Love is like hot yoga.
When my muscles are tight and achy and stressed, I cannot wait for a hot yoga class. I want to be stretched and strengthened. I know all the benefits and I want them. But as the class gets closer, I begin to fear the 100 degree room. I remember that this will be hard, and there will be sweat, and maybe even blood and tears. Fifteen minutes into the class, I want out. I struggle to stay focused. I mock myself for thinking this was a good idea.
But then, when I lay in the dark room at the end of the most intense 90 minutes ever known to man, and a cold lavender scented towel is placed on my forehead, my muscles are warm and loosened, my breath is even and balanced… and I remember why I came.
Love is like that.
In eight months of being a wife, I have learned a lot from this guy of mine.
I’ve learned that walking isn’t just for exercise. If you slow down a bit, you can see the bluebird flying over you and you can count all the varieties of larkspur at your feet. I’ve learned that when you watch movies with closed-captions on, you take your understanding of dialogue to a whole new level. I’ve learned to use the dictionary, read maps, and drive stick.
Of course I’ve taught him a few things…like to appreciate a good hard run as marvelous stress relief. And to drink coffee, which sometimes means sharing what used to be my French Press.
Mostly though I have learned how selfish I am. How I get upset about little things and how I am quick to blame and slow to take responsibility. Living day in and day out with someone brings out all the stiffness and stubbornness deep inside of me.
Often I feel so unfit for this “love and cherish” thing. But somehow, by that odd ironic working of grace, when I come to this ego-crushing realization, I am exactly where I need to be. Prone on the Potter’s wheel. Ready to be stretched and pulled in all kinds of uncomfortable, yet needed, ways.
Because marriage teaches me something so much bigger. It teaches me that I am loved, not because of who I am, but in spite of who I am.
Even when I am most unlovable. Even when I lay on the couch with a pounding headache in my pjs. When I demand to be right and refuse to listen.
In spite of me, my hardworking husband sacrifices for me time and time again. He sacrifices his plans, his resources and his time. Sometimes I feel so ungrateful. Like I demand to be treated well and throw a fit when I think I am not.
Who am I to deserve such agape love?
I believe unbelievers can have good marriages and friendships, but I think only Jesus-followers can know and experience the true fullness of relationship. Because every time your spouse, your friend, or even a perfect stranger, gives up something precious to them to show love to you, you glimpse tangible images of how Christ loves you.
When they serve you even though you have been nasty and petty all day. When they tell you to lay down and they are going to make dinner tonight, even though they have had a long day too. When you go to sleep, knowing they will be there beside you in the morning.
Each time, each brush stroke of grace, paints a picture of the love of Christ.
Christ takes me – to have and to hold. For better, for worse (even at my worst). For richer, for poorer (that I might find my wealth in Him).In sickness and in health (that I might know His strength in my weakness). To love and to cherish, for as long as He – and I with Him – shall live. Which is forever.
Christ comes close in my most unlovely moments and speaks over me:
I betroth you to Myself forever. I betroth you to Myself in righteousness and in justice, in love and in mercy. I betroth you to Myself in faithfulness…and you shall know God.
This is love. Not that I loved God, but that He loved me. And purposefully, fearlessly, violently, gave His life for me.
God’s love comes to me, broken and confused, angry and bitter, fearful and anxious and like a warm thick blanket surrounds me, holding me tight until I can’t fight any longer. I just have to let go.
The purpose of betrothing love is the knowledge of God. And our love for each other was meant to teach others about His goodness. Is that what my love is about? More than sunsets over green hills. More than breakfasts in bed. More than baking brownies and washing dishes and reviewing budgets. It is not ultimately about me or what makes me momentarily happy.
No, my daily love is meant to be an experience in the divine.
in how I love you I want you to see God. I want you to know more of His grace and mercy, His faithfulness and forgiveness, His slowness to anger, His passion for what is right.
I want you to see redemption and at work in how I love.
I want to be quick to apologize my when words cause pain and then speak healing, forgiving words when you have hurt me.
I want to strip of the masks and let truth bind us together so we can struggle together through our growing pains.
I want to look out for you, protect you, to rejoice in seeing you succeed.
I want to daily reassure you that you are loved – eternally.
I want to pour that last cup of coffee and hand it off to you.
I need to anchor my belief in the betrothing covenantal love of Christ if I am going to let love stretch me, pull me, put me in uncomfortable places. Let it expand my ability to breathe deeply of grace and exhale kindness. To bravely step into the storm and be a shelter for another.
Love – not just the marriage kind – is like hot yoga. I may dread the commitment at times, fight against the pain it may inflict, almost be smothered by it, but it is ultimately for my good, for my health, for my joy. And I have my living, resurrected, nail-pierced Jesus to fill up the stores of my heart every day. He’s a well of love that never runs dry.