When young couples exchange marriage vows, often what is heard is – “… for better, for richer and in health …” After all, they are in the midst of what Gary Chapman calls the tingly feeling of love stage of the relationship. This feeling, per the author of The 5 Love Languages, may last two weeks or two years. Then the journey of learning to love begins.
Of course, the traditional vows are in fact, “… to have and to hold from this day forward for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part.” There are times in every marriage that the feelings of love enter a valley courtesy of life’s pressures. It is in those valleys that the commitment behind stating the marriage vows must mature into an intentionality to live them. “Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.”- Deuteronomy 23:23.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, – Ephesians 5:25. Paul opens chapter 5 challenging us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us,”- verses 1&2. Then he focuses in on the marriage relationship with the charge for husbands to love their wives selflessly and sacrificially as Christ loved the Church. It has been said that once a man understands he is to die for his wife, everything else pretty well falls in line. Paul says there is more to it than that - “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1Corinthians 13:4-8. Learning to love, maturing from feelings to intentionality is a life-long journey that requires commitment along the lines of the Deuteronomy passage above. When asked if he loved his wife more on his first wedding anniversary or 41st anniversary, the gentleman said he loves his wife more with each passing year. He went on to say, “I thought I knew what love was when we married but I did not have a clue. By the grace of God through Jesus the Christ, I am learning how to love my wife as Christ loved the Church.”
In the classic movie, “The Notebook”, the commitment to the marriage vows matures in intentionality to love as his wife suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The notebook contains memories of the years past that he would read repeatedly to his wife. On occasion, a memory would surface and a God-moment would be shared. A self-less, sacrificial husband learned to love his wife as Christ loved the Church.
Prayer guide: Father, thank You for Your word and for Your love. You set the standard – For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). And Your Son loved You and us so much that He obeyed to the point of death, even death on a cross! Grant me strength and perseverance on this journey of learning how to love as You love. That is the dad You call me to be and that’s the dad my kids need to see. Amen.
A faithful father learns to love as Christ loves.