Thoughts of Valentine’s Day fills our heads with images of frilly pink hearts, chocolate covered strawberries, fluffy teddy bears, and of course, the cute bottomed cupid aiming his bow and arrow at a man and woman who, when pierced, magically, perfectly, eternally fall into blissful love. We snicker at the image of cupid and know reality doesn’t produce such a creature or such a perfect relationship.
We know going into marriage there will be ups and downs, bills to pay, sick children, sick in-laws or sick a spouse. There will be days when the dinner is burned and the dishwasher doesn’t work and the laundry has piled up. There will be days when work is a hassle and money is tight and all you want is to do is go home and relax in peace and quiet with an adult beverage. Instead, you come home to a spouse who greets you at the door, thrusting a cranky toddler in need of a diaper change at you saying, “I need a break!”
We Fail to Understand
Technically, we know living every day in marital bliss is as unlikely as being pierced by a cupid’s arrow. We realize intellectually the smile which lights our face when our beloved walks into the room and the tingles we get when we are kissed and held and touched by a special someone won’t last forever. However, we fail to realize what this means on a deeper level. We fail to recognize this lack of tingle will happen to us and it will matter to us and it will matter to our spouse. We realize there will be miserable days, but what we don’t realize when we say our marital vows is there might be years upon years of days of financial struggle, of illness, or hardship.
We often don’t realize there is far more to love than the modern view Valentine’s Day would have us consider. It is far more than what you get from another person.
Real love is sacrificial and unconditional. We know that intellectually, but do we know it in our hearts as well?
When your wife has put on weight and stops dressing up for you, when your husband is looking at other women and finding you lacking, can you Love sacrificially and unconditionally? When your wife is gossiping and chatting on social media when she should be reading to your children and talking with you, when your husband has quit his job and turns down another and you’re forced to relocate with no guarantee of security, can you love sacrificially and unconditionally? When your wife disrespects you or your husband is not worthy of respect, can you continue to love sacrificially and unconditionally?
Even Your Enemies
The Bible reminds us it’s easy to love those we like, but as Christians, we are called to love even our enemy, even when our enemy lives within the walls of our own homes. We are called to love even when the enemy has broken his word to love, honor, and cherish us, even when the enemy hasn’t been worthy for a very long time. We are called to love our spouse no matter how they treat us.
The vow to love our spouses is not just one made to our spouse on the day of our marriage but one we make to the future, to the world, and to ourselves. The marriage vows we spoke are not just vows our spouse, but also to our family, to our friends, and to God. Only God can truly love each of us sacrificially and unconditionally despite our disrespect and unworthiness, despite so many things we’ve done wrong to Him for years.
True love on the altar is a vow to God to Love, Honor, and Cherish your spouse, the person He created and allowed to wander onto our path. God knows how ugly and unlovable your spouse can be sometimes. He sees all. He knows all. He comprehends on a level deeper than you, the hurt you experience when your spouse does something to harm you. He knows firsthand how unworthy of love your partner is, and He Loves her anyway.
God loves your spouse perfectly, unconditionally, and sacrificially and He asks you to love his creation too. He doesn’t ask you to point out his flaws. He doesn’t ask you to keep an eye out for a good deal so you can exchange her for a newer model. He doesn’t ask you anything of the sort.
He does ask you to look in the mirror, to study your own actions, words, thoughts, to take the plank out of your own eye. He asks you to love His creation, not because she is worthy but because He is!
This Valentine’s Day, while stories of Ashley Madison circulate, divorce rates climb, more children are referred to school counselors, the effects of broken vows impact society, and others continue to mistake love for frilly pink hearts and what they get out of the deal, you can vow to be different. You can vow to stop looking to see if your spouse is worthy because she’s probably not.
The bad news is, if you dare to look really long and hard in that mirror, you’ll probably see you’re not worthy either.
The good news is, neither of you has to be worthy. When you can’t commit to your vow to love your spouse because he is unlovable, you can commit to your vow to God because He is not just worthy of love, He is Love. You can commit to your spouse in the same way God loves you, unconditionally, sacrificially, eternally because you have Love inside you no matter what goes on around you.
Your spouse may choose to continue acting poorly, but you will never regret acting in real love. You may look back one day and wish you had been better at keeping your vows, but you will never look back and say “I wish I had broken my vow earlier.” Even when your spouse is unlovable, vow to love your vow. It may change your marriage. It will definitely change you. Either way, you won’t regret it.