For sometimes, the heart lives outside the body.
What does love look like? There are endless collections of books: secular and non, sermons, retreats, seminars, websites all dedicated to this very question. [And no, I’m not going to touch headship, or submission, today.] I’m seeking a picture of a love between husband and wife, one in which God delights. Because I want my marriage to be a love story woven through with scripture, breathing the Spirit’s influence, hemmed in with Christ’s grace, and glorifying God. But to which narrative in scripture do I turn? Is the garden an ideal portrait? Or do I find this in Song of Solomon? Need I look for paper mentors in Priscilla and Aquila? Abraham and Sarah? The blessed parent and step, Mary and Joseph? Ruth and Boaz? Or the newly popular Ester and Xeres?The trouble with each of these examples, no matter what your personal stance, is that each is a human relationship. Therefore, each is flawed. Flawed, like my marriage. Because I’m a human and I fail every day. And I’ll confess to you, dear one, that of late I’ve failed far more than my fair share. Hence the declaration. In the very recent past, I’ve exalted myself and my desires and my goals and my plans and my “needs” so that they have engulfed what love is meant to be.
Regardless of whether you’re a complimentarian or an egalitarian, we are all called to love one another well. And the only formula I find in scripture for that love is sacrificial. Treating your spouse as greater than you; placing their needs and well-being above your own. Dying to myself so that I can give more of life to him. Taming tongue and reigning in emotions; feeling them, yes, but not allowing them to rule in me. Standing when he can no longer, fighting for him when there’s nothing left in him, and encouraging him in everything to which he is called. Just as he has for me.In a perfect world, this goes both ways. Sadly, ours is a fallen world. We will wound one another. We will fail each other. We will give into our flesh and become selfish. And we will abandon each other in a million little ways, both overt and with more subversive means.
But for God.If I can keep asking God to give me the grace He was lavished upon me, that I might pour it out upon my beloved, He will provide it. If I can keep begging for forgiveness for all the wounds I inflict, and trusting that my beloved will give it, freely, then I will experience it. If I can recognize that his love is unique and different from my native tongue, but no less true and full, then I will know it. If I can keep asking God for fresh eyes to see my loved as rejoiced-over, delighted-in, beloved child of the Almighty, God is faithful to give me exactly what I need.
I can look across the table this very moment and see the face that for literal years I prayed to wake to. I can reach out and touch the hand that I ached to hold in mine when he was so far away that all we had was a common star, set in the sky billions of years ago, by a God who knew we’d need to it to find one another someday. I can sink deep into the eyes that have seen more of life and the world and its consuming darkness that I ever want to know. And I can see why God chooses marriage as a picture of His love for His people. For while God is perfect, even in our love for Him we fail. And He must continue to forgive us, continue to love us through our selfishness, continue to see the best in us when we’re at our worst. And continue to stay. Right beside us through it all.Because love, both Holy and human, requires of us more than we think we have to give. Yet in living this love, dying to ourselves and seeking the best for someone else, we become more than we ever thought we might.