Today is Valentines Day. Love is in the air, cupid is flying around, and chocolate isn’t hard to find. I have spent 17 years with my sweetheart and each Valentine’s Day is a great reminder that I am blessed. I love my husband more today than all of the previous years combined. He is my best friend. He is hilarious. And he’s the best dad in town. But, after so long of being in love, reality smacks you in the face and a dozen roses can’t fix it. Somewhere along the way, the dust settles and the newness wears off and you are left with a choice. Learning to show God’s love when our love comes up short. Finding grace to give when you haven’t any to spare.
I don’t usually write on topics like love and marriage because I’m certainly not qualified or extremely mature in this area. I still have much to learn. But experience can be the best teacher, so after years of getting it wrong, I do have a few things to say. I remember knowing early on in our relationship that Josiah was the one. I loved everything about him and I couldn’t wait to start our life together. We were married young and I, for one, had unrealistic expectations of what marriage would look like. It wasn’t until several years ago that the Lord began to deal with me on this subject. For so long, I looked to my spouse to meet my every need. Sure, he did the dishes and folded the laundry. He was a great dad and a hard worker. But if he wasn’t meeting all of my emotional needs, nothing else mattered. If he didn’t constantly remind me of his love or display a certain amount of affection, I was crushed. And I was sure to tell him about it.
I can remember praying one day after feeling insecure and discouraged and the Lord began to show me just how wrong I was. For too long, I had placed demands on my husband that he wasn’t created to fulfill. I expected him to meet my every need, not realizing that that isn’t his job. I was so embarrassed that I had wasted years acting immature and selfish. My eyes were opened to the fact that I had placed my spouse on the throne of my heart; and only Jesus belonged there. While expecting grace and mercy for my shortcomings, I was not quick to give it in return. So often, our earthly love comes with strings attached. We love and show love based on how we feel or if our check list is met. “I love you if…”. “I’ll forgive you when…”. But God’s love doesn’t work that way. He loves simply because He loves. Because He is love. And even when we remain unchanged or in our sin, He continues to love us. That before the foundations of the world, He had a plan to demonstrate just how much he loves us.
Love is defined as strong affection for another or the object of attachment or devotion. God’s love, or “agape” love, is a selfless love for another (John 3:16). Over the years, I have learned that my love won’t always cut it. And if I first don’t know the love of God for myself, I won’t have anything to give. We simply can’t give out what we don’t have. This means continually going to the source for our every need. Some days that means praying about my attitude. Some days that means asking for help to forgive. Some days that means keeping my mouth closed when I so badly want to speak. That means praying, and then praying some more. It means extending grace in the most difficult situations because tomorrow I may be desperate for some myself. When all else fails, take it to God and let Him do the rest. Because His ways are higher and far better. His love is complete and the source of all that we need.