Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning to Love

So naturally since I got engaged, love has been on my mind quite a bit. Something about our upcoming marriage makes me feel so much more in love than I was before we were engaged, and much of my day is spent dreaming about what our wedding day will be like. At the same time, I’ve been reading through this book called “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, a book all about God’s love for his creation. Let’s just say…love has been on my mind almost nonstop since December 7, 2011. Reading this book has really gotten me thinking about what real love really is…if you get to thinking about it really hard, your brain might start to hurt. Society has really skewed our thoughts on what love really is. Is it just a word, something someone says but don’t always mean? Is it something you feel about someone else but can disappear when people change? Is it action…like going out on dates and spending time together? Or is it a combination of feelings and actions? I don’t really know; it’s hard to define. So I’ve been doing some serious thinking about what I think love is, and how I learned this. I look back to how I was raised, how I interacted with my siblings, and what I learned at church and through my relationship with God. It’s given me a much better understanding of how I see love, so I thought I would share.
I feel extremely blessed to have grown up in the family I did. My parents are both Christians, and I never worried about whether or not they loved each other. No one has a perfect relationship and I watched my parents travel the ups and downs of marriage, but I never worried that I would wake up one day and one of them would be gone. I saw them hug, kiss, hold hands, laugh, and tease each other. I sat beside them in church every Sunday and watched them open up the Bible to seek out God’s wisdom. I saw their faces in each concert crowd and heard their excited cries as I ran dozens of cross country and track races. I also heard them get into fights and get angry. I felt the tension of disagreements as much as they did. But I also listened to apologies, the “I’m sorry, you were right, and I was wrong” ‘s. I saw them work through conflict. I saw my dad giving my mom his undivided attention when she was sharing a story about her day. I listened to my mom call my dad while he was at work…to just share something funny, or a concern she had. She always sought my dad first. It’s not perfect, it’s messy sometimes, and there is always room for improvement, just as in every single relationship out there. But growing up with this type of love modeled for me is such a blessing. I learned to apologize, to realize that I’m not always right. I learned that communication is important, that we always need to share our hopes, dreams, and fears with one another, even if it’s in the middle of the workday. I learned how important it is to be there for your family…to go to each concert and sporting event. I learned that it’s not easy, that it’s not always fun, but it’s worth fighting for. I am so grateful for this foundation.

My siblings and I are pretty close. We fought like crazy when we were little, especially when Emily was in charge for the night when Mom and Dad were gone. When we heard the garage door opening, we somehow always managed to calm each other down, forget about the disagreement, and pretend everything was fine when Mom asked how it went. Ok so this doesn’t sound like a good, honest love, but let me explain. We disagreed and fought. We had periods of time where we didn’t really like each other. But, we loved each other. We may have pretended everything was fine so we didn’t get in trouble, but by the next morning everything was forgiven and forgotten. We knew that the little things didn’t really matter and they weren’t worth fighting about. We’d much rather be playing and having fun than nursing a grudge. And even to this day, I know my siblings would do anything for me. I used to lecture mean little boys who would pick on my brother on the playground…I was (and still am) so protective of that guy, and I know he feels the same way. He may be younger, but he is protective too and only wants the best for me. When my sisters and I get together, it is pure chaos. I laugh more with them than anyone else. I can call Kate on the phone and talk for an hour about what’s going on in my life that week, and she instantly makes my day brighter. She is hilarious. Emily and I are quite a few years apart, but I think we are very similar…we have our mother’s genes. Shane, Ben, and Dad would understand this best. J My siblings taught me not to sweat the little things, to pick my battles wisely. Not everything is worth fighting about, it’s better to just enjoy our time together. They too taught me the importance of communication…talking through issues and sharing life’s funny adventures together brings us so much closer together. They taught me how important it is to just be there for each other, to help each other through life. Love between siblings is much different than the love between husband and wife, but I definitely put into action what I learned about love from them in my life every day. Thanks guys. J

God is the best example of love in my life. After all, 1 John 4:8 says “God is love.” It blows my mind to think God knew me before the creation of the universe; that he died for me. He cares about me, my name is written on his heart, he knows all my comings and goings. He knows the number or hairs on my head, for goodness sake! (I’d like to know that too.) I could reference a million verses about God’s love, but I don’t have the room or time to do that. My relationship with God is the number one most important thing in my life, and in return I have learned how to love. I strive to live like Christ, so that means not just learning how to love Ben, but everyone, including those I don’t really like. So this means forgiving. Forgiving Ben when he hurts me, and forgiving those people who have wronged me and the ones I love. It means that I am a servant. I need to forget about myself. This life isn’t about me! I need to put Ben’s needs above my own and stop expecting him to fulfill all of my needs. Love is sacrificial. Jesus laid down his life for me, and in return I need to do the same. 1 John 3:16 says that This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Love seems to be all about action when I think about it in this context…it’s so much more than just a thing to say or an emotion that gives us sweaty palms and butterflies in the stomach. “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” 1 John 3:18-19. I want to love Ben like this. A selfless, sacrificial, serving kind of love.

Most of all, I just want to keep learning how to love. It doesn’t end when you get married; you can’t stop learning how to love just because you have the security or marriage. We’re always changing, and I want to keep learning about Ben and loving him in new, Ben-specific ways. We’re excited to read the book “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs to learn more about love before our big day. I’ll keep you posted about this, but I am pumped! Even before reading the book it makes so much sense…Ben wants my respect and I want his love. He loves keeping me included in all his plans, every decision he makes he includes me. I can already see that he wants me to trust him and respect his decisions. I’ve already been trying to keep this in mind in everyday conversation. I want him to know that I trust and respect him. I need the security of love, I need to feel cherished and wanted. I need to hear him say he loves me and that he’ll always be here for me. So it will be really really fun to learn more about this. I think it will be great for our relationship.

I hope we can be an inspiration to all of you. My most heartfelt thanks to my wonderful parents and siblings for being the best models of love in my life. And the biggest thanks belongs to God, who made this all possible. Without Him, I wouldn’t know what love even is.

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