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If you are anything like me, you may have come to tune out the verses from 1 Corinthians 13 because you have heard them so many times over the years. It seems like EVERY Christian wedding ceremony contains this Bible passage, displaying all the originality and depth of skipping record (or Vine playing on repeat for the younger crowd). "Love is patient, love is kind... blah, blah, blah." Forgive my flippant attitude towards the very Word of God, but that's what it begins to sound like over time.
I suppose knowing now what I did not know back in the days when all of my contemporaries were getting married also adds to that jaded attitude. While the words of 1 Corinthians 13 are professed at a time of blind-eyed bliss, they are infrequently lived out in too many of the marriages around me. Instead, couples tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time in an adversarial place where each spouse is fighting, often underhandedly, to get what they need.
I often wonder, if I had known on my wedding day what I know now, would I still have married my husband? The answer would likely be, NO, to my great detriment.
When we were married, the thing I looked forward to the most was discovering life together, forging new territory, adventures galore. Little did I know that God would give me exactly what I wanted in exactly the way I didn't want. We didn't discover life by touring the world, but by touring medical facilities. We didn't forge new territory with our careers or social influence, but through many exhausting years of medical and legislative patient advocacy. We had adventures galore alright, but certainly not by hang-gliding, mountain climbing, or motorcycle riding.
No, if you had told me the day that I was married that my life with my husband would include serial joblessness, leaving us in constant poverty; raising 3 children, all with expensive chronic illnesses or special needs; lack of support from both sides of our families; abandonment by people we once knew as friends; and lonely isolation dispensed by a mate who would later be identified with special needs himself, I would have RUN the other way as fast as I could.
Yet, because of the LORD'S great mercy, I love from a place of brokenness. I purposely shared the Amplified Translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 with you because in pulling it apart, we can see how very imperfectly we all love. The words are no longer just obnoxious wedding chatter, but become personal conviction. Do you ever find yourself boiling over with jealousy towards your spouse? Do you insist on your own rights or the supremacy of your way of doing things? Are you self-seeking? Do you find yourself fretful, touchy or resentful? Am I touching a nerve with you here?
Living in extreme difficulty and remaining married has taught me to love through my brokenness and imperfection as well as my husband's. I would say that I didn't know what real love was until we had endured all of these difficulties. Worldly love would have walked away from all of this years ago. It would be easier to walk away than endure all of the pain and loss. Yet, because of LOVE... God Himself... I remain. I love beyond myself.
LOVE is not me. I wouldn't have told you that nearly 23 years ago when I was first married. I would have insisted that I was incredibly loving. Yet, time has proven that I am not, by nature, kind or patient or trusting or hopeful. I keep track of how I have been wronged. I cop an attitude. But God...
Christ MUST be in charge in my marriage for LOVE to prevail. It thrives in spite of me, not because of me. When I look at this list of what love IS and ISN'T, I can't help but see how ugly I am within my fallen human nature. And that ugliness is every bit as ugly as my husband's brokenness. So if I want to be loved, cherished, comforted, FORGIVEN how can I not offer my husband the same?
Loving from a place of brokenness means that I need to FORGIVE him... and myself... EVERY day. I apologize to him more than once a day nearly every day. Eventually, my awareness stops me from some of these shortcomings "before the horse is out of the barn." I prefer it that way, because even with an apology, the damage is done when I have behaved in anger or malice. It's no fun feeling regret for words I've said or things I've done. My desire is to look more like the love of Christ with increasing measure. So when I want to wring his neck, I usually pray instead, "Lord, help me love him like You do!"
Love is NOT easy. While it may be implied in 1 Corinthians 13, it isn't overtly stated. It's not easy because it is Divine. But as we follow hard after Him, obeying and learning more of His nature, we begin to look more like LOVE, and that becomes the richer glue that can hold even a challenging marriage together.
PRAY: LORD, my human tendency is to be selfish in every way. I want life to be all about pleasing me. Thank You, Jesus, for delivering me from myself. Thank You for turning my heart and my eyes towards pleasing You. That is the only way I can learn to really love... my spouse, my children, or even the most difficult people in my life. True LOVE is only possible in and through You.
~ Barb Dittrich