Looking at this photograph makes me smile and cry. I get overwhelmed with gratitude when reminiscing on our wedding day. To be showered with love and warm thoughts from family and friends was absolutely marvelous. But the joy felt in this snapshot is rooted in more than cake and gifts, and even more than in the vows Laura and I recited to each other. We encountered the joy of true love long before we knew each other.
One of the blessings I am most grateful for is my church family. While there was a time when I had little hope in finding an authentic, loving church community, Nashville Life Church has proven over and over again to be a safe place full of passionate believers supporting each other in their faith. But I warn you: don't come to our church unless you want to be married!
My friends and I have affectionately renamed our church "Love Life" because so many of us have gotten married recently. I've witnessed at least fourteen people from our church get married in the last two years within a congregation size of only two hundred. That's unheard of! We don't have a church sponsorship with Christian Mingle, and we don't have monthly speed dating parties. What we do have, however, is a thriving atmosphere of God's extravagant love for us, and it is from this revelation of true Love that we supernaturally love others.
Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, I met my wife Laura at our church. I didn't take interest in her immediately because I had unrealistic expectations of what true love looked like. I had a grocery list of characteristics I "needed" in a woman and thought very little of what I could add to a relationship myself.
Then one day, it dawned on me: I shouldn't be waiting to love someone based on who I want her to be. I should be searching for a woman to love based on who God has already fashioned her to be.
And God sure showed me. One date night while Laura and I were eating dinner, I had the bright idea to flirt a little; you know, to have some fun. I asked her, "How would you describe me to other people?" My hidden agenda, when the question flipped back to me, was to pour a sea of compliments on her about her beauty, personality, and whatever else would make her blush. Well, I was set up.
When Laura asked me the same question, everything changed. Instead of saying the flirtatious words I planned, all I could think of was a parable from Jesus I'd read as a child:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
Before I knew what I was saying, I told her, "Laura, you are a jewel worth everything."
Whoa man! That's something you say to your wife, or at least your fiancé when there's a ring in your pocket. I couldn't believe I let those words come out of my mouth. But I had to say it. It was like God pulled back a sheet from my eyes and showed me how much Laura was worth to Him: priceless.
From that moment on, I knew I had a choice to make. Did I want to be the man God would use to display His love for Laura? Whether I stepped up to the plate or not, someone would, because Laura was worth it. I knew I could not buy Laura's love, but I could choose the honor and privilege of showing the world how much God loves her. My love for her may come up short. But God's love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
To my single friends, especially guys: it is good to desire marriage. I highly recommend it. It is a beautiful opportunity for companionship, romance, and fun. But the greatest snapshot of love is this: to give your life for someone. And before you even think about loving someone else, take time to remember the love Jesus as proven by His own death for you.
The hope and prize of life is true love, not marriage.
God is Love.
To my married friends, especially guys, love and honor your spouse. I know it can be difficult at times, but your strength is not based on the amount of love you have for him/her, but in how much God loved you first. From the joy and a surplus of God's love, love your spouse.
Laura, you are a jewel worth everything. I love you.
"Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God . . ." (1 John 4:7a)