Have you ever wondered why the first year of marriage is often so hard? We arrive at the altar in a state of bliss. Our handsome prince is waiting there to pledge us his heart forevermore and it seems that nothing could possibly go wrong. Everything seems perfect, but quickly that little piece of Heaven wears off. Romantic nights turn into leftovers and reruns. Our handsome man turns out to be disorganized and sweaty. Before we know it, we find ourselves faced with an entirely new challenge: Love isn’t enough.
Love Is A Choice
Ask anyone who has been married for a long time. They’ll be honest that marriage isn’t always cupcakes and roses. In fact, spend a little time listening to a couple’s story and you’ll likely hear that the best days together happened when life was tough. Are these older, much wiser couples delusional? How can the rough patches bear the most meaningful memories? It’s simple. They chose to make love an action, not just a feeling.
Our generation seems to have lost sight of this powerful truth. With so many of our parents divorced, it’s easy to think that love is merely an emotion and when it runs out, it’s time to move on. But generations past knew that true love endures the test of time. Rarely is it “felt,” as portrayed in the movies. And more often than not, it requires a sacrifice on our part to maintain.
Love Prioritizes Each Other
Remember in the early days of your marriage? Do you recall that feeling of wanting to constantly be around one another? I still think back to when I dated my husband and wonder how I lived on such little sleep. Yet, we somehow managed on just a few hours each night so that we could spend as much time as possible together!
Of course, circumstances change. Once married, the looming prospect of going home no longer exists. And that “need” to be constantly around one another fades as shared life becomes the norm. It’s easy to fall into the groove of life and forget about spending intentional time together. But as soon as our spouse takes back seat to everything else, that magical feeling of “love” quickly slips away. Just as I shared that despite our emotions, we have to choose love, we likewise have to choose to be with one another. Before we know it, we can become ships passing in the night, merely existing in close proximity with one another. And if that isn’t the antithesis of romantic, I don’t know what is!
Yet another, invaluable choice true love makes is to forgive. It isn’t often the easy route to take, but forgiveness is the ultimate gatekeeper to a long-lasting or short-lived relationship. When we allow our hearts to be filled with unresolved frustration and bitterness, we slowly push love out. In fact, the two cannot coexist and the longer we allow unforgiveness room to fester, the less we are able to embody true love.
Christ demonstrated the ultimate gesture of love when he went to the cross two thousand years ago for his beloved bride, the church. She – or we, more accurately – had yet to repent of our sins and still, he bore our shame in the most agonizing way possible. He had no guarantee that we would ever be sorry for our wrongs. But a guarantee was not the point. He chose to love us unconditionally, despite the personal sacrifices and pain he would be required to endure.
Likewise, he calls us to display this same, selfless love in our marriages. Christ beckons us to forgive even when forgiveness requires a serious sacrifice on our part. We can easily lose sight of this mission in our marriages. The world tells us it’s okay to hold mistakes over our husbands’ heads, but Christ challenges us to “keep no record of wrong.”
Admittedly, this isn’t easy, and if we are trying to choose love on our own, we will surely fail. But thankfully, Christ promises to walk beside us. The love he has for his bride is still unwavering even after making the ultimate sacrifice for her eternal well-being. He understands the struggle of choosing love when it seems futile and will carry us even when loving our spouse feels too hard.
Love in Action
The modern statistics on failed marriages are incredibly heartbreaking, but we don’t have to add to those numbers. When we acknowledge that love is a choice rather than an emotion, we are already more prepared to handle the challenges that life brings. No, it won’t always be easy and there may come a day when we truly feel like giving up. Transforming the climate of our marriages does not happen overnight, but making the choice to love even in the tough times will ultimately carry us through to less turbulent waters. We simply have to be intentional and refuse to let the outside voices sway us from this truth.