My husband listens to me. He respects me. He loves me- not with that flimsy whimsical sort of love that is momentarily intoxicating before evaporated over time, but with a deep, lasting, and potent love that has borne the lashes of long-suffering and perseverance. Love is tested and tried, not simply derived out of gooey feelings that erupt out of childlike emotional dependencies; all who have been married for a length of time are aware of this stark reality.
He has loved me well, because he continues to. He has loved me through sickness, through pain, through my emotional baggage and fears of intimacy. He has loved me through procrastination, lack of cleanliness, irritating open-mouth smacking while eating, and my overzealous rants concerning injustice and the Lord's heart. Patience has been his strongest virtue and gentleness his constant response; few would assume these characteristics to come from such a strong and capable man who daily carries a gun for his profession.
But now, why am I speaking of this precious relationship between my husband and I? For I am well aware that not all marriages are as alive in love as ours is, and many hearts have been wounded by intimate lovers, friends, family, or even complete strangers.
Before my husband and I met, we were both wounded by love as well; trusting another, with those intimate places of the soul that before had been misused, manipulated, trampled upon and abandoned, was quite a difficult thing to do. Self-preservation caused our hearts to want to run, walls of defense were the easiest protectors to hide behind, and impersonal disconnect sought to render our hearts from entering into intimacy with one another; it was far easier to remain in the concrete castle of isolation and surface conversation. In a similar fashion to many others like us, emotionally severing ourselves from the possibility of future harm meant barring up with chains the most precious of gifts that we could give to not only each other, but to all others-our hearts.
If we had refused to open our hearts to one another, in fear of another betrayal, abandonment, or pain, we would not now be experiencing the life-giving fruit of the love produced in our marriage. If we had continued to hide behind the walls of self-preservation and dissociation, we would not know what it means to be known and loved the same in the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly. In the removing of the walls from our hearts, they are able to experience the beauty of being loved and the pain of being hurt. The pain of being hurt by love, however, is worth the beauty of knowing that love.
I think about Jesus. He freely opens up His heart to us. Daily He fully loves us- broken humans-knowing that we will wound Him, betray Him, abandon Him, misuse Him, forget Him, and cause Him the deepest pains of agony and grief. He still, however, does not withhold His heart from us in the fear of this pain. Loving us is worth the emptiness of not being loved in return. Giving Himself to us is worth the sorrow of being denied once again. He continues to forgive us, seventy times upon seventy times, regardless of how deep the wounding against Him may be.
My husband and I have not enjoyed the most peaceable of walks since our covenant began. A battering of storms has been our constant overhead, and as in any relationship we have certainly wounded the other on more than one occasion with selfish and severe blows to the heart. But it's been worth it. Acknowledging, accepting, processing, and dealing with the pain is an inseparable partner to a heart that is also fully alive to rejoice, bask in, and experience the gift of love. A heart closed off from feeling pain is also closed off from receiving love.
Let's give our hearts to one another, not foolishly or without prudence, but with the determined intent to open our souls to receive and give love, through trust, in the manner that He desires us as a body to interact, serve, and engage with one another. Will we be wounded? Possibly. Will we be abandoned? It could happen. But if we trust Jesus with our hearts and allow Him to lead us out from the shadows into the joys of thriving community and relationship, we will experience what He direly desires for us to know-the glorious beauty of giving and receiving love. And it starts with trusting Him enough to receive His perfect love towards us.