Love. It’s a word that seems like it should be written in bubble letters, colored in cotton candy pink and surrounded by a dozen puffy hearts stabbed with arrows. But there is no more powerful word in our language.
I have fallen in love, sustained love, and fallen out of love. I have loved my children, my parents, my friends and my husband. In my forty years, I have known love that was not love at all, but disguised as such to wound me or control me. I have known love that is so pure it stops my breath. I have written songs and poems to profess this love. Love owns me.
But where does love get its power to “own” us? Why is it a force to be reckoned with, an emotion worth living for, and fate worth chasing?
When I think of all the ways I have felt love, it has very little to do with cards and flowers, and it has nothing to do with diamonds. It has everything to do with something so much bigger. Love only comes naturally to those that are in the midst of it. True love is wrapped in acceptance, delivered in sacrifice and sustained through commitment. Love is powerless without any of these. Love is a trinity.
Love is so integral to our wholeness that the Bible addresses it this way, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) This verse is so powerful because it does not say that He knows love or that He gives love. It says quite clearly He is love. God equals love. The trinity of love is best displayed through God and His perfect love.
The weirdest thing for a person who loves God and follows Jesus to explain to someone who doesn’t, is how a person who has sinned and fallen so far down comes to be loved by God, gets to follow Christ and can be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is so foreign to the way we operate as humans that sometimes we become angry at the concept. In “our” world, we must earn everything. There is “karma” on earth: you behave badly and you will be punished. This isn’t love. This is justice, and justice makes sense to us. A God who gives His Son to die is beyond our comprehension. A Spirit that chooses to dwell in us is even more puzzling. But this is the mystery of the power of love explained.
This love is often illustrated in our earthly lives through marriage. Even before there was a church, there was a man and a woman, given to each other. And it is this that has represented our relationship with Christ from the beginning. Marriage calls for submission, love, and respect. (Eph. 5:21-33) In marriage, love is not self-serving or boastful, and it doesn't keep record of wrongs. Love always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13)
And in God we find the trinity of love: a braid of His acceptance, His sacrifice, and His commitment. God modeled this example for us. God so loved us that He gave us His Son. Christ so loved us that He sacrificed Himself for us and even for the men who betrayed Him, even when He knew all along that they would do it. And He would do it again. And in this one sacrifice we can see the trinity of love. He found us flawless. God sacrificed His Son, and He gave us the Holy Spirit to stay with us forever until we can be joined with Him again. This is acceptance, sacrifice and commitment perfectly modeled to us.
My husband is not my Christ. But I love him beyond description for who he is to our boys and me and for how he loves us. I love him for his willingness to pursue the hearts of my boys and of me, and for the determination to never stop. I reflect on the gift that I have in him and sometimes it really absolutely blows me away. I'd like to think that he's a man after God’s own heart.
When do I most feel loved by my hubby? Let me first paint a picture of him. He is three years younger than me, well-tattooed, loves sports cars and really fast bikes. He’s a little cocky. He’s in love with own hair. He loves traveling, fine dining and tailored suits. His favorite pastime is alone time, in spades.
And then he met me. Divorced, mother of two. One child who seemed to start teenage backtalk at age five and the other with meltdowns that could break the fortitude of a lumberjack. We were far from tailored.
It took me three months to be brave enough for a date with him that included my boys. They were three and six; they argued over lightsabers for blood sport. We took them to an ice exhibit (the kind with Disney sculptures and ice slides). They complained about the cold. They went bonkers in the car on the way home, arguing and crying. My youngest pooped his pants, when “passing gas” came with an unexpected surprise. Then we rode home in 20 degree weather with the windows cracked. I expected to never see this man again.
But I did.
In time he bought an SUV, and then later traded the sports car and the two-door SUV for a nicer four-door model (so we would be more comfortable). He read books on parenting. He learned how to help with the meltdowns from my son. He became a pro at keeping the peace during homework hour. He traded in alone time for family time and trips to the aquarium. He’s cleaned spilled milk out of a hot minivan and vomit out of a frozen one. Eventually he traded his tidy, tailored life for a messy, cereal-covered one, saying “I do” in a very smart suit in unforgiving Tennessee swelter. Talk about love.
The magic of marriage really is in the moments. But it's like this for any kind of love. It's in the daily redundant thousands of times that we choose to put ourselves second for the benefit of someone else. It’s holding hands on the porch when there is work waiting for us, and praying on the edge of the bed when the pressures of the day have gotten the better of us. It’s acceptance, sacrifice and commitment over and over again, through tears, heartache and disappointment.
But if we are lucky, we all have our own story of the power of love. I have a friend, Scott, who has struggled with cancer for a few years. He has really been through many physical and mental trials. I learn so much about the power of love from him and his wife. They are always there for each other, always lifting each other up, and always committed to giving their children a good childhood, despite the health problems he experiences. On Facebook (as in “real life”), he is an inspiration to many:
“I have been laying down in bed most of the day with severe abdominal pain. I am the head coach of Wyatt's T-Ball team and I am lying down before we have to leave to go to his practice tonight. God, please give me the strength to make it through this practice, I know I can do it… I thought about canceling, but I had so much fun Tuesday watching those smiling little faces and laughing and playing with the kids, I feel as if I can just get there and start practice, the sheer joy, mixed with Tylenol, and mostly the help of God, will lead me through.”
Sacrificial love is so powerful that it is as much transformative for the giver as the receiver. We all long for it because of its properties to heal, to give hope, to impart faith, and to awaken our souls. Even through his pain, Scott would rather be by his son’s side coaching t-ball and cheering on his son, rather than miss it. Scott is a giver of powerful, transformative love. And one day, I’ll bet his son will be too.
In a world where we treat marriage like dating and give up when there is still a fight left in us or in our marriage, let’s reexamine the true power of love. If we are trying to lead with a love that refuses to put us second, that demands its own way, that requires perfection in others, quits easily, or chooses instant gratification over perseverance, then we are leading with a love that is not the kind that God requires from us. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We are commanded to love in order to know Him.
Day by day, moment by moment, the power of this trinity of love can rebuild us. It can repair our brokenness and give us confidence in our future. But it’s not just being loved that matters; it is knowing that we were worth being loved to begin with. When someone will sacrifice for us means we learn that we are acceptable. And commitment says that no matter what the future might bring, we will still be worth it. Love never fails.
Through God’s trinity we have the perfect example of the power of love. Through relationships we have the chance to share it this side of eternity.
Kris Wolfe is a Christian, wife and mother. She is a freelance writer who focuses on spiritual and practical encouragement, writes lessons for small group purposes for churches, and is also a small group coach. Kris has a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Luther Rice University and Seminary and is a listed TN Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.
I used to think I had great self-esteem. But I used to confuse self-esteem and confidence. I had confidence, to a degree. Self-esteem? Maybe not so much. Neighbors told me I had pretty hair and nice eyes; so I had confidence in my appearance. My teachers told me that I was smart; so I had confidence in my intellect. [Read more...] [En español]
Six positive pregnancy tests, each with weeks filled with elation and big plans; each followed with certain loss and bouts of grief, all in a span of five years. While this may seem like pure tragedy, senseless suffering, there is so much more to comprehend in this story than grief and loss. [Read more...] [En español]
Love. It’s a word that seems like it should be written in bubble letters, colored in cotton candy pink and surrounded by a dozen puffy hearts stabbed with arrows. But there is no more powerful word in our language. [Read more...] [En español]
I didn’t really grow up in the church, but I didn’t really have an anti-church experience either. In fact, I would say my family had one foot firmly planted on both paths. Imagine how hard it was for us to get anywhere like that. [Read more...] [En español]
I cringe thinking about “secular influences” on my children, not just because they can be bad, but also because I don’t want my children developing a “holier-than-thou” attitude. I want them to be firmly planted in Christ and derive their strength and identity from Him. [Read more...] [En español]
It’s more than a song; it’s a mysterious way of living. Letting go our suffering and forgiveness are a cornerstone of Christian living, but it’s a concept that brings shivers to the strongest of Christians. It has been said that forgiveness is not for the weak. [Read more...] [En español]
Ask any parent what they hope for in their children and almost all of them will mention happiness. We all desire happiness for our children and ourselves. We can even worship our own happiness at times, chasing down impossible standards of perfect happiness found only in a children’s book. [Read more...] [En español]
If you are a tough love kind of parent, you might not even care if your kids feel a sense of belonging, so long as they have a motivation to perform and behave. But do you remember what it was like to be twelve or fifteen? Did belonging matter to you? Of course it did! [Read more...] [En español]
You may have heard the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). A young man demands his share of the family estate in advance from his father. His father obliges, yet the son runs off and squanders his fortune. Near starvation, he eventually returns home and his father welcomes him immediately and even throws a feast for him. All is well that ends well, right? [Read more...] [En español]
Work. It’s a labor of love. Or is it? People say, “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life,” implying of course that if you follow your passion, then it won’t feel like work. But is this really true? [Read more...] [En español]
So I just got back from a weeklong cruise with two t/w/een minions. They are twelve and fifteen. You know the emoji with the big unblinking freaked out eyes? That was me—just trying to imagine the craziness that would ensue on our trip with these two. In other words, I wouldn’t call my boys easy. [Read more...] [En español]
There is nothing more aggravating than seeing someone you care about settling for less than they deserve; except perhaps watching them miss out on happiness because they aren’t willing to be happy with their “lot.” [Read more...]
My husband and I took the trip of a lifetime. Ten days in Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice. It was everything you would expect. But there is always the realm of the unexpected. We had just eaten dinner with strangers from all over the world while overlooking the city of Florence at sunset. [Read more...]
A healthy life involves well-articulated priorities. But who should set our priorities? It seems pretty obvious, right? My life: my priorities. But is this biblical? Better yet, is this even sinful? [Read more...]
Forgiveness is life-giving, relationship-healing and freeing beyond measure. But sometimes when we think we are forgiving someone, we can actually unknowingly be giving him or her permission to keep hurting us. How do we know the difference? [Read more...]