We live in a culture that doesn’t request love but demands it. We watch movies and hear songs that teach us an unrealistic kind of love. We lose ourselves inside of our own wants and fantasies of what we think love should be. This false reality of love falls short on its promise and delivers a lot of disappointment because real love, the kind we are made for, isn’t what our world tells us it is.
Real love is serving others.
That’s not exactly a popular concept in today’s me-driven world.
Take marriage, for example. No one knows what it’ll be like until they do it. It’s like faith. You take a giant leap into a dark pool not knowing anything about where you’re heading or what to expect.
For most of the early years of my marriage, we didn’t communicate very well. Our marriage was frustrating and clumsy. It wasn’t like how I imagined it would be. It wasn’t like the movies where scenes of our lives were cut to the fun, most romantic parts. On the contrary, it was work. Learning how to comprise wasn’t always easy, and neither was learning how to accept each other’s flaws and work around them. Communication was hard because what we had to say wasn’t always well received by the other party. Hurtful words or misunderstandings had to, at some point, be discussed and worked through.
I wanted the “happy life” deal. The one where we laughed and got along and everything stayed that way forever. What I didn’t know was that we had to make the “happy life” deal together, and it wouldn’t always be easy, fun, or happy. It would take time and effort, and it would take both of us to make it happen and it would happen only by learning to set aside our own needs and put the other’s needs in front of our own: serving. Taking out the trash if it wasn’t “our day,” not expecting thanks for getting dinner ready or doing laundry, showing appreciation for the other person by helping them with small to-do list items.
First Corinthians says, “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 hope, always perseveres.”
What it didn’t say was that:
Love is not easy for us because we are imperfect. Love can be frustrating for us because we’re full of pride and selfishness. Love is not expected to be an equal balance. Love is supposed to give so much more than it takes.
Love is a decision. Love is a choice.
Marriage is the first step in choosing to love someone. Marriage puts the choice to love to the test. It bends, twists, and stretches it, but it’s the decision to love that keeps it from falling apart. The decision to love is to love someone through their most lovable and unlikeable phases for the sake of a promise you made to God. It’s the decision to love this person despite their flaws because you are flawed as well. The decision to love is challenging, but beautiful, because what comes from this is the joy of growing together closer in respect, friendship, service, and happiness.
The commitment that love commands is a constant work in progress. My husband and I have good days, and we have bad days, we get along, and we fight, but the amount of better days far outweigh the hard ones. We are able to work through things easier, manage them without fighting as often, and tackle life together as one cohesive unit. There’s far more laughter than tears these days because we know our flaws and we know how to work with them.
As the years have passed, and as my husband and I move toward the 10-year mark, I see the evolution of our marriage. Our first years paved a path to the marriage we are still building today. The commitment has created a sense of comfort in the form of emotional security and peace with who we are together. The feeling of contentment with someone else who has also made the same sacrifices as you, and chosen to accept you just as much as you accept them, creates a kind of love framed by service. Married love is not unlike the love that God has for us. It’s a real, genuine, authentic kind of love and there is a sense of comfort in knowing the person you are with has given up just as much as you for the same reasons as you. It’s a fulfilling feeling having given so much with little expectation.
Real love comes from putting everyone else before you. Real love isn’t something our culture encourages us to practice because sometimes you don’t get back what you give. Our culture says that’s not fair. Of course, you can never be certain with love. But then, we can never truly be certain about anything in life. We can only close our eyes and jump. Once you get past the fear, and you see that you’re just fine, you find the water’s not too bad. That’s how love is. No matter what the stakes are, no matter how hard the downs may be, the ultimate reward is the satisfaction of knowing you have given and served not only the way you were called to, but the way you promised to the day you said, “I do.”