Christmas and Marriage meet
“In order to keep our expectations of love for each other realistic, we must look deeper and wider than our love for one another. We must look to the source of LOVE. Even when we love each other well… when we continuously learn and grow to do this in creative new ways, we cannot fill the full and complete need for love in others, nor in turn, can we expect it from them. The fulfillment of our need to be loved is greater than what’s possible merely from one another, humanly speaking.”Mark Wanders
There’s an amazing growth and deepening of emotional oneness and satisfaction in marriage when you begin to express to one another how you best feel loved and then live into it by loving one another in those ways.
Loving one another in ways that meet our needs can feel like oxygen to us. As oxygen brings life to the body, so love that feels like oxygen brings life to marriage.
Keeping Expectations Realistic
Love, oxygen and life. Words that emanate flourishing. Incorporated into a marriage, the marriage will flourish. With love experienced in any relationship, it will flourish… even amidst trials.
LOVE is key in all of this. That’s been the core consideration in this three-part series as we’ve explored the question, ‘Can you LOVE me like this?’
And we’ve seen how loving one another in particular ways, meeting the needs of our spouse, deepens our marital oneness.
In order to keep our expectations of love for each other realistic, we must look deeper and wider than our love for one another. We must look to the source of LOVE.
Because even when we love each other well… when we continuously learn and grow to do this in creative new ways, we cannot fill the full and complete need for love in our spouse, nor in turn, can we expect it from them. The fulfillment of our need to be loved is greater than what’s possible merely from one another, humanly speaking.
That means we would need to look outside of ourselves. Beyond ourselves. Perhaps beyond this world.
We cannot even love others unless we’ve been loved first.
Looking to the Source
Let me share with you a source of love you may or may not have heard of or considered. But it’s powerful and takes a lot of stress out of loving one another in any relationship, most particularly in marriage where you live in very close proximity to one another.
There is a simple statement in the Bible that says, ‘God is Love’. What a profound acknowledgement. God not only acts in love, or demonstrates love, but He is the essence of love. His very being is love. He is the source of love.
The Bible further informs us that we can ‘love one another because love is from God… and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.’ All love, whether it is recognized to be from God or not, originates from God. But to love one another in the deepest way possible is to love in a way made available to us through knowing and experiencing God.
And what kind of love do we know of from God? How did He demonstrate love? What do we experience?
Originally God made the world and everything in it very good. Lovingly He created all things including the first man and woman in the first marriage we know of. They were given authority over it all, to enjoy this created world together. But in rebellion to the God who made them, wanting to be like God themselves, they disobeyed one simple command and ushered the whole world into a state of misery and brokenness, and caused a curse of sin to fall on them. Sin entered in.
But God, in His love and grace, did not leave things in hopelessness. For God so loved the world that a promise was made that in history and time, a Saviour would be sent to redeem that which was lost in sin and misery. In Love, operating out of His very essence, God demonstrated His love in that ‘He sent His only Son (Jesus) into the world, so that we might live through Him.’
The whole story of Christmas is remembering how God loved us so much that He did not want to leave us in a state of brokenness and hopelessness, but sent His only Son, Jesus, to be born in the likeness of a man, to live and experience this world, and to die on a cross to take away the sins of all who would believe in Him and begin the process of restoration. He arose again by Holy Spirit power and gives us freely of this same Spirit so that we can once again move towards loving one another in a deeper and more meaningful way, being born of God into a new life here and now already, experiencing Him working in us… imitating God’s love as He so graciously demonstrated to us.
Husbands, there comes a tall order for us in the Bible to love our wives in the same way ‘as Jesus loved His bride (metaphorical language referring to His people) …giving Himself up for her’. Sacrificial love on display!
‘If God so loved us, we ought to love one another. We love, because He loved us first.’
God is the secure and stable source of our love because God is Love and acted on our behalf in love. From this place, we have a renewed capacity to give and receive love.
Connected and Filled
Knowing this, we begin to understand that we are loved by God, and rest secure in His complete love. We have the capacity to love others because we have been loved, understanding this as the connection to the source outside of ourselves; the anchoring in God who is Love.
God’s love is what has the capacity to fill our deepest need to be loved. He is the source of our filling, the source of our being able to love, and the source of our being able to receive love from others.
When we see and understand how God demonstrated His love for us, we are moved to love one another. As we have been loved, so we can love.
‘If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.’
In marriage, we live in a representation of the first relationship ever created. We live in representation of the relationship of Jesus and His church. And we live in the closest, most intimate relationship that we will experience on earth. It would be foolish, almost arrogant, to think that we can live in love in the bond of marriage, on our own, without connection to the original Source. When we live in love through Jesus Christ as central and foundational to our marriage, knowing all that He has done for us in God’s love, we stand on solid ground. And then learning to love one another in the best ways possible through sharing how we best feel loved and asking each other, ‘Can you love me like this?’ takes on a whole new depth to understanding love in marriage.
Understanding and Loving
As we approach our spouse, ‘Can you love me like this?’, the answer will come. Yes… And no.
Yes, in that I do. And I can. And I want to… I will.
But no, in that I can’t do this perfectly. Will you accept the love that I can give as a fellow human being? Will you accept my love in the broken and beautiful way in which I can do this through the restoring, renewing power of Jesus in me?
Henri Nouwen wrote, “If we do not know we are beloved sons and daughters of God, we are going to expect someone else to make us feel that we are. We will expect someone else to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot.”
When we anchor our receiving of love in God who is Love, remembering His demonstration of unconditional love towards us and allow that to fill us, our dependability on love from another person becomes loosed. We can then receive love from one another in the knowledge and satisfaction of being loved by God first, and graciously accept love shown to us in relationships here and now that are in a restorative process.
Likewise, when we show love to one another, knowing that we are beloved sons and daughters of God, forgiven and renewed in Jesus, we can love each other through Him. Husband-Jesus-Wife. Wife-Jesus-Husband. Me-Jesus-Others. Others-Jesus-Me. It’s loving one another ‘as God so loved us’, or, loving one another with a large dose of grace, knowing much grace has been given us. Or, as we have been loved graciously, so we graciously love one another. As we have been forgiven much, so we forgive.
This becomes the grounding security from which we can live a life of love. Even if we are not always feeling loved by others.
And in marriage, stress is reduced in knowing we can’t love one another to the absolute fullest. We were never designed to be able to do so. But marriage was given by design, from the God who is Love, to experience love to the fullest capacity here on earth, all the while being dependent on God’s love. To love well and deeply inside of that bond needs the foundational centrality of God in it.
He is the One who made love possible by demonstrating the greatest sacrificial love gift ever given… Himself… in the person of Jesus Christ, for us, His bride. This stands at the pinnacle of the question ‘Can you love me like this?’ He has pre-empted the question with the greatest marital sacrifice ever, that God did come, Immanuel, ‘God with us’, with the express intent to die for His bride.
Christmas and Marriage meet.
God has spoken. God has acted. He loves us like this.
We love because He loved us first. In our brokenness we love in a restorative capacity through Jesus Christ now already, but it is not yet fully complete. So we need much grace and patience as God molds us into the people He wants us to be.
Marriage is a gift and a place to practice loving and being gracious… giving and receiving love in a most intimate way, as God so loves us. And from that place of living and learning, knowing and loving, we flourish and go forth sharing with the broken world around us a taste of His design for marriage and relationships, from this God who is Love, pointing forward to a time when full restoration will be complete and ALL things will be fully restored and made new.
Word has it, that at that time there will be the greatest marriage banquet ever… between Jesus and His bride. I want to be there. How about you?
‘Can you LOVE me like this?’
Yes. Through Him, we can ‘love one another because love is from God…’