What is love? Wisdom for a new bride

A bride-to-be with her fiancé

Photo via Visualhunt.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, which is coming up in a few days, I’d like to share a speech I gave to my good friend at her bridal shower a couple of years ago. I hope these words, which have been edited slightly to fit the format of a blog post, will be able to bless you, too.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

First of all, I’d like to say that I’m so happy for [the bride] and how God has led her to this point today. When [the maid of honor] asked me to share a devotional about marriage, my first thought was that I felt honored. The second was panic. How do you sum up all of the things you’ve learned or are still learning in five minutes? Not to mention I’m no marriage veteran. There are women in this room who have been married for more than 20 or 30 years, and I’ve only been married for 8 years. But I gave it some thought and realized the best wisdom I could share would be the lesson I’m wrestling with now.

So, here goes:

What is love?

The dictionary has a number of definitions, all of which are accurate but don’t completely sum up the abstract concept. And yet each one of us grows up to understand what love is, or love isn’t.

Or do we?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a well-known passage for its description of true love. It’s become so familiar it’s easy to brush it off with a “yeah, yeah, yeah.” I was ready to do so, too, when it came up in my devotions near Valentine’s Day. But this time I decided to try to pay attention, though I didn’t think I would learn much.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Turns out, I struggle to love my husband. It doesn’t seem that way. I still feel warm and gushy inside when I’m around him, and I love holding his hand or hugging him. I don’t find myself attracted to anyone besides him. I feel happy when he’s affectionate with me.

But sometimes when I’m chatting it up with other women, I air his dirty laundry. I don’t say it in so many words, but I know it sounds like, “Men. We women are so much better than them.”

That is prideful. That dishonors him.

Sometimes I’ll know that a certain undesirable chore needs to be done. But I also know that if I pretend not to notice and wait, he’ll do it instead without complaint.

That is self-seeking.

Sometimes I have trouble forgiving him for a mistake he’s just made because I know he’s done it before. And he’ll probably do it again, eventually.

That is record keeping. That is not trusting.

I’m learning that real life isn’t like the movies.

At 30 years old, you’d think I’d know that already. But it’s surprisingly easy to accept the world’s definition of love—butterflies in your stomach, a racing heart, eagerness to spend time with this person, feeling thrilled and alive when they do something special for you.

But that’s not love. That’s attraction. That’s feeling. While those things aren’t wrong to enjoy, they aren’t what marriages are made of. Love is a choice—a very difficult choice at that.

With that in mind, let’s read that passage again:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I’m learning that if you regularly act in ways that Love is not, the truth is, you don’t truly love those around you, even if you say, “I love you.” This is not something the world will warn you about.

Now my husband, he’s not perfect. Though most days he’s a better husband than I could have ever wished for, there are occasionally days when I feel he doesn’t deserve my love. But when I married him, I made the choice to love him every day in spite of how I feel. That’s part of what “for better or for worse” means.

Love perseveres.

Choose to love him even when you don’t feel like it, not just when it’s easy to love him.

Love protects.

Make intentional choices to protect your marriage, whether the danger comes from the outside (financial difficulty, time stealers, pornography, criticizers) or from the inside (resentment, jealousy, selfishness, pride).

Love honors others.

Be careful in how you speak about your husband and how you speak to him. Show him respect.

This already gives us more than enough pressure to get it right, but verse eight just adds to it:

“Love never fails.”

Oh, how often I fail! And I’m sorry to say that you will, too. But if there’s anything the Ultimate Love, our God, has shown me, it’s grace. It’s mercy. It’s forgiveness.

What freedom!

We will continue to make mistakes. Probably more often than we’ll get it right. But we’re free to trust in the hope Christ gives us. By His example, I know we can learn to truly love. And I know we will be forgiven when we mess up, because love is patient and not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.

[Dear bride], you will be able to truly love your husband because Christ first loved you.

That’s my wisdom for you. I hope it serves you well for many, many years.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Whether or not you believe in God, does this advice resonate with you? What advice would you share with a bride-to-be? Any great stories to tell about Valentine’s Day? I’ll go first: The first Valentine’s Day my husband and I shared after we started dating, he gifted me with a hair dryer. I had made him a tiny book out of a deck of cards with all the reasons that I loved him—super sappy and not at all practical, which he didn’t know what to do with. I’m happy to say we’ve both learned to be a better gift givers since then, ha ha! What’s been a favorite (or well-intentioned but funny) gift you’ve received? Are there any gifts you’ve given that resulted in an unexpected reaction?