“The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” -The Love Dare, p. 46
People rarely talk about why they love their parents or children. They just love them. Our parents and children are our people, related by blood, set into families designed by God. In extreme situations, like those involving abuse, people may walk away from these relationships, but as a general rule, parents and children, even siblings, don't wonder if they'll be able to stand being related to one another for the rest of their lives. They just accept that that's the way it will be. They love each other in spite of all quirks. They love each other in spite of life. Together they muddle through come what may.
Marriage is different, though. Because spouses choose each other, they sometimes feel the need to analyze and justify it. The authors of The Love Dare point out that couples say things like, “I love her because she's such a great cook.” “I love him because he's so charming.” “. . . she's so thoughtful of others.” “. . . he's so responsible.” “. . . she makes me happy.” “. . . he makes me feel good about myself.” And so on.
The trouble with this is that if the because ceases to be, the door is open for love to go with it. That's when marriages fall apart. Those things may draw couples to each other, but they won't keep them together for life.
Our relationship with God teaches us a better way. Just as we choose to get married, we choose whether or not to be part of God's family. God started it. He loves us because He is love. (1 John 4:8 and 16) When we choose to respond to His love, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and because of Who He Is, our awe-inspiring God. Those becauses will never change (Hebrews 13:8); it's a relationship of unconditional love.
As human beings on a spiritual journey, we have to learn this concept over time. We may start out loving God because He saved us from our sins, because He provides for us, because of things we expect Him to do for us or in our lives. For this reason, sometimes our relationship with Him, from our side of things, stands on shaky ground. It's when we learn to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15), that we've learned unconditional love.
And we share the lesson with our spouse. (Giggle. Not the “slay me” part. The unconditional love. If your spouse is trying to kill you, please run!)
Seriously, we love each other because we chose each other. We set that choice in stone when we said, “I do . . . for better or for worse.” We don't have to wonder if we'll be able to stand one another for the rest of our lives. We just decide that we will. We love each other in spite of our quirks . . . in spite of life. Together we muddle through. We are each other's people, related by commitment, brought together by God for life.
It's not always easy, but when couples settle the matter once and for all that they are together forever come what may just because that's the choice they've made, that's a solid foundation on which God can build. It's something He will bless! Count on that. We don't love because of how our spouse looks or acts or what our spouse says or does. We love because we chose.