"Choose Thy Love, Love Thy Choice"
I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
After 9 years of driving the family minivan, I was finally able to transition into a smaller vehicle. We had no idea what to buy, other than I knew I didn’t want anything with a trunk. We went to a used car dealer, and test drove a few contenders. On the third or fourth selection, I realized I was getting hungry for lunch. I was liking the car well enough, and decided that it was “the one”. I chose Suzi (short for Suzuki, and her name stuck). Papers were signed, and keys were handed over.
I had chosen my car and decided to love her. I still do. She’s been mine since October of 2011. I’ve backed her into a light pole while on the phone in a parking lot. I’ve backed her into my husband’s trailer in the driveway. A shopping cart has nailed her pretty good and taken a big chip out of her paint over the front right tire. Suzi is less than perfect on the outside and no attempt has been suggested to give her a make-over. I’m perfectly happy with her and I believe it comes from my decision back in 2011 to love this car. I have affection for Suzi based on my commitment to be satisfied.
When my husband and I got married we received many beautiful and thoughtful gifts. One was a framed cross stitch made by one of his sisters that said “Choose Thy Love, Love Thy Choice”. I hung this wisdom made of thread in the first several homes that we had, and I looked at it from time to time. I have never forgotten this saying, and I don’t believe I have ever seen it anywhere else.
Nathan and I just celebrated our 33rd anniversary this past week, and I can confidently say that we have lived this advice out pretty well. The first part of the saying “choose thy love” is relatively easy. When love is young and you have a handsome, fun, kind, strong, engaging Christian man seeking your attention, it’s an easy choice. He chooses you, you choose him.
The second part of the saying, “love thy choice”, is a daily act of choosing. It’s a million little decisions to choose him…to put him ahead of me, to think of him instead of another, to put down my cell phone when he comes in to talk to me, to love him even though he’s not quite as young and strong as he was in his 20’s, and to always, always forgive. A generous sense of humor also adds to the recipe for a flourishing marriage.
We had a skirmish tonight before our daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons arrived for dinner. I chose to make a ‘comment’ with ‘a tone’ about one of his motorcycles that is requiring more time and attention than I think it should. I knew as I was saying it that it was an unkind arrow that would hit its mark dead center. It did. I regretted it immediately. It was one of those comments that wounds the spirit of the receiver. I imagine that most every marriage has some similar sort of verbal attack, no matter how subtle or quiet.
Since our loved ones were about to arrive, we needed to repair ourselves quickly or be in danger of a tense evening. I asked forgiveness for my unkind words. Forgiveness was hard to give with no time to process. We went about our tasks silently and then I tried again. He was able to soften, and I gave him a hug. We laughed at ourselves because we’ve been over this road many times before, and we have an established trust that allows for shorter transitions and gracious healings between us.
Without the willingness to acknowledge the ways we wrong one another – even as “slight” as a ‘comment’ with ‘a tone’ – and then to humble ourselves to ask forgiveness, we will begin to build a wall that separates us from that chosen spouse. Picture a brick. If you put one down between you and leave it there, you have to navigate around it. If you add another one and then another, the separation becomes larger. The more untended offenses you add, the more difficult the task of removing the barrier. If you add enough unkind comments or wounds you’ll have an invisible wall, but you’ll surely be able to feel it. Keeping short accounts has been an important part of our marriage. We don’t let offenses build.
Of our 33-year marriage, the last several have been the strongest. When my husband was teaching “Zero Hour” Weightlifting at the high school he left before 6am every morning. We had determined that we needed time together to talk, read the Bible together, pray, and drink coffee. To carve out that time, our solution was for me to get up earlier so that we could be together from 5am to 5:45am. That was a sacrifice on my part because to me that was an hour no one should see unless they were headed to the airport for an early-morning flight. It also required me to train myself to go to bed earlier.
For us, it was the relational work-out our marriage needed. Alone to focus on each other, we committed to dedicating time to our relationship…loving our “choice” from years ago…seeking the Lord together and starting our day as one. This has become our practice over the years, and to me it is the best part of my day.
Christian marriage is meant to be a reflection of God’s love through our relentless commitment to loving our spouse in a godly, I Corinthians way…with patience, kindness, honor, other-seeking, trust, humility, slowness to anger, forgiveness without record-keeping, joyful about righteousness and truth, protective, hopeful, and committed.
So, the “love thy choice” part of the saying is not about feelings…romantic or otherwise. It’s about choosing the kind of love that God shows for us. It’s a love far greater than romance. It’s a love that grows from learning to care more for your spouse than you do for your own self. It’s the kind of love that never fails.
I Corinthians 13:13 “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love”.