Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What I have learned about love by being engaged

Wow, it has been a fairly long time since I last posted. To all of you who actually read this, I apologize for my lack of attentiveness to this blog. But if you know me, then you know I have been extremely busy these past few months. Wedding planning can take up a lot of time, but I have enjoyed every minute of it. And through it all I have begun to realize something. Something has been made so crystal clear to me, like it never was before.

I have realized how incredibly in love I am with Elise. Now please don't write this post off as a lovey-dovey post, because although I do intend to be open about my feelings for Elise, I am going to dig deeper into what love is as portrayed by the Biblical model set forth for us. But you see I only began to completely understand this love, the love a husband has for his wife, as I have begun to spend so much time with Elise.

I never used to love others that much. In fact I would go so far as to say I was pretty self-centered. Sure I loved my family, maybe even some of my friends, but I was always number one. My priorities, my needs, my wants, my desires were always to be met first because I was the most important person in my life. Of course I loved God and put Him first, but I believe my love for Him has grown exponentially through this life changing journey I am on with Elise.

It all started when Elise and I began dating last year. For the first time in my life I began to put someone before myself. It was such a struggle, because my needs weren't first anymore for me. I cared about her. I sought to make her feel loved and special. I went out of my way to spoil her and make her feel like a princess. No longer was it "What does Nick want for dinner?", it was now "What does Elise want for dinner and how can I make it special?". You see I finally was understanding what true love is.

Love isn't about loving yourself. Love isn't about meeting your needs. Love isn't about how you feel. Love is sacrificial. Love is understanding. Love is being a servant. Love is being a leader. Love is loving someone else in a way that you would lay your life down for them. Love is so much more than a feeling or a desire, or the corrupted versions we see in film, television, and in novels. Love is rooted deeply in our Father God who modeled this for us in so many ways. The purpose of this blog post, as I said earlier, is to demonstrate the love God has for us and then looks at how we are to implement that love in our lives in practical and real ways.

The very best place to start looking at love in the Bible is at the beginning...the very beginning. If you look through the first three chapters of Genesis you will see a love unlike any other. God created a place for us as humans to live, grow, worship, commune together and with Him, experience life, emotions, and freedom all under this banner of love He has for us. God gave mankind everything they needed because He loved them and wanted someone to share this love with. We neither had nor deserved the life He gave us, but freely He gave it anyway.

Then what did mankind go and do, but mess everything up. We had it all, and we threw it in God's face in a moment, because we are selfish and our love was for ourselves. But God didn't turn His back on us. Instead He did something we all struggle to do when we are hurt and maligned. God forgave us, put a sacrifice in our place, clothed us, offered us redemption, and still loved us all the more. This is a love that is undeserving, its a love we didn't earn, it is a love we could never purchase or offer anything for it, and yet God freely gave it to us.

Our first lesson on what love is, is this: Love, that is love modeled by God Himself, is free, forgiving, and full. God first gave His love freely. God didn't have to make man, He didn't need to provide a place for Him to live, He didn't have to make a provision when man sinned, and He didn't need to give us anything. And yet that is exactly what He did. God gave His love to us free of charge and didn't ask for anything, except for our love in return. Next God's love is forgiving. Mankind slapped God in the face. Not only did they break His one commandment, they then ran and hid in an attempt to not be caught, then they lied about it. God had every right to condemn them and to rid the world of this despicable race that had now broken His heart, but instead God grieved and loved them more than they deserved. God offered them redemption and forgiveness. They didn't deserve it, they couldn't earn, they had no right to it, but God still offered it. Lastly we see how full God's love is. God doesn't just love us if we follow His rules. He doesn't only love us if we are perfect. He loves us no matter who we are. God created us to love us. God doesn't want any of us to perish but all of us to come to a saving knowledge of Him because He wants us to share in that love with Him.

Let us look at another passage or rather passages within the Gospel of Matthew. This is a love story about Christ coming into a world that was opposed to Him and embracing everyone He encountered, and then calling on them to turn from their sin and come to Him. The first thing we can see about love is that Christ met people where they were at and brought them to repentance. He met the lepers, outcasts, and those that people considered scum (granted this is from John, but it serves the point). Christ's love wasn't based upon who you were, it was based upon how you needed Him. Christ came with open arms, and an open heart. All we need to do is accept Him. You want a lesson in love, Christ is the teacher for it. Christ comes offering love to those who don't deserve it, and He was unbiased about who received it, as long as they accepted Him.

The last area of love I will touch on is this. Love is self-sacrificing. Christ didn't come here demanding we love Him. In fact when all He offered was love and salvation those He offered it to turned on Him and murdered Him. And yet Christ still sought them out. Christ came back and offered a plan of redemption and grace that characterizes the love we are to have for one another. It is a love that lays itself down, but that does so not seeking recognition, knowing some won't accept it, and knowing that it is the greatest demonstration of love that any could ever know. To lay your life down for someone who doesn't deserve it but that you love just because they are who they are is a true definition of love.

So love is this: free, forgiving, full, unbiased, it is for those who don't deserve it, and it is self-sacrificing. Love in marriage, and any relationship for that matter, should encompass all of these facets of Christ's love. There are many other qualities that I cannot touch on due to length this post would be. But let us see the magnitude and grace that God's love has for us. This is real love. The reasons marriages fail is because God isn't the center of them. Putting God first in your lives in all aspects will help you through those difficult times.

We need to realize that loving others is hard. When it comes to a spouse this can be especially true at some points in your marriage. Things will be said, feelings will be hurt, pride will be wounded. It will happen, but loving someone how Christ loved us means meeting them where they are at and not holding it against them. Show them your love and offer forgiveness. That is love! Show them how you are modeling Christ by offering forgiveness and compassion without lording it over them. Show them humility and grace, without payback. This is love, that He loved us first and we now demonstrate it to others.

I am not perfect. I know I cannot always love how God does because I am not God. I know I will mess up and fail. But my goal is to love like Christ loves me. He is our example, and I will do all I can to follow that. Going into this marriage I am seeking to honor Christ by loving my wife completely. I am no longer selfish, I am no long seeking gain, I am no longer seeking to be right always. Instead I am seeking to be selfless, I am seeking her gain and benefit, and I am seeking to serve and accept my imperfections while exhorting her to become better as well. Marriages are never easy, never perfect, and they take work but if you seek to love like Christ you will make it through.

And yes I do know I am new at this. In fact I am not even married yet, but it is amazing what God shows you when you read His Word and allow it to permeate your life. I also want everyone to realize that these are just a few examples of God's love that I have touched on. There are countless examples of His love for us and we are to model those examples as followers of Christ. I would love for you to share how you see God's love displayed elsewhere and how you implement it in your lives. By seeing, then implementing, and growing from it you will see your love for others and for God grow by leaps and bounds, and I would encourage that for all believers.

All this to say, I love you Elise, and I cannot wait to begin this next journey together as we seek to love God by loving each other as He loves us. I will serve you as Christ serves us, and seek to put you first always in my life.