In Chapters 3 and 4 of Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes about Finding God in Marriage and How Marriage Teaches Us to Love. I will highlight one aspect of this week’s reading: Learning to Love.
“Most of us got married, not to learn how to love but to be loved.” – Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
At nineteen, I stood at the altar, adorned in my empire-waist wedding gown with its jeweled-bodice and majestic Queen Anne neckline. Striking yellow and purple sprays of gladiolas sprinkled the church. A perfect day, except for one thing.
I didn’t enter my first marriage with the intention—or understanding—of learning how to love.
As a young girl, I thought knowing how to love was innate, just as our slippery newborn babies slid into this world knowing how to cry.
However, we instead learn love through living, and through relationships with parents, siblings, friends and enemies.
During my high school and college years, I never thumbed through any syllabus that outlined Loving Your Spouse 101 or Nurturing Loving Relationships 102. I thought by the time I married, I’d figure it out.
Now I know, the first time I didn’t have it figured out.
Love Must Be Learned
Author Katherine Anne Porter wrote: “Love must be learned, and learned again; there is no end to it. Hate needs no instruction, but waits to be provoked.”
With head down, I admit; there were times in my past when I allowed anger and hate to win out over love. Porter says it well: hate needs no instruction. Sometimes it is harder to love than other times.
James 3:2 acknowledges we mess up. “We all stumble in many ways.” None of us are perfect—nor are our marriages. In small group settings, as my husband, Andy, and I share our own sin and stumbles, other couples have shared with us mistakes they’ve made in their marriages. It could range from disappointing a spouse to shaking the security of the marriage. No one said marriage was easy. In fact, Jesus said in this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Christ’s love is bigger than all our failures. Can our love for our spouses be this big? How do we learn to love like this?
Love Is Action with Heart
We start by realizing that love is not a feeling; it is an act with heart—something we do intentionally. It’s something that needs practice—to be learned again and again. We learn better how to love by knowing we are commanded to love.
A scribe asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest and Jesus replied that there were two. It isn’t enough to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Jesus said if we really want to please God, we must love others (Matthew 22:34-40).
Gary Thomas suggests that God designed marriage to teach us how to love. He created marriage to reveal Himself to us—to think of we instead of me. This begs us to consider whether we want to be a spouse-centered spouse or a God-centered spouse.
Love Our Spouses by Loving God
One Sunday a few years ago, Andy and I sat in church listening to the sermon. Our preacher stood behind the pulpit and told the congregation he loved God more than he loved his wife; and she was okay with that.
His wife sat in the pew, with their infant son in her lap. They looked at one another as if acknowledging some secret treasure between them.
If God were the most important thing in our marriages, he said, then everything else would take care of itself.
Three months ago, I read Gary’s words: “We show our love for God, in part, by loving our spouses well. And we love our spouses by loving God.”
How to Love Like Jesus
Each day, I strive to learn more about how to love from God’s example. My core curriculum is His Word, and my “one-on-one” counsel with Him happens through prayer and meditation. In those times, I embrace this: by loving God more, I love my husband more.
Gary says it so eloquently: “Love unlocks the spiritual secrets of the universe. Love blows open eternity and showers raindrops on us.”
My eyes are being opened to the power of God’s love in my marriage. I realize I am saying a lot about God and my marriage by the way I act.
At the 2016 IF: Gathering women’s conference, Jen Hatmaker spoke on love. She said, “Jesus loved with touch, presence, proximity and dignity… May we love recklessly like Jesus and watch joy overflow.”
I want to consistently love my husband this way. Not just when life is going well and we’re happy, but when circumstances challenge us and turmoil tempts us to be less than we’re commanded to be, I want to love my husband like Jesus loves me.
Would you leave a comment in the box answering one simple question?
What does marriage teach you about love?
Christ’s love is bigger than all our failures. Click To Tweet Jesus loved with touch, presence, proximity and dignity Click To Tweet I am saying a lot about God and my marriage by the way I act. Click To Tweet Love blows open eternity and showers raindrops on us. Click To Tweet
Next time, we’ll explore Chapters 5 and 6: How Marriage Teaches Us to Respect Others and A Good Marriage Can Foster Good Prayer.
Sacred Marriage Series: An Invitation
Part 1: Marriage: Confronting Our Selfishness
Part 2: One Way to Love Your Lover (Spouse)
Click any topic to view more resources:
A Lifelong Love: A quick video about marital love (An intro to Gary’s new book, A Lifelong Love)
Sacred Marriage Session 1 video
Photo by Kyle Steed, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.