Where real love begins

I have a confession to make: I enjoy my husband. Spending time with him makes me incredibly happy. He is extremely funny, generous, honest, hilariously inappropriate, and wonderfully fun. He is my sweetheart and partner. He is the one I run to when I am hurting, and his embraces strengthen me to face difficult days. I have learned to be a more giving, sacrificial person by following his example. He is the person I want to share my future with and build my dreams with. He is the peanut butter to my jelly, the mac to my cheese, and the bread to my butter. In short: he is my best friend, and I am so excited that I get to share my life with him. So you might fight it difficult to believe when I tell you that loving my husband is, without question, the hardest thing I've ever done. You see, loving my husband is not the same thing as enjoying him. Love is not a feeling, an inclination, or a positive experience. It is not just a word I use to describe things that entertain me or bring me joy. Love is a choice that leads to an action. It is a decision that results in movement. It is a lifestyle adjustment, and it comes at great personal cost. Loving my husband requires me to behave selflessly, to live humbly, and to serve joyfully. It requires me to wrestle against the selfish nature that has been my constant companion these 26 years. And that, my friends, is a frequent and exhausting battle.

I love my husband when I make his favorite meal the way he likes it, even if I think it tastes better my way. I love him when I pull the clothes out of the dryer and hang them up rather than letting them get all wrinkled. I love him when I keep my car free of the random trash that has a tendency to accumulate there. I love him by putting my purse and shoes in the closet instead of throwing them in the living room. I love him when I choose the restaurant we go to for date night, because I know the last thing he wants to do at the end of a long and stressful day is make another decision. I love him when I listen rather than offering up snarky rebuttals. I love him when I get up as soon as the dog starts barking so that Major doesn't wake him up. I love him when I let him have the last word in an argument rather than continuing to fight until I feel like I am in the right. I love him when I push him to admit that I've upset him, and I acknowledge his pain or frustration. I love him when I pray for the Lord to grow and develop him in His time rather than sharing the ways I think he should change. These things may seem simple, but they are a huge lifestyle shift for me. Because I do think my spaghetti tastes better. I don't care about wearing wrinkly clothes. I have a tendency to live out of my car. All I want to do when I come home is drop whatever I'm carrying and sit. But I care about my husband, and I want the way I live to reflect that. These things matter to him, so I choose to love him in them and through them.

I'm not saying that performing acts of service is the best way or the only way to love your spouse. I feel most loved when someone speaks words of encouragement to me and shows affection to me. Acts of service do not carry as much value for me. My husband, however, has a servant's heart, and he feels most loved when I do what he asks of me. Here's the key: Loving my husband requires that I lay down my selfishness and pride and live in a way that speaks love to him, even if it means going against my nature.

There will be days when you feel so in love with your spouse that you cannot imagine your life being any more beautiful, and there will be days when you feel so frustrated, exhausted, or out of sync that you wonder what happened to the love you shared in the beginning. These are the moments when real love begins. Love is not something that happens to you. It is not something that you find or fall into. It is a commitment. A choice. A lifestyle of kind, humble, sacrificial living. And it is glorious. There is no greater comfort or encouragement in my marriage than to know that my husband chooses to love me based on his resolve and not based on his feelings. The most meaningful and powerful moments in our marriage frequently follow our most difficult days, and I cannot wait to discover together how incredible a lifetime of chosen love can be.

It is my fervent prayer that you and your spouse get to discover the beauty and joy that chosen love brings, as well.