I spend a lot of time teaching my children something I had to learn the hard way in marriage. That is, that God has given them all of the members of their family (parents and siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) so that they can learn how to love them even when they’re unlovable. And to recognize when they themselves are unlovable, and yet loved anyway… and then to give thanks.
Loving the Unlovable Until They’re Lovable
But, when I love the way Jesus does—Jesus, Who laid down His life for His bride (when we couldn’t have been more unlovable) to present her to Himself as a spotless bride, without blemish, or spot, or wrinkle, bathing her in His word (Eph. 5:25-27)—I see that it’s not about how lovable my bride is. It’s about how much I’m willing to die to my own fleshly desires, to love enough to make her lovable to me.
My children struggle to get along with one another at times. Ahem… I struggle to get along with them at times. Foolishness (read: “sin”) is bound up in the heart of a child. That means they’re often unlovely and unlovable. Which is a great training ground for me to teach them how they are to love their spouse one day should the Lord so bless them. Loving your brother or sister, or parents, when you don’t like them, don’t agree with them, or are annoyed by them is great practice for loving your spouse.
She Will Never Be Enough For Me
Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Your spouse will never be enough for you. And you will never be enough for your spouse. Neither of you were meant to be that…
That’s God’s role.
You will both always fall short when you expect to get all of your nourishment, fulfillment, and encouragement from your spouse.
I passionately love my bride, because I let Jesus meet my needs; and because my eyes fail me, I ask Him to show her to me through His eyes. When I do that, it’s easy to love her the way He loves her, to use the strength that He’s given me to pour into her life. Then, I ask Him to meet her needs… AND to use me however He sees fit to do it. I sure can’t do it all; and what I can do, I can’t do in my own strength. But I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13).
Boundaries Are Biblical
Sometimes we have relationships in our lives where loving the unlovable means loving them from afar. (Not when you’re dealing with everyday, garden variety sins, of course…) But when you’re experiencing abuse—whether physical, emotional, or spiritual—or just unwillingness to accept responsibility for wrongs, one of the most loving things you can do is separate until there is repentance.
I once heard author Dan Allender relate our call to forgiveness and setting boundaries by telling the story of a friend who tracked mud through the house. The beloved friend was forgiven (the debt cancelled), but he wasn’t allowed back into the house until he took off his muddy shoes. Forgiveness keeps going to the door, but only repentance is welcomed in.
Of course, we all fall short.
But knowing that your spouse has vowed to love, honor, and cherish you—for better or for worse—why would you choose to make it worse? Our culture by and large believes in a 50/50 marriage. That’s one where both parties only give half of themselves to their spouse, and reserve the other half for their own desires, pursuits, and dreams.
But did Jesus say that “two halves become one?” No, He said “and the two shall become one.” Jesus’s math is different; it requires each spouse to give 100% to the other, so that 1 + 1 = 1.
Oneness is the goal, and you gotta give it all you got!
Wives, how does your husband love you when you’re unlovable?
Do your children ever love you when you’re unlovable?
Use the comments section below to brag on your family.