When Andrew and I married, we received some very wise advice. Our pastor advised us to agree before marriage to never consider divorce an option. Being two love struck twenty somethings, we readily agreed! We loved each other and we truly believed marriage would be easy!
I am thankful today that we made that oath. Our marriage has been amazing, but it hasn’t been the walk in the park we envisioned. Obviously, when you stick two sinful, selfish people together, there are bound to be problems. There has been fighting, times of disagreement, selfishness on both our parts, and times when we could have easily walked away because it would have just been easier then the work it has taken to stay together.
I didn’t know it then, but God was teaching us about the seriousness of covenant love. In a covenant, we make a promise to put the good of the relationship above our own personal needs, to love even when we don’t feel love. Many of us don’t realize it, but we have a covenant love with our kids. As parents, we silently vow to stick by our kids no matter the sacrifice, whether or not they love us back or give us what we need. Would you ever walk out on your newborn because he was too needy?! No!
And yet, our marriages look more like consumer relationships rather than covenant relationships. In a marriage that is a “consumer relationship”, we analyze the marriage based on how much we are profiting. Over time, as our spouse’s flaws become more apparent and the feelings of love towards the other decline, we look for ways to get out, or we just stop showing the other love because we aren't receiving anything back.
In the greatest act of history, though, God showed us what he meant by Covenant Love:
“Husbands Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” Ephesians 5:25
“When Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us - denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him- and in the greatest act of History, He stayed. He said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely.” - Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
I am going to ask you to reconsider your vows. Eliminate the “D” word from your vocabulary. Commit to staying even when it means you may not get all you want in the moment. If you can accept his great love for you on the cross, he will give you the power to love your spouse even when he/she is unlovely. For you will see that at your most unlovely, he stayed and loved you. That is true covenant love.
This week, ask God to show you how to be Jesus to your spouse. Where do you need to die to your own needs, wants, and desires and STAY to love your spouse as Christ loved you?