God is love. John 4:8
As many naive adolescents do, I envisioned true love as a relationship where I would always be in a euphoric; all is blissful state of mind. I expected to be on a high from the love bug; everything would be rosy and peachy, and my cheerful mood would never go sour. I knew that love could conquer anything; it can move mountains. True love would fill me, and I would be complete.
As a 30-year-old Child of God, I see how this Hollywood, fairy tale, and romance novel concept of love negatively influenced my expectations of love and life. This view of love is self-centered and fictional. Before understanding my faith, I questioned why the church imposed so many “restrictions” on young couples who chose to marry. What’s it to them anyway, they aren’t going to be involved in the marriage? It matters because the church knows what love is.
God is love.
I didn’t understand that marriage should be a mirror image of Christ and the Church, a shining example of God’s love. My heart knew that when the time came, I would be married in a church because it’s beautiful, it screams marriage, and since I believe in God, I can’t see marriage without the sacrament. However, I was not aware of what my commitment entailed. I didn’t understand the real promise made through the vows. Thank heavens for those marriage prep courses many hate. Why are the courses uncomfortable? Perhaps people feel uncomfortable that it may reveal something they are too scared to admit, the frailty of the bond and relationship. How can one enter into something without fully understanding it? It’s just a “paper” right? For many, marriage is just paper. It’s something with an easy exit button that can end as quickly as it started. However, if we ask for God’s blessing and make Him to the center of our love through the sacrament of marriage, we need to understand what we are getting into and why.
We need to love one another as Christ loved us. This love needs to extend beyond the whole “what’s in it for me” mentality. This love is a choice; it does not depend on the fluctuations of our emotions and the effect we have on each other’s heart. We must continue loving each other even if the pitter patter of our hearts does not fluctuate with the same frequency it did at the beginning of the relationship. We need to trust that we are bound to one another through God. Come what may, we are to love each other always – I want to make clear this is assuming a safe & non-abusive relationship. If I’m able to receive the love that God freely gives us, if I can embrace that, accept that, and understand that, then I can bring love into our relationship by loving my husband to be tenderly, mercifully, and respectfully. I can work on looking at my fiancé with loving eyes in moments of difficulty. I can try my best to focus on the beauty that exists within him, remembering that He was created by God, and use that reminder to strengthen me when I may be tempted to give up. I can try to help him reason if I think he’s wrong, rather than barking at him and belittling him.
This two week period of discernment opened my eyes to God’s role in our lives. For a brief period, we were both on opposite ends of the table. We approached the center of our “war zone” by reaching out to God and evaluating ourselves according to His standards. Our respect and trust in Him brought us together. Through Scripture, prayer, and Godly counsel we reflected on our behavior. Through our examination, we understood how certain actions or words were not mirroring the behavior of our Loving Father. Sure, we could compare our situation against the world’s standards, but we would be setting the bar low, and perhaps we would give one another less than we should. More importantly, we would not be claiming our God-given title, Child of God. If we are Children of God, we should treat ourselves and each other as such. Being a Child of God – being a loving person – is cheap when it’s all talk. Our deeds should reflect our love source. When neither one of us wants to do “what’s right” because we resent our partner, we can look towards heaven and say, “not for him/her God, but for You!” Being a Child of God also means listening to God’s instruction just as a child listens to their parent. I can ask to be treated as a Child of God, but I also have to behave like one.
It’s not about the beautiful church. It’s not about the paper. It’s not about the beginning rush when everything is hunky dory. It’s about God, respecting Him, fearing Him, honoring Him, and using Him as our guide for how we should love one another until our dying day. It’s about the Sacrament of Marriage. It’s about acknowledging our imperfections so that the relationship can flourish and choosing to love each other anyway.
It’s not about who will have all the power, which is usually used to slam women and DEMAND they submit to our husbands; I don’t recall Jesus DEMANDING we follow him, what about free-will? It’s about having a loving husband who considers what’s best for the family, a spouse one can submit to without fear of abuse of power. How did he treat the Samaritan woman? What did he do Judas? How did he react with Peter? Keeping this in mind means that when either side messes up, we aren’t justified in treating the other poorly no matter how frustrating things can get, because if we do we deviate from love. We can lean on the Word of God and extend mercy to help someone reason their way back towards the Godly path.
When I’m frustrated I shout -my shouting won’t make my fiance understand me any better, my shouting won’t fix the problem, my shouting is not representative of the love I want to give him. I need to find ways to deal with my frustration that reflect my intention of being a loving partner. I’m not a robot or God. I can accept my imperfections. However, this isn’t a hall pass allowing me to react poorly whenever I please without accountability for my actions.
We BOTH need to be held accountable for our actions and decisions. The decisions either one of us make affects the other; when we are married we will be ONE! If he’s sick – I’m sick, if he’s spending – WE are spending, if he’s sad – WE are sad. We are one unit. If one suffers – the UNIT suffers. We cannot pretend that we are two separate beings living different lives if that’s the case we are NOT one before God. We need to hold each other accountable for our wrongs because our offenses affect our family unit. How do we bring that into our marriage and family unit? By opening our hearts and not acting as if we know all there is to know.
In a marriage, we work to maintain a united family. The submission won’t be a used to elevate him and deflate me; it’ll be used so that I can find comfort in knowing that we are one and that he considers me. His ways will mirror God’s way. We can’t give up when the going gets tough, but let’s be real, we are human. While we may not give up in our marriage, it doesn’t mean marriage can’t become lifeless. We can find many people who have given up trying to make things work because they don’t see the light. They’re married and miserable. They can’t communicate or have an open discussion. Even though the partners will stick at it out through the good and the bad by eliminating the word divorce from their vocabulary, it does not mean that a couple should dismiss the opportunities to grow spiritually by considering each other.
As a wife to be, I find comfort in the idea of submitting to my husband when I see my husband to be submitting to God. When he submits to God with an open heart and a conscious mind, he will treat me with the love, respect, and care we both deserve as Children of God.
We’ve had our rough patches as any couple, but there are no words I can use to describe how moving it has been for me to witness how our respect for God helped us settle our differences. We humbled ourselves before God and admitted our wrongs.
We stopped condemning, stopped labeling, and made a vow to work on being loving.
God’s way, not “my way.”
God is love.
1 Peter 3:7
7 Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.
22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Jesus the True Vine John 15:1-17
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 This I command you, to love one another.