I’m so glad that my college-sweetheart-turned-husband and I got engaged before the era of social media. There’s so much pressure these days to pull out all the stops while popping the question. Just do a quick search online for the most romantic proposals. Or the most creative proposals. Or even those where the bride is surprised by a flash mob, as hundreds of people break out singing in harmony while also performing elaborate choreography. Oh, and it’s all conveniently captured from four different camera angles and spliced together in a film that racks up millions of views and goes viral!
Now, I don’t knock a modern-day, pull-out-all-the-stops, creative proposal. They certainly show a guy’s willingness to put time into something that will speak love to his lady. But I fear that sometimes, all of this high-bar setting can start to set up a false notion of what romance is. So can elaborate weddings. And over-the-top honeymoons.
You see, sometimes, we spend a massive amount of time staging and planning our weddings and very little time sincerely trying to discern what real romance—meaning true love—actually is.
True love isn’t a man who will race through the rain down a crowded city street to passionately embrace his wife, beseeching her to return after a lovers’ quarrel.
Real romance doesn’t come with a hefty price tag or show its affections by emptying a bank account—or worse, by going deep into debt—in order to prove its intense longings for another.
True love isn’t flashy, wanting others outside of your marriage to cheer and applaud your showy efforts.
Authentic love isn’t proven by dramatic gestures, expensive rings, or attention-getting tactics. Not at all.
So, what is love—I mean true love? No better place to look than in the book about the greatest love ever—God’s love for us by sending Jesus to earth to become the sacrifice that took away our sins and offered us a place in eternity with him forever.
Speaking of Jesus…
What fabulous lessons we can glean from how he interacted with others while here on earth. No need to turn on a Ted Talk. Just flip open a Bible—or tap and scroll your way around its pixilated pages if you use the electronic sort. Throughout the reports in the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament that give an eyewitness account of Jesus’ life), we see Jesus spending his time with all kinds of people as he treated them with honor respect. He modeled upside-down living and loving, even showing love to those who would be his enemies. He granted dignity to people and was kind to them because … well, they were people.
News flash! Your spouse falls into the category of people! In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that often I treat other people much better than I treat my spouse. The stranger at the grocery store standing in line in front of me. The fellow sports mom sitting next to me in the bleachers. Even people who do something that irks me. Like the server who leaves off the jalapeño on my sub when I actually asked for extra. I don’t unload on them; I sweetly smile and grant them grace.
All the directives in Scripture that talk about how we are to treat other people also apply to how we treat our spouse.
There are times when I’m just about ready to open my mouth, letting some not-so-nice words fly in my husband’s direction, that I will stop and give my ready-to-come-unglued self a little reminder. It goes like this:
He’s not just my husband. He is also my brother in Christ.
I honestly ask myself, “How would I react if this were one of my Christian guy friends? What if this was a fellow male church member? Would I behave the same way with him?” This line of questioning has saved me from spewing out words I would later regret. So, remember at all times that he is your husband but is also your brother in Christ. We show love and respect to him as we would to any other person we know.
And, as for the romanticized views of romance we see on all the screens—television, movie, or the just one we hold in our hands as we tap and scroll? Let’s replace them with these instead:
True love is the steadfast presence of your lover, the willingness to stick it out when things get rocky. It demonstrates love when no one else is looking. True love is wholly committed, costing the giver time and effort. It gives with no expectation of recognition or return.
True love seeks to lighten the other’s load. It attempts to understand the other’s feelings, to soothe the unsettled soul of its love.
Real romance takes out the trash without being reminded, changes the baby’s diaper when your spouse is plain tuckered out, or swings by your beloved’s office just to drop off their favorite snack for their afternoon break.
True love models Christ by laying down its rights—and seeking to do no wrong. It places the other’s wishes above its own.
True love is not a public fist-pump. It loves in the secret places of the heart and then shows it in quiet ways, right there in the microscopic mundane minutes of life.
Throughout the seasons of marriage, romance itself seasons—it grows up and matures. And we learn to live out the real reason for marriage. What is the real purpose of matrimony? It is this: Marriage is meant to give those who view the husband-wife relationship a glimpse of the gospel. You see, it isn’t just pastors who deliver a sermon. Your marriage is a message and people are watching you preach. Will they see a skewed view or real love?
This is an excerpt from Karen Ehman’s book, Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy and was republished with permission.
Wives, you’re invited to join an online community at Proverbs 31 Ministries studying Karen Ehman’s new book Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy in Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy. Click here for more information.