Real Love


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Our Pastor’s wives meet monthly to share what’s going on in our lives, strategize about how we can better serve/pray, and to pray for one another (And, of course, to eat something that’s high in carbohydrates and drink a ton of coffee).

Last month when we met I shared that Josh and I have never been closer than we are right now. I laughed and said “I know it doesn’t make sense! But it’s true!” Why doesn’t it make sense? Because this year has been insaaaaaane, of course. If there were any year that should have been hard on our marriage, should have left us distant and frustrated, it was this one.

Our church hired two new pastors and we adopted an entirely new ministry model.  It was also Josh’s busiest year in ministry yet.  So that alone would have made this a more challenging year.

But add in the fact that we decided to adopt 2 kids from Uganda last February, went to get them in June, came back with them in July, and went from 2 to 4 children just like that, and that way madness lies. Like I said, if any year should have broken us, it was this one.

And it did. But not in the way you think.

Last night at dinner, Josh and I exchanged our cards for Valentines Day, our tenth Valentines Day together (don’t know how that happened). We got each other gifts, too, but since my husband cannot wait more than 5 minutes to give a gift once its in his possession, we exchanged gifts in January. So last night it was just the cards. Well, mine was just a card, and his was a BEAUTIFUL FIVE STANZA POEM THAT HE WROTE HIMSELF. I don’t deserve him. My card was cheesy, but what I wrote in the card…well, it was cheesy, too. But the point of what I said was this: This has been our best year. I’ve never loved or respected Josh more. He’s never loved or served me better. And this only makes sense because of Jesus.

When it comes right down to it, it is the world’s definition of love and marriage that doesn’t make sense. Because the world says love is a feeling. It says that romance is driven by feelings. It says that as long as we can keep that feeling going, we are okay.

Look, I like lovey feelings just as much as the next person, but can we all be honest and admit they aren’t LOVE. They may or may not last. They may come and go with good seasons and hard seasons. But either way they cannot sustain a marriage. They are not pillars of a house. They are the nice decorations on the inside. I love having a beautiful home, but nice home decor is kind of pointless if the pillars of the house are weak and everything comes crashing down. Obviously this analogy breaks down at a certain point, but I think you catch my drift.

Feelings shift and change. Especially when the going gets tough. When Josh and I were engaged we had this huge fight one night in the car (mostly because we were sick of being engaged, I think), and once we had cooled down a bit he kind of jokingly asked, “Do you still love me?” And I sighed and said through my teeth, “I’m choosing to love you right now.” He burst out laughing and so did I. But he almost always tells that story in premarital counseling because he wants people to know that there comes a moment in every relationship when you do NOT have loving feelings toward a person, but you choose to love them.

This love, the love that is a choice, can only really come from knowing and loving and imitating Jesus. And from Him living in and working through you. You might not like that, you may want to try and find a way to do it on your own, but it’s true. We are told in Scripture, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” True love is a complete laying down of self. And I love myself way too much to lay my self down. Unless I’ve got the Spirit of God Himself making it possible for me to do what His son did. Which is exactly what happens for those who have called on Jesus as their savior.

So when I say this year has been our best, what I really mean is that it has brought us to our knees. It has brought us to the end of ourselves. I can remember sitting in our room in Uganda, the kids asleep in the bed next to us, admitting to each other how much less spiritual we are than we thought we were. We’d emptied our savings, we’d been in a completely foreign country for three weeks, we were struggling to know these two new kids of ours, we were desperately missing our girls back home, we had no idea how much longer we’d be there, and we had to admit that we couldn’t do any of it. We were totally dependent upon Jesus.
Of course we are always that dependent. It’s just that the comforts of this life dull our awareness of it. Our dependence came into sharp focus on this adoption journey. Real love would be required of us, for each other, for our children. And we’d only find it in Jesus.




That month in Uganda was amazing for us. We wouldn’t trade a moment of it. We learned more about each other, more about our weaknesses and our strengths (though it mostly felt like weaknesses). And aside from all that we learned spiritually, we got to do some totally new and exciting things together. Like attend a traditional introduction ceremony, stand on the shores of Lake Victoria, and lead worship together at a village church (and you should know, Four Oaks, that that will never happen here. And you should be thankful).

I have to admit, I kind of hope this next year is easier than the last one. That maybe a little bit less will be required of us. That maybe we can sacrifice a little bit less. But I pray the opposite. Because I know the truth, that there’s joy in learning real, sacrificial love. More of this kind of love, please.

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