Someone recently told me they were in love, and in my cold-hearted, realist way, I volleyed back, "Well, the real test will come when you face adversity together for the first time."
"What do you mean? We'll be fine," they said.
"Wishful thinking and positive vibes are not good formulas for handling conflict, especially with those you love. Have you talked about how you will handle conflict?"
"No, why would I start a fire where none exists?"
I was immediately reminded of "A curse without cause shall not alight." (Proverbs 26:2 NKJV). "Are you saying there is no contention between you?"
"Good grief, all I said was I'm in love, I never said he was perfect or we'd never argue. What's with the lecture?"
I loved my friend dearly, but she had been 'in love' several times and always faltered when things got difficult.
I want to celebrate as friends celebrate, but I also want to keep firmly planted. An annoying trait, I realize, but I love my friend and I want the best for her. I want her to know the love of a man and one day, enjoy the deep bonds of marriage. I couldn't let her walk into another relationship devoid of truth. She was in for some tough love.
I want her to enter into a committed relationship with as many tools as possible, not just those that feel good. Marriages are built on more than snuggles and poetic words. Marriages are also built on trust, accountability and respect. Love takes on many forms.
John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (NKJV)
It can feel good to picture a loving Christ, with hugs, smiles, and enduring joy, but Christ showed love in other ways as well.
He loved through chastening. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the [a]chastening of the Lord,Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens,And scourges every son whom He receives.'” When my husband sees me destroying myself through my sharp tongue or damaging a relationship by exaggerating or misguiding truths, he sets me straight and shows me how I fall short. He does this out of love for me and love for holding me accountable to my beliefs. This chastening comes from his heart - it is truthful, but kind. I know it's meant to make me a better person and turn my heart more towards Christ.
Jesus loved through forgiveness - Luke 17:3-4 Forgiveness follows repentance, which means we have some hard conversations ahead. We can't confuse burying a wound, with forgiveness. Forgiveness follows repentance and we are called to repeat the cycle over and over again. Luke 17:3-4 says, "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him." We have to be willing to talk it out in our marriages. No amount of silent treatment or (wrongfully) withholding sex for ransom will bring about the forgiveness and reconciliation that is required of us.
He loved through sacrifice - His ultimate, life-giving sacrifice as well as the daily sacrifices he made. He left His family and the familiar behind. He went hungry from lack of food and slept on rocks during long journeys. He was mobbed everywhere He went and someone needed something from Him at all times. There is no break from marriage, no separation from our vows. A strong marriage means that we go through the junk together. One partner doesn't get to coast through while the other is left behind. After God, family is everything and that means we stick together. We sacrifice friendships, careers, dreams or ambitions because no one gets left behind. Those careers, dreams and ambitions? They don't mean squat if the family isn't together. And families who put Jesus at their center, stay together.
Our family has had some tough love conversations in 2018 and they will continue in 2019. We continue to pray and push each other to accountability, but know that none of what we do matters if we believe it is through our strength, this love is accomplished. We (tough) love each other because he first (tough) loved us and it is through Him, the love of the Father is accomplished.
Have you had a tough love year? How has God seen you through?