When you first move to a community, you know no one. After some time there you eventually get into relationship with people and you begin to open up to people and vice versa. In the same way, when I serve a new congregation, my love for them grows as I pray for them more and more, and as I get into community with them.
The same concept is true with our love stories. The longer we journey with our spouse, the longer we learn about them, the longer we become interested in what makes them tick, the longer we build and create memories that transcend the up and downs and trials of life, all of these become the foundation we set for our marriage.
When my wife, who was my fiancee and my best friend at the time, stuck by my side through a cancer scare, I learned something about her. I learned that she was the real deal. I learned she was willing to stick around –that she wasn’t in this relationship for just the ups. She was in our relationship for the downs too –in sickness and in health.
In the same way, before we got married, I told my wife if we got married, I would be going to seminary. I asked if she would consider supporting that desire since I felt a strong call to go. She prayed about it for a day or so and came back and said she would go wherever I felt led to go. So I started searching, I picked one, and she came willingly and happily.
Once we had finished studying there and were about to move, I got offered a job with an incredible church. This offer was my dream offer. I felt I needed to say yes. But that meant our plans for moving were on hold, and again, my wife happily said, “We need to take this offer”. She said she would do whatever I felt I needed to do. She would go wherever the Lord wanted to take us.
Now, we are moving to another town to pursue another call and to pursue more training. We knew we would be moving on after summer, because I wanted more education. With that knowledge we considered places all over Canada and in the States. Every time I considered a place, my wife’s response was still the same: I will happily go with you wherever the Lord leads. That’s real love.
The longer we understand our spouses dreams, their strengths, their weaknesses, what makes them tick, what they like, what they don’t like, how they desire to be loved, and how to support them best, we build history together. We deepen the marital bond of love. We lay down further roots.
When my wife kept following wherever the Lord led us, we were building history, making memories, overcome problems, building our theology, making big decisions, fighting financial struggles and overcoming trials and things we were both struggling with as two sinners journeying through life together.
Even though in those times it was challenging, there were conflicts, difference in opinions and other desires of how life should look, in that time we learned a lot about each other and we learned a lot about our love for each other. Our love grew deeper. We built history together. We realized we were in this for the long-haul and we realized we had found a best friend in each other, one who would stick together through cancer scares, moving, conflicts, trials, financial struggle and whatever the future holds.
If the gospel is the driving force of your relationship, then gospel-centered love should compel you to love your spouse more, to listen more, to learn more about them and to support them better. The longer you build history together and the longer the gospel of Jesus Christ has time to work on your heart, you grow together. As you pray for your relationship individually and collectively, the more you commit to each other, and the stronger your relationship becomes that’s because you build history together.
The gospel also shows us this picture. God had history with us. He created us (Genesis 1:27), and when we sinned that history and love for us compelled Him to send His only son to die on a cross to save us. If there was no history and no relationships with mankind, God may have not tried to restore the relationship. But God loved us first (1 John 4:19), and since he loved us from the start and had invested in us and created us, he wasn’t going to give up on us. He had history with us. He demonstrated His love for us.
The same is true for our relationship. As we mirror God’s love and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we follow in His footsteps –we build relationship and we strive to love others. When we follow this model, we cultivate an attitude of not giving up on each other. We cultivate a commitment-based type of gospel-centered love action that says: “I am committed no matter what, through sickness and in health. There is nothing you can do to lose my love.”
Anyone can say “I do”, and anyone can have initial feelings for someone. In the same way, the ebb and flow of rising and descending infatuations and feelings in a marriage can fluctuate. But true love cannot be built merely on undeveloped foundations of “I do’s”, initial feelings and rising and falling stages of infatuations.
No. Real love is built when you build history with one another, when you see how your partner responds through the good and the bad and you begin to make memories together. That’s what real love looks like.
Real love transcends the ups and downs of life. It transcends fleeting and fluctuating emotions and infatuations. It sticks together like a best friend, no matter what the circumstance. It never abandons someone they’ve built history with. Just like the gospel of Jesus Christ.