My wife and I were staying with friends at their summer home in Wyoming. A blue ribbon trout stream snaked its way through the woods and along the fields next to their home. It was irresistible.
One morning I came back to the house with a basket full of fish and found that no one was there to view my trophies. I decided to nurse my disappointment by turning on the tube. Because we were so far out in the country, the reception on the television was limited to only a couple stations. Each was broadcasting a soap opera.
The people on the one I watched had more problems in an hour than I want to have in my entire life. They said the word “love” a lot, but practiced deception, betrayal, anger, and selfishness. I figured this is what the world would be like if only spoiled brats were allowed to fall in love.
I couldn’t believe anyone would actually watch such a foolish portrayal of life. But the next day I made sure I was out of the stream and into the armchair in time to pick up where all of those selfish, brokenhearted people had let me off the day before. Within three days I was addicted. (Fortunately I made it through withdrawal by the time I returned home, and resisted the urge to take out a subscription to Soap Digest.)
I know people (lots of them) whose lives seem as if they are scripted by the soap writers. They approach love without a clue as to what it is. Their lives are restless and unsatisfied. They keep looking for love in all the wrong places. They are proof that the myths that magazines, TV, and movies put forward about love are actually believed.
The definition of love we bring to marriage has everything to do with whether or not we are enjoying love. When I visit with a couple struggling in their relationship, I like to ask them to give me their definition of love. What I find in almost every case is that both partners have come to the relationship with only the vaguest notion of what love entails.
I want to share with you a definition of love that can bring calm to a hurried marriage. It can make a relationship between a husband and wife an oasis in the middle of a thirsty culture. Those who seriously embrace this definition can maintain the ability to love for a lifetime. They can move beyond today to a lifetime of certainty and contentment.
Let’s define love this way: Love is…the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost.
I get a variety of responses when I share this definition with people. Sometimes they say it is exactly the way they would define love. Yet a closer examination of their lives shows that what they believe in theory they don’t carry out in practice. Others call the definition “unrealistic,” “idealistic,” or even “impossible.”
As married couples navigate their way through the future, their love for each other may be the only part of their lives that seems permanent. If your love is secure, you can accept anything.
Yet, loving your spouse by committing your will to his or her needs, regardless of the cost, truly is superhuman. It comes from the heart of a supernatural God Who made us. If we want to have it toward each other, we must first derive it from God. The husband or wife trying to love without a heart possessed by the Author of love is going to run out of momentum very quickly.
Secure love, therefore, requires a secure relationship with the God Who is love.