible supply of energy. He looks at the client and says, “Eveready Batteries…they keep going and going and going…”
The client sits there quietly, as silence envelopes the conference room. He looks at this man, waving his arms, and twirling around in circles and says, “I love it!”
When he arrives home, he wants to tell his wife how much the client loved his idea for a new ad campaign, but as he opens the door, she’s standing there smiling. He looks in her eyes and sees a reflection of himself, but behind that reflection is a woman with a love that endures. He realizes that she is his inspiration, her life is wrapped up in his; they are one because love endures.
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).|