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God's love came at tremendous price. God watched as His son was brutally killed after a rigged trial. God turned His back on His dying boy, hung on a criminal's cross, and left him there to breathe his last breath alone, forsaken... He didn't do all of those things to give us a picture of cruelty. He did it because it was the only example we would relate to. He did it because I understand pain more than I understand love. God handed His child over to me and watched me abuse Him so that I would understand how much He loved ME. God gave me His son, no holds barred, no strings attached - He even allows me to walk away without choosing to take the gift.
When I look on my own son's face, when I hear his voice and touch his hand I think about what God gave up so that I would understand. When I really get down to that level, think about looking at my own flesh and blood in pain, alone, terrified; it brings it home. Hard. That is what God did for me. He gave me the ultimate gift, a gift no other could ever offer. God handed me His most precious possession and He did it when I hated Him. God gave me His treasure when I spit in His face. He didn't flinch or give it conditions. He released Christ to me to do with what I would. Who in their right mind would do that?
Has the shock-wave of that hit you? I has hit me. I can hardly write this without weeping. So often I rip through my days without stopping to feel. I have so much doing to get done, I don't have time to feel or appreciate or connect. But when I finally sit with this gift I have been given, when I don't shy away from the pain of knowing how much I don't deserve it, I begin to understand the gravity of my choices.
(I hear you out there: "Yeah, yeah, yeah... Here she goes again about choices. I can choose joy or I can choose sorrow. I can choose to be offended or I can choose grace. I can choose Christ or I can choose the enemy. When will she pick another tune?" Well, maybe later... But not today.)
Above all things I believe we choose, we are given an opportunity to choose love. I don't mean just loving your neighbor, though that has tremendous merit. I mean choosing daily to specifically love your spouse. In our disposable, entitled world, growing up with a shelf life to almost everything, we have been conditioned to look for the next best thing. We have applied this to marriage as well. If it no longer suits me, if I don't feel appreciated, if I have someone else that would be willing to love me more the world has given me permission to throw away my marriage and start over.
Now, before I get hate mail and folks twist what I have been asked to write here, let me be crystal clear: I am NOT talking about staying in a physically and mentally abusive relationship that threatens the health of women, men or children. Of course actions must be taken to secure your health and safety. What I am talking about has nothing to do with those circumstances. What I am talking about is choosing not to throw away a relationship based on how we feel.
I don't know about you, but my marriage isn't perfect. (I know! You are shocked right? *rolls eyes*) There are days I have to actively choose not to walk out the door and never look back. The shocking realization I have come to is this: So does he. There are mornings I am sure my husband closes the door to our home and contemplates hopping in his truck and leaving it all in a cloud of dust. He would be justified by this world's standards. I am mean, broken, selfish, heartless and cruel. I say things I shouldn't, ignore his needs and take him horribly for granted. So why doesn't he just leave? Why would he stay? Simple: He chooses to love me.
OK. Wait... What? Well, in that simple act of not throwing in the towel, he is choosing to love me. It may not have a hug in it, it may not come with flowers or jewelry, but that choice to not leave - THAT is love.
We have been taught some terrible insidious lies in this life and the biggest one is that love is an emotion. That you feel it. We have been taught that if you don't feel it anymore it is acceptable to walk away. I am here to challenge that. I do not believe that love is an emotion - Not the kind of love I want in my life, anyway. Love, the kind of love I desperately need in my broken life, is a choice. It isn't fleeting like the attraction I had when we first met, it isn't based on how he treats me or what he says on a daily basis. Love is choosing to stay, choosing to act with kindness and grace, choosing to hold on when everything else says I should let go. Love is making a choice to trust that when God put us together, He meant what He said.
Emotions are fleeting. Lust and attraction will fade. Passion comes and goes. Love... Love chooses to stay and give and wait and trust. Love is not battered about on the winds of whimsy, it doesn't dissolve in the torrent of hardship. Love waits when it is hardest to be patient. Love reaches out when it is offended. Love forgives.
If you are struggling today to love your spouse rest assured you are not alone. Choose it anyway. God chose you when you didn't deserve it. He still does. If you need a picture of all the things love is, check out 1Cor13: 4-8a:
"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." (NIV version)This verse is revealing in ways that make me very uncomfortable. It shames me. It should. I fall short on a minute by minute basis. I choose to keep trying anyway. How about you? What will you choose?