Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. … Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:4-7,13 (NLT)]
Back in 2008, my husband and I joined others from our church to see Fireproof, a movie by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. It was about Caleb Holt, a firefighter, who’s urged by a friend and his father to hold off on getting the divorce to which he and his wife have agreed. Counseling him to fight for his crumbling marriage, his father gives him a Christian self-help book called The Love Dare and urges him to go on its forty-day challenge. Having nothing to do with the game “Truth or Dare,” the book dares Caleb to improve his marriage, not by changing his wife, but by changing the way he treats her. After completing the forty day challenge, Caleb continues changing his behavior and he and his wife eventually reconcile. As I remember, the movie ends with them renewing their marriage vows. Several months after seeing the movie, I spotted The Love Dare book while browsing through a bookstore. Whether the movie gave birth to the book or the book gave birth to the movie, I don’t know. In any case, I purchased it and, without my husband knowing, took on its 40-day challenge.
With 1 Corinthians as its foundation, each chapter of the book was a quick and easy read; the challenges, however, often were not so quick or easy! Even though love “does not demand its own way,” I recall that my willingly yielding in an area of disagreement between my husband and me was especially difficult. Since my husband knew nothing of my challenges, the hardest part was not pointing out every time I conceded to his viewpoint, did him a special kindness, eased his burden, or made it through the day without saying anything negative to or about him. But, knowing that love is not “boastful or proud,” I did my best!
When my daughter happened to see The Love Dare in my office, she seemed surprised (and a little concerned) by its presence. Although our 42-year marriage didn’t appear troubled, did the book indicate otherwise? I reassured her that the book’s presence did not mean her father and I were on the verge of divorce. It simply meant that no marriage is so secure that it can’t grow stronger or so good that it can’t become better.
While The Love Dare is no longer on my bookshelf and Fireproof is a distant memory, their lesson remains. Love isn’t determined by the one being loved; it is determined by the one who chooses to love! Although my husband and I promised unconditional love for one another nearly 55 years ago, we were young and in the throes of passion and neither of us had any idea what unconditional love actually demands. Older and wiser, now we do.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day supposedly dedicated to romance and love. Love, however, takes more than sexy lingerie, silk boxers, candlelit dinners, boxes of candy, jewelry, red roses, a bottle of wine, a romantic movie, or a weekend getaway. Love makes sacrifices, tries to understand, and even lets the other guy win (at least once in a while). It is patient, considerate, and unselfish. Love forgives, prays for, protects, respects, defends, encourages, and endures. Love admits when it’s wrong, won’t gloat when it’s right, doesn’t keep score, refuses to bring up past wrongs, makes allowances, isn’t affected by time or circumstances, and is unconditional and absolute. Rather than date nights or bouquets of flowers, these are the things of love. They are the glue that holds a marriage together.
How will you express your love for that someone special in your life today?
In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage. [Sir Robert Anderson]