Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not gloat over other people’s sins but takes its delight in the truth. Love always bears up, always trusts, always hopes, always endures. Love never ends; I Corinthians 13:4-8 (CJB)
When Abba told me to love unconditionally it wasn’t a request. It wasn’t a suggestion. It wasn’t a bribe. It was a command. I could absolutely choose to ignore the command; He’d still love me.
Abba loved me even when I didn’t keep the promise I made 20 years earlier. One that I’d made with my own free will. So I made a new promise to God and to myself. To love the husband, even if he left. Even if what I did wasn’t enough to fix what was broken. I would show obedient love.
Choosing to love someone when you’re completely vulnerable is scary. It takes a strong amount of faith, trust and security to take the first step. I had complete trust Abba knew what he was doing. I had faith that he’d make this work. I felt secure in his love and who I was. So I surrendered myself to his plan and his design.
I didn’t just magically fall in love with the husband over night. Abba is a healer but he’s not a magic genie. I had to do some hard work to fix the damage I had caused. I had to be completely surrendered to this process.
I pulled out our wedding scrapbook, the first album I ever completed. I smiled as I read the proposal note he wrote; the one he said was only a joke, but that I treasure. I looked at the face of the 19-year-old me on her wedding day. I was so young. So naïve. And I thought in love. I read the cards and admonishments from others. And then I read our vows. If you want to feel lower than low, read your vows and realize that you haven’t kept them.
“Taunya, do you take this man as your husband? Do you promise to respect, honor and obey him as the head of your home? Do you promise always to try to be an understanding and loving wife to him, to make his home a place of peace and a warm shelter from the pressures of this world? Do you love and accept him as he stands at your side this day, and promise to be faithful to him in word, spirit and body, from this day forward? Will you in every way possible help him to strive to qualify for the Bride of Christ?”
I failed. Completely. It’s so frustrating to see that I made a promise and I didn’t keep a single word. That’s why I have an Abba. When I screw up he’s able to pick me up, dust off the dirt and get me moving in the right direction again.
I prayed for the husband. I had never actually prayed for him. Not really. I’d prayed about him. I’d asked God to intervene for him. But I’d never prayed to bless him.
I prayed that he’d gain wisdom in his business. I prayed that he’d continue to gain better health. I prayed that stress would fall off his shoulders. I prayed that he’d grow deeper in knowledge of the Bible he spent reading. I even, though it killed every single fiber of my being, prayed that he’d get better at golf. I didn’t make the prayers about me. I didn’t ask that he’d fall deeply in love with me or even forgive me. I wanted to bless him. With my words. Even if he didn’t hear them.
There’s something about praying for the benefit of another person. After awhile, you quit feeling numbness toward them. You actually start caring about them. One cannot pray for another’s soul and not have it affect their own.
A month, almost two went by. I started doing little things. Responding to his text. Answering the phone when he called. Attempting to plan meals that were appetizing and ‘on plan’ for him. Making sure that his laundry was clean. Going to bed when he did.
I found myself longing for the husband to come home. By the end of June I was not looking forward to being apart from him for a weekend. But apart we were. He was south with Bella and some friends. I was home with the Boy, Gabby and a couple of girlfriends.
Somehow we were joking about me sending a picture. A selfie. Dare I? I’m a 39-year-old woman, not a silly teenage girl. I couldn’t erase the thought from my mind. What if I did? Would he like it? Would he be upset? Would he think I was completely ridiculous? I decided to send a picture. Who knew sending a silly picture and “Hi I miss you” text was the thing that busted the barricade around my heart.
I began to text him. Like the day I decided to slice and dice, my fingers would not slow down. I kept talking and talking. I was honest, brutally honest. But this time it wasn’t anger or bitterness. I was feeling absolutely head-over-heels in love and I was letting him know. As my friend put it when I told her this story, I became his girlfriend.
When we dated I never showed that I loved him…or liked him for that matter. I was always afraid of getting in trouble. Appearances were everything and until I was married I had to keep it ‘clean’. We missed the whole crazy, falling-in-love, driving-everyone-crazy-around-you stage. Although I think the way dating people can be sappy and annoying, I know now it’s a vital piece of two people becoming a one-unit couple. Skipping that, out of respect to a set of behavioral standards, caused us to never develop confidence in our identity as a couple.
So, we began to “date”. I’m not sure if he was aware what I was thinking, but I knew I was pursuing him. It’s great when you’re young…and unattached. But when you’ve been married for 20 years and you have teenagers… Our poor kids. Gabby would ask, “What is wrong with you? You’re like a sappy teenager in love or something.” When I told her that I was she’d roll her eyes at me. She may have been vocalizing her embarrassment at the crazy way her momma was acting, but I knew it was making her happy.
The summer went by and fall started. And the husband, he started changing. He was responding to the new me. Even though I had moments of fear and doubt, I kept pursuing him. He began responding. And things changed.
I can take every incident in our relationship and justify it. I could easily share the husband’s vows here and show how he didn’t keep a single word either … well that’s not actually true — he HAS provided for the necessities of life and beyond. However, Abba didn’t ask me to look at my husband’s failures. He asked me to look at mine. He asked me to be obedient and love him, unconditionally. EVEN when I didn’t feel love.
Love isn’t always a feeling. Sometimes it’s a choice. Sometimes it’s putting another’s needs before your own. Sometimes it’s admitting that you’re not the one who is right. Sometimes it’s doing the hard stuff even when you don’t want to. Sometimes love is just plain obedient.
I don’t have anymore answers today than I did a year ago. Even with my obedience the husband could have easily rejected my attempt at fixing our relationship. And honestly, he’d have been fully justified. But he didn’t … and I’m so glad he didn’t. Because being his girlfriend again … let me be his wife again.