Love Never Fails

DSC_0367

To love and to be loved are the two greatest things we can experience in this life…I felt a warmth all around me when I heard these beautiful words spoken during a wedding toast once. I wholeheartedly agree that there is nothing that compares to the fulfillment of loving someone deeply and experiencing his or her love in return.

I am continually being challenged in my ability to love perfectly and unconditionally. Loving others when they’re kind to me is not a hard thing. The difficulty comes in repaying unkindness with kind deeds. If we only show love when we are treated kindly, then why do we need Christ?

Marriage is the perfect place to practice showing true Christ-like love.

I believe God loves bringing together complete opposites; this is what He did in my life, with my husband and me. It’s kind of funny when I think about how totally opposite we are. My husband is an introvert. I am an extrovert. He is a morning person. I am a night person. He is a reserved, more serious person. I am a free-spirited person. He is a ‘plan every detail’ kind of person. I am a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person. He is more of a spender. I am more of a saver. He is more laid back about housekeeping. I am the ‘wants everything in its place’ kind of person.

I could go on listing more differences in our God-given personalities. And I didn’t even mention the natural differences there are in men and women.

There’s a reason we said, “For better or for worse,” in our marriage vows. When two people come together with completely opposite natures, there will be friction. There is no way to get around it. One time, I heard someone say they preferred to have a mate with a similar personality to theirs. Not me. It would be totally boring to spend the rest of my life with someone like myself. I have no doubt that my husband Michael was made for me. But knowing we were made for each other doesn’t keep us from being tested in our ability to truly love one another.

The marriage relationship is the most powerful way to live out our Christianity. As husband and wife, we are bonded like no other bond.

When God began healing our marriage and tearing down the walls between us, a deep level of spiritual and emotional intimacy began growing in our relationship. We began sharing our deepest fears, our hurts, and our wildest dreams with each other. We laid out our most valuable treasures to share with the other, trusting that they would be delicately treated. There is no one on this earth that knows me more intimately than my husband.

It has been a beautiful thing. But as the depth of our marriage has grown, so has the cost. Our ability to hurt each other is much greater now. When we were holding tightly onto the deepest parts of our souls, it was safer. There wasn’t so much at stake.

Now my husband holds the most valuable part of me in his hand: my heart. I have given all of it to him, not small parts. He has it all. The only One who exceeds this bond is Christ. It is my bond with Christ that has allowed me to open my heart fully to my husband.

Without Christ’s love, I would have to keep my heart guarded and protected, living in mediocrity. I did that for many years. I lived and loved halfheartedly. I was too busy trying to protect myself from hurt to really love the way I know Christ intends for me to. The cost was too high for me. I knew that if I dared to love as Christ loves, I could end up getting hurt; therefore, I didn’t take many risks.

Things started changing when I allowed Christ to begin healing the wounded places in my heart. As He healed each wound, a piece of the protective shield that surrounded my heart began breaking away. I began opening myself to my husband in ways I never had before. I began letting him see my bare soul.

I consciously made a decision to love with all my strength no matter what the cost. It hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. My unguarded heart is vulnerable and when hurt is inflicted, it can go deep. Loving hard, loving fully means hurting sometimes. That’s part of it.

The marriage relationship is the place that love is tested the most. The closeness in the relationship forces us to face our differences. The only other option is to grow apart, living together in the same house. What’s the point in that? We didn’t get married to be roommates. We want to be lovers and best friends.

I remember a pivotal time in my marriage that changed how I related to Michael. He had hurt my feelings, and I was having a hard time letting it go. I just kept thinking, “I have a right to feel this way.” My flesh was demanding its way. I wanted my husband to come to me and make it right. Instead of loving him unconditionally, I allowed a wall to go up between us. The protective barriers were creeping back around my heart.

I had an option; I could either keep waiting on him to come and make it right or I could let go of my hurt and be the initiator of the reconciliation. It’s so much easier to wait, let him come to me, and let him admit his wrong. It feels better that way.

After contemplating my choices for a while, I ended up in my secluded place with the Lord, praying softly. “Lord Jesus, what would You do in the situation I am in?” He immediately whispered His words to me. Love him, expecting nothing in return. It hit me in my spirit like a ton of bricks. My mind was bombarded with thoughts. How can I do this? Everything in me wants something in return.

The Lord flooded out my thoughts with a Bible verse I had memorized during my high school years…I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

As I pondered the Bible verse, Christ continued speaking to me in my heart. I felt His Spirit nudging me to read 1 Corinthians 13, even though I had read it dozens of times throughout my life. I sensed God asking me to read it in the Living Bible translation. I went into our office, pulled my old Bible off the bookshelf, and began reading the beautiful scriptures about love.

“Love is very patient, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly ever notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” Corinthians 13:4-7

By the time I got to the end, I was weeping. I asked the Lord to forgive me for the mistake I had made. I had gotten so caught up in what wrong had been inflicted on me that it was all I could see. Since that day, I have prayed often for the Lord to allow me to continually be an instrument of His unconditional love.

Letting go of hurt is difficult. Loving someone regardless of the hurt that may have been imposed is hard. It means I have to die to my desires to be heard and die to my desires to be understood. It means putting others’ feelings before mine.

Mother Teresa knew how to love. It’s obvious that she understood that sometimes loving hurts by the words she spoke, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”  Her words echo in my soul, reminding me to keep pressing on in this journey of unconditional love.

I want to love with no boundaries, take every risk possible, and love at all costs. The awards are amazing. The irony I see in all of this is that when I hold back from loving purely, I am sabotaging my chances for the deep connection my spirit is craving. At times, I still get caught up in the belief that holding back will protect me from hurt. In reality, when I hold back on love, I am hurting myself more and I miss out on a fulfilling marriage relationship.

When I dive in, loving my husband as fully as I possibly can, the desires of my heart are fulfilled. Each time I take a risk, it hurts at the moment to deny my own needs, but in the long run my marriage is blessed beyond measure; the romantic love returns, the passion comes alive, and our relationship flourishes.

God made no mistake when he chose my husband for me. He knew my weaknesses needed to be my husband’s strengths and that my strengths needed to be his weaknesses. We need each other. This is what oneness is about (Genesis 2:24). Loving unconditionally is a process that takes a lifetime to learn.

It’s amazing—this thing called love. There is no greater power than the power of love. It’s worth the risk. It’s worth the tears. It’s worth diving in as deep as you can go…because no matter what, love never fails.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge; it will pass away.”  1 Corinthians 13:8 (NIV)

This piece has been revised and was originally written in 2008. Today, I am so thankful for the love I have in Christ and for the way it spills over into my marriage after twenty-eight years. The photo was taken the day my husband and I renewed our wedding vows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation