Most weddings my pastor husband, Mike, presides over include the favored reading of the qualities of love from 1 Corinthians 13.
My observance of these joyful ceremonies, finds me wondering if these young, love struck couples, holding hands and gazing deep into one another’s eyes, understand the words they are hearing and repeating.
I remember standing with Mike on our wedding day and wholeheartedly agreeing to that promise. Thirty eight years later I realize I had little to no comprehension what it really meant.
“Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no list of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth, always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres and never gives up.”
Sounds nice doesn’t it?
Wouldn’t happily-ever-after be more than a fairy tale if we showed up with all the Love Chapter qualities intact on our wedding day?
None of us do. We may be in love but we sure don’t know much about it yet.
When the fireworks of the honeymoon dissipate and life settles into routine joys, challenges and responsibilities, the truth of the Love Chapter comes to test, stretching and challenging us in ways we never imagined.
You may be at the start of your marriage journey or have already traveled the road for a long time.
Either way, I want to share a few things with you I’ve learned since Mike and I said “I Do,” thirty eight years ago today.
1. It’s Not All About You:
Ask a young dating or engaged couple what they love about their significant other. The reply is telling.
“He makes me happy.”
” I need her.”
“I don’t want to live without him.”
Many answers start with ‘I’ or refer to how the other person makes ‘me’ feel.
Most of us start marriage from a position of selfishness. I know I did.
I hope all of us experience an abundance of dizzying romance, exploding fireworks and breath taking passion in marriage but real love is deeper than heart thumping emotion.
Love is action. Love is putting the other person ahead of “me” when you would rather have it your way.
Love is sometimes hard to DO and even harder to BE. It doesn’t always feel good and it isn’t always easy.
The good news is God IS LOVE and He can help us learn the fine art of laying “me” aside when necessary and cheerfully considering the needs of another.
Emancipation from the jail of selfishness brings us into a freedom and joy we never imagined.
2. Make a Commitment to Stay:
You won’t always feel the overwhelming rush of emotion you’re experiencing right now. Feelings ebb and flow like the tide – in and out.
While Hollywood tells us, when the feeling is gone the love is gone, I Corinthians 13 portrays love as the sum of many decisions and actions instead of a feeling.
A relationship based solely on emotion stands on a shallow and shaky foundation.
As the days turn into years there are continuous choices to be made.
How will I treat those I say I love, especially when the goose bumps and warm fuzzy feelings are absent?
How will I apply love to my words and deeds, and by doing so become more than a sounding gong or clanging cymbal-just a lot of noise void of substance?
You might have a few mornings when you wake up, roll over, look at your spouse and forgot what it was you loved about them on your wedding day.
That’s OK. It’s normal!
Don’t panic. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Stick it out and work through it.
Learning to be married well doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lifetime.
When you look back years later and say, “We’ve been through so much together, we’ve come far, we made it, and I still love you,” you’ll be glad you stayed and will have a deeper understanding of what REAL love is.
3. You Will Have Problems.
I wish we could get through life without problems but somewhere along the way they always show up. They add a dynamic to marriage that can bring you closer together or pull you apart.
We all respond in diverse ways to difficulty, so make allowances for the differences in your spouse’s reaction to illness, stress, loss, hardship. Don’t expect him/her to react the way you do to every situation.
God is wise in not revealing the future all at once.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Proverbs 37:23) means He reveals the plan and purpose one day at a time, one step at a time and promises to walk into it with us.
Do remember, God has grace great enough to get you and your marriage through anything.
If, as a couple, you are continually seeking His wisdom and trusting Him together, you will come out on the other side of your trials better and stronger than ever.
4. You Won’t Always Agree.
If you want to live with someone who agrees with you all the time, marry a mannequin.
You can dress it however you want. It will never gain weight, get wrinkles or gray hair and will always love your opinion because it will never have one!
We usually marry someone with a few brain cells and some thought process. This is good news, because they can add a whole new perspective to our way of seeing things IF we let them.
Listen and be open to your spouse’s point of view. You could actually learn something.
If you don’t agree on every point it’s not the end of the world or your relationship.
Learning how to disagree and still respect each other is an important key to keeping your marriage moving forward.
5. Learn to Compromise:
Though you may not agree on every point, you have to come to some sort of middle ground on the important stuff.
We bring different backgrounds and temperaments into marriage and coming to reasonable agreement as mature adults is a learned skill so don’t be discouraged and give up if you don’t handle this well the minute the ‘I Do’s’ are said.
Some negotiation and compromise are essential for two people to live together day in and out. It’s called being flexible!
Discernment and wisdom are required to know when to hold on or let go, speak or be quiet, give or take.
Remember that pouting or resorting to silence every time we have to give in a bit doesn’t win us admiration points with our spouse.
That’s what kids do. Remember we’re not kids anymore, we’re adults!
Here’s a good question to ask yourself; how much fun are you to be around?
Do you enjoy being with yourself? If the answer is no, others probably don’t want to hang around with you either.
Are you a moody, frowning, opinionated, nagging, critical, complaining, miserable person who pushes people away with a constant negative attitude?
What a HUGE turn off for a spouse who has to put up with you daily!!
Obviously we aren’t up all the time. Life can be difficult and throw challenges our way, some we don’t even see coming.
But finding joy in life, being a good listener and encourager, even wearing a smile goes a long way. It makes you and everyone inside your perimeter feel better.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s plenty of humor in the everyday events of life. People are pretty funny creatures.
Even the things that cause stress can be funny if we look at them from another side.
Laughter is the most priceless thing in the world and it doesn’t cost a cent.
Having fun, being fun, doesn’t have to expensive but it is absolutely essential to a happy marriage.
Pray, pray and pray some more.
Oh and did I say PRAY?!
No one knows you or your spouse better that the One who created you.
God can give you keys to unresolved conflict, patience when you’ve run out, and ideas to keep your relationship fresh and fun.
He can help you see your spouse from His perspective and give you understanding about what makes them tick, why they do those things that make you crazy.
Once you receive God’s heart for your spouse, it’s easier to let go and just love them for who they are.
And if you pray together, better yet. It’s hard to stay mad at someone you pray with.
There’s something about love and prayer that strengthen each other and that’s really good for marriage.
1 Corinthians 13
What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels?
If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge?
And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others.
What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive?
I would gain nothing, unless I loved others.
Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or 5 rude.
Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered.
It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.
Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil.
Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.
Love never fails!
Everyone who prophesies will stop, and unknown languages will no longer be spoken.
All that we know will be forgotten. We don’t know everything and our prophecies are not complete.
But what is perfect will someday appear, and what isn’t perfect will then disappear.
When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do.
But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways.
Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face.
We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us.
For now there are faith, hope, and love.
But of these three, the greatest is love.