This past March, my sweet Hubby and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary! No cruise to Hawaii or trip to Paris. Instead, we flew to Texas for a wedding; and, as we looked back on our marriage journey, a much younger couple begin their own.
I remember thinking, “Their first day down, thousands to go. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into!”
We watched with sweet recollections of our own wedding day, making googly eyes at each other as we slipped rings on and cried over our vows, “through sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.”
What would make these two (and we two) step out on this new adventure, forsake all others, and trust in each other?
Pure and simple.
Unearthly and powerful.
Incredibly strong and incredibly fragile all at the same time.
Writing on the topic of love seems near impossible, considering the depth and scope of what it is and what it can be. I’m going to choose just one corner of it for today…
The enormous act of believing that each of us can be loved, really loved, just as we are.
Some fifteen years into our marriage, I found myself on the floor of our bedroom with my Hubby, sitting and sobbing. A fight had been brewing for a while, and it had finally arrived. Like many, it started with something small but had the huge force of old hurt behind it.
Afterwards, we sat, spent and crumpled, me crying and him not sure why I was crying.
I remember Hubby sitting quietly, then softly assuring me that he really did love me, no matter what.
No matter what I look like -- or cook like.
No matter what I say -- or how much I worked that day.
No matter what’s in the past -- or what’s in tomorrow.
No matter if I bring joy or if I’m bringing sorrow.
He was saying that his love is not so much about “because” as it is “beyond.”
He was saying he loved me not because of what I did or didn’t do, but beyond anything I could ever do.
And for the first time in fifteen years, I truly believed it.
Don’t you think that's odd? After fifteen years of love and life, I was just now able to believe it?
Let me be clear, I never had trouble believing Hubby loves me. I had trouble believing I could be loved without condition or exception by anyone.
Before that moment, I was governed by a deep-rooted falsehood that people loved me for what I can do for them or for being who they want me to be. The even uglier flipside is if I DON’T, then they WON’T love me.
Hmmm. You can be sure I worked very hard to make sure I did all that I could, as right as I could, to keep that from happening.
And now, I finally believed it; it was like a light going on! I could be loved with no caveats, no prerequisites, no conditions. I was able to hear my Hubby, believe him, and trust it as true.
And in that moment, I was changed. Love changed everything!
Looking back, I think God had been changing me for more than a year, teaching me how love really works. Before I could take to heart that my Hubby loved without exception, I had to accept that God has been loving me without exception all along! Not because I had achieved some level of goodness, but because God is that kind of good.
God loves not because of who we are but because of who He is.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Romans 5:6-8 (NLT)
Christ came because of the love in Him, not because humans had earned His love. Because God is love, He loved me first, even while I was still sinning against Him.
He gave it freely, preemptively and without condition. We only have to learn to believe it! That’s when we can really live it out.
God’s love is not dependent of what you do for Him. He loves you beyond what you do. It’s in His character; it’s who He is. That’s why we can believe it and trust it to be real.
There is a great freedom in that fact. In the years since then, I have found it easier to accept love from the people around me. It was always there, but now I believe in its sincerity more often. In return, I have more love to give!
Love changes everything.
And even more true, God’s love changes everything!
I’m hoping against hope that you can give up trying to earn what is so freely being offered to you. God’s been holding out His love for a long time now, hoping you will just reach out and take it in. You don’t have to earn this unconditional love; you just have to open up and watch it change everything!