@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I remember the day that I celebrated my grandparents' 50 years of marriage. At the time, I didn't even know what it meant to be alive for a quarter of a century or even to have a girlfriend for much longer than a year for that matter. Yet, I looked at their years together—the legacy they had already left and the love in which they shared—with both joy and a hope to also have that type of love one day.
As I've grown older, gotten married, and had kids of my own, I've appreciated their journey all the more. I've come to realize how love is not some feeling of continual ectasy, but a commitment through all of the highs and lows of life. Through the joys and the sorrow.
Love takes commitment. Here are some things to note in how we can love well for the long-haul.
1. check your motivation.
Why we do something is so much more important than what we do. Just recently, we celebrated Valentine's Day. For the longest of time, I rebelled against this special day. I referred to it as the "Hallmark holiday." I even justified why my girlfriend, fiancé, and then wife didn't need me to get her anything. In fact, it was the day that I would say, "Love is an everyday thing, not just a holiday type of love." I really did love her 364 days out of the year— I just rebelled against that one day.
Yet my motivation was not pure. I let my arrogance and pride get in the way of showing my wife a 365-day type of love.
In sharing about what love is, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
"Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude."*
When it comes to why we love, the questions become: Why do we love? Is it out of obligation? Is it so we can boast? Do we do (or not do) something because of our own arrogant desires?
Loving well for the long haul begins with the right motivation.
2. challenge your focus.
Where we put the focus of our relationship matters.
At first, I always saw having a girlfriend and eventually a wife as a benefit to me. The motives were based on my desires, longings, and wants. However, what I realized is how much I was focused on myself through it all.
I love my wife best when I take the focus off of myself and place it on her. Rather than insisting on my own way or desire, I find it more enjoyable to listen to her ways and desires. It may mean putting that basketball game on record and watching it later so we can enjoy a movie or date night together. It may mean letting work stay at work so I can be fully present at home. When I get overwhelmed and focused on all that I want, I no longer am focused on my wife.
Loving well for the long haul means focusing less on ourselves and more on the other.
"It [love] does not insist on it's own way; it is not irritable or resentful."**
3. converse honestly.
I've heard it be said, "A little white lie never hurt anyone."
This is so far from the truth.
From small to big lies, they all directly impact our relationships. Lies never lead to anything beneficial, and they're always discovered. They always tear down trust and never build it up.
There is a famous proverb that says, "Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed."***
If we are to have healthy relationships, then we should speak openly and honestly. Telling the truth can be hard. In fact, it may leave us feeling like we'll be rejected. However, every time we tell the truth, we continue to build trust rather than tear it down. The sting of what we have to say may hurt, but the truth behind it builds trust and credibility.
We often lie because we want to make ourselves look better. We believe the lie that, if we hold back from sharing the truth, then the other person won't see our flaws. They may even think of us as better than we know we are. Yet, as the proverb reminds us, lies are soon exposed.
A relationship that is built on lies will not last.
"It [love] does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth."****
4. commit to the journey.
Have you ever been traveling somewhere and then suddenly made a wrong turn? Maybe you were in the middle of a new place and suddenly became lost. At that moment, you are committed. You are on the journey, and there is no easy way to just turn around and go back.
In our relationships, our commitment is much the same way. We are committed. We are on the journey, and at times we may get lost. Hardship will come, struggles will happen, arguments will take place.
It is in the hard times that we are able to show our true commitment. We are able to embrace the situation and get through it together. We may need to stop and ask for directions. We may need to reprogram the GPS. We may need to reset our bearings. No matter what we have to do, we must commit to being in it together.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."*****
The ultimate expression of love is Jesus Christ himself. He came and sacrificed everything so that we may have everything. However, he did not come and take away our sickness, pain, and hardship in this life. He did not come to wipe away the agonies of this world—at least not yet. However, he promised to be with us forever.
When we face a terminal diagnosis, Jesus is with us.
When we are struck with anxiety and fear, Jesus is with us.
When we have hardship and pain, Jesus is with us.
He never promises to free us from the pain, but he promises to be with us through it.
Our relationships should reflect that same type of commitment. We cannot take away the pain, sickness, anxiety, or hardship of another person. However, we can journey through it with them.