May 10, 2011
Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
It's a beautiful thing, right? Little girls dream of their future Prince Charmings sweeping them off their feet. Young men put their hearts and pride on the line to pursue beauties in hopes of finding happiness.
Although romantic love is a gift - a little slice of heaven at it's finest - let's be honest: it's also the primary place all our little demons come out to play.
After all, the one who knows us most intimately is not just privy to our gifts and strengths. He or she eventually sees us at our worst. And there's something about romantic love that seems to amplify the worst - even when our intentions are good.
It's astounding to me that marriages last a lifetime given the pain we are capable of inflicting on each other. Poets and writers have referred to love as a form of insanity. I was joking with a friend recently that infatuation probably is a form of insanity. But for the Christian, love is so much more.
If we look to Christ on the cross, we see that true, godly love bleeds. Love is vulnerable and suffers.
In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis observed:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable… If you want to make sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no one…Lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken -- it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from love is Hell."
As much as we'd like to do away with the painful, dangerous side of love -- would we have known the depth of God's love for us without the cross? I doubt it. Scripture points out the hard truth about human nature: most of us wouldn't die for a friend. But Christ - fully anticipating the pain -- died for friends and enemies alike. That's love expressed more eloquently than the finest love letter.
Christ's example alone is enough to justify the risks that come with love. But thankfully, love isn't just suffering. If it were, then love really would be insanity.
Instead, God -- in a way only God can - uses suffering to bring forth life... life far better than had we avoided the dangers of the cross. Resurrection follows for the couple willing to mutually embrace Christ and the cross of love. And it is this transformation that makes sacrificial love "fragrant."
In our own brief time together, my husband and I can attest to God's redemptive work. We dated for 3 years. We've seen ugliness. And we've also seen the sweet rewards of working through that ugliness. Of submitting it to God. Of allowing Him to make the cross our "glory."
Sometimes I wish we had one of those whirlwind romantic courtship stories. You know, where boy meets girl, and after 6 months of whispering sweet nothings, they get engaged and plan their fairy tale wedding.
Instead we got heavy discernment. Some tears and some wounds. But in being open to love and in submitting all the ups and downs to Christ, we also experienced growth, depth, and now a brand new life together.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Have you ever met someone who got burned in love and vowed to never give their heart away again? Perhaps this describes you. Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to break down any unhealthy walls built around your heart so that you can give and receive love more fully.