"Love in Christ is strong and living, binding faithful hearts in one; love in Christ is true and giving, may His will in us be done.
Love is patient and forbearing, clothed in Christ's humility, gentle, selfless, kind, and caring, reaching out in charity.
Love in Christ abides forever, fainting not when ills attend; love, forgiving and forgiven, shall endure until life's end."
I always cry at weddings.
Over the years, those tears have had different names. When I was single, they were tears of loneliness or longing. Then, after my own wedding, happiness spilled over into tears full of joy and eagerness for the new couple. After several years of marriage, however, those tears became much grittier laments, as the struggle to fulfill my own vows seemed to carve painful canyons into my soul.
At its best, marriage, family, and community have been given to us to mirror God's abiding and transforming love to one another, in tangible human experiences. When we first unite with a spouse, a baby, or even a common vision, it comes naturally. We give ourselves initially in selfless optimism that seems in everything to say, "Have your way with me."
And who doesn't want to love and be loved like that?
Yet, because love doesn't stop at polite platitudes and keep a safe distance "when ills attend," there are times when close relationships seem to reveal the ugliest parts of our hearts. Sadly, over time it becomes easier to believe the broken images we reflect to one another than the perfect love to which our relationships are meant to point. This is so much so that we can altogether despair of the love for which we once longed so deeply.
We wish love wasn't so messy. We wish we were perfect. And we wish life was easy! Those are the times when I cock my head at God and say, "Really? You thought this (insert specific relationship here) was a good idea?"
Thankfully, God's love for me tolerates even my strong propensity for sassiness, because I have come to realize these are the times when His unfailing love is most at work in and through me. There are relationships He's given us -- be they spouse or roommate, sibling, neighbor, or coworker. To love each one well requires character from us we may not have yet formed. That's okay. By God's Holy Spirit, He is shaping us into people we would probably not even aspire to be. Which basically means God uses these relationships of love, as imperfect and painful as they are at times, to fulfill His work of conforming us to the best person we can be -- one who daily is becoming more like His Son, Jesus.
Recently, my wedding tears have changed into tears of gratitude and relief for what the Lord is doing in me and my spouse. Through the sometimes joyful and sometimes gritty love we share, the tears have changed me. Well, more accurately it's the love of God that is changing us both.
THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for the beauty and passion of Your abiding love at work in us to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts! Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by AmyRuth Bartlett. It is based on the hymn, "Love in Christ Is Strong and Living," which is found on page 706 in the Lutheran Service Book.
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