February 10, 2014

I Love Him Anyway

Gary Thomas — 

 

photo:  The Kristiano, Creative Commons

photo: The Kristiano, Creative Commons

Meg and Peter have been married for more than twenty years. On Valentine’s Day, Meg went all out, giving Peter his favorite candy, tickets to an upcoming hockey game, and, later at night, she wrapped herself in a special outfit purchased for just that occasion.

Peter got her a card.

At the grocery store.

That he purchased on the way home from work.

He didn’t add anything to it, either. He just signed it, “Peter.” He even forgot to write the word “love.”

A couple of days later, Meg tried to explain that she felt a little taken for granted. Apparently, Peter misunderstood her intent because when, two months later, they celebrated their 22nd anniversary, Peter didn’t get Meg anything.

Meg kept waiting throughout the day, wondering when Peter would bring out the present—but the present never came. Since she had given Peter her present—some rather expensive fishing lures—she knew Peter remembered the anniversary. So as they got ready for bed, Meg waited in anticipation, but Peter slipped in beside her and promptly went to sleep.

The next morning, Meg was beside herself.

She fretted all day until Peter came home from work and then she asked, “How could you not get me anything for our anniversary? Especially after our conversation about Valentine’s Day?”

“Well, I thought about getting you something but it didn’t work out,” he replied. “And then I knew not to get you a card because you said you didn’t like that last time.”

“It’s not that I didn’t like the card. It’s that the card alone seemed a little sparse. But even that is better than nothing…”

Several months later, Meg had a birthday.

This time, Peter got her a present—a kitchen tool set. Several weeks before, Meg had asked to borrow Peter’s tape measure and screwdriver. Peter figured that Meg should have her own small set of “kitchen tools” so that she didn’t have to borrow his.

Meg recounted all this, then explained how she had tried to get her husband to read several “how to” books on loving your spouse, but it just didn’t interest him. He’d read the first few pages, lose interest, and never pick the book back up again.

“I’ve realized, this is never going to change,” she confessed. “But I love him anyway.”

That last statement of Meg’s, “But I love him anyway,” is one of the most profound theological statements on marriage I’ve ever heard. Most of us base love on “because,” not on “anyway.” I love you “because” you’re good to me. I’ll love you “because” you’re kind, because you’re considerate, because you keep the romance alive.

But in Luke 6:32-36, Jesus says we shouldn’t love “because,” but “anyway.”

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:32-36

If we love someone because they’re good to us, or give back to us, or are kind to us, we’re acting no better than your average, every day, common sinner who lives without the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit. In essence, Jesus is saying, “You don’t need the Holy Spirit to love a man who remembers every anniversary—not just the anniversary of your marriage, but the anniversary of your first date and your first kiss, or who even remembers what you were wearing the first time you saw each other. Any woman could love a man like that. And if you love a husband who is kind and good to you—who lavishes you with gifts, who reciprocates with backrubs, who goes out of his way to get you time off, and who is physically affectionate even when he doesn’t want sex in return—well, you’re doing what any woman would do. There’s no special credit in that!

“But if you love a man who disappoints you, who may forget an anniversary or two, who can be a little selfish or a little self-absorbed—now you’re loving ‘anyway,’ and that’s what I call my followers to do. In doing that, you’re following the model of the Heavenly Father who loves the ungrateful and the wicked.”

Will you love only “because”? Or are you willing to love “anyway”?

Will you love a man or woman who doesn’t appreciate your sacrifice on their behalf? Will you love a husband or wife who takes you for granted? Will you love a spouse who isn’t nearly as kind to you as you are to them?

If you say “No,” then at least admit this: you’re acting just like someone who has never known the Lord. Just about every faithless marriage is based on “because” love. Christians are called to “anyway” love. That’s what makes us different. That’s what gives glory to God. That’s what helps us appreciate God’s love for us, because God loves us “anyway.” He loved us when we rebelled against him. He continues to love us when we continue to sin against him. He gives and he gives and he gives—and we take him for granted. He is eager to meet with us, and we get too busy to slow down and notice him. He is good to us, and we accuse him mercilessly when every little thing doesn’t go just the way we planned it.

But God loves us anyway. To love anyway is to love like God and to learn about God’s love for us.

That’s love, Jesus style.

Let’s love like that.

 

This blog post is an excerpt from my book Devotions for a Sacred Marriage. You can read more about this book and the options to purchase it here: http://www.garythomas.com/books/devotions-for-a-sacred-marriage/

When you subscribe to Gary’s blog, you will receive blog posts directly to your e-mail inbox. You will be one of the first to learn about the latest in Gary’s writing.

12 responses to I Love Him Anyway

  1. You’re 3 for 3 today, Gary. Sharing this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity as well.

    Praying these stories inspire wise individuals to be a little bit wiser in love ahead of time… and then to be prepared to love ANYWAY after their choice is made.

  2. Gary,
    I have read many of your books, Sacred Marriage twice, Sacred Influence, Sacred Parenting and have plans to read Lifelong love. Thank you for them. It was sacred marriage and influence that encouraged me to fight for my marriage when my husband was having an affair with my best friend. Two years of turmoil, many disclosures later, a separate lawsuit with my husbands company and after a year of separation we decided to try this marriage thing again. However I struggled reading the post because I struggle with the idea of what are real expectations we as Christians can ask for, be disappointed regularly, and then still be immune to hurt and then Love anyway….I know this blog is just a biblical concept and my situation is bigger than one blog post but I so want to follow God’s example of loving your enemies even when they live in your home but hurt drowns it out.

  3. Marriage is hard, it truly is. We do our newly marrieds a disservice by supporting the belief that their marriage, out of all marriages, will be easy because they are so right for each other. The truth is that we grow as we deal with the imperfections, dysfunctions and even sins of our spouses. It changes us and helps us to be more mature.

    That certainly has been true in our marriage. My husband had to deal with my fears and insecurities, the dysfunctions from my family background, and my inability to confront when I needed to. I have lived with his perfectionism and having to be right.

    One more comment, though. It is not true that a spouse will never or can never change. My husband and I have now been married 40 years and our best years have been the last few when we were led into emotional healing ministries and began to change. There is hope!!!

    • I agree Sharon–wise words indeed. I’ve worked with some couples though where one spouse remains resistant to change. That’s why I tell singles to look for a humble person to marry. Humility is, in my view, severely under rated as a desirable trait in a marriage partner

  4. I could have been the woman in this situation. We have only been married 4 years, and have been to pastors and Christian counselors. My husband tries for about 2 weeks, and then gives up. THIS has been every holiday, birthday, and anniversary of our married life. My husband used to be a pastor, so it can happen to anyone.

    Yes, loving “anyway” is great–but it requires one spouse to give up their God-given emotions, dreams, and worth for a spouse who simply cannot be bothered. But this husband is just being lazy, selfish, and immature–just like mine. It’s about being so wrapped up in your own life that you simply don’t bother to listen to your spouse–or perhaps don’t care what he/she says because it will be more work/effort on your part to be a better spouse. It’s abuse, it’s unGodly, and it is near impossible to live with: plain and simple.

    Perhaps you should consider using your writing talents to write a piece on how spouses so wrapped up in their own selfish world are not honoring God, your spouses, or your marriage vows and forcing your spouse to live in an unhappy and defeating marriage because you won’t live up to your vows.

    • Becky, I know this can be painful, and I do my best to address the selfish spouse in my books. The challenge is that selfish spouses are less likely to read books on marriage–or care. So this post is for those who need to hear reality–how do you cope, spiritually, when strategies don’t work?

  5. Yes! I’ve loved my husband anyway through many years of disappointments and even downright rotten behavior towards me. Now, 14 years later, he is finally realizing things and treating me much better. It is actually easy to love him, now. It is a natural action and reaction rather than a concentrated, hard choice.

  6. Thank you for this today. I needed this. Man, I’m so not feeling it lately. I’m just not. Marriage is HARD lately. Hard, Hard, and Hard. And you’re right, talk can’t always solve things. Feeling “heard” might go a long way, but alas, it seems like I won’t get that so, I’m going to go with I’m gonna love you ANYWAY today. The same way God loves me everyday-ANYWAY! Thank you!

  7. Throughout our 38 years of marriage we have often said, “I love you even though…..” same idea.

  8. I agree with the overall message of the post, but feel like it deserves another paragraph. To Love ‘anyway” does not mean ignore the emotional needs of your spouse and then claim they should love you anyway. That’s a cop-out.

    Some husbands are going to use this against their wives in that way. If a wife shares her feelings about a missed anniversary or birthday, then the husband will shoot back with, “…you’re acting just like someone who has never known the Lord.”

    • That’s the limitation of writing a blog post, Ryan, instead of when I write books or even when I write articles. If you notice, this is already outside the “preferred” length of most blog posts. But you’re just asking for a paragraph, and I certainly could have done that. Here’s the thing though: this is written for the spouse who is disappointed, not for a spouse to use it when he/she is the one doing the disappointing. That’s a level of cruelty and apathy that deserves another post all on its own. If someone responds to genuine, legitimate disappointment with such a lack of conviction or repentance, there’s something else going on entirely that needs to be addressed. Notice, also, that this wife DID raise the concern, she DID try to talk about it. When her husband still wouldn’t respond, she had a choice to make. That’s the point I was trying to make–learning to love an imperfect spouse. Sometimes we sound as if “talk” can solve everything; many times, it doesn’t.

    • Super extiecd to see more of this kind of stuff online.