My husband and I are reading through this wonderful book together. It is filled with so much truth and wisdom. For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share an excerpt about truly loving your spouse:
Romance, sex, laughter, and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement, glorification. Those things are important, but they can’t keep the marriage going through years and years of ordinary life. What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. You’re committed to his greatness and perfection. You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God. That’s your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married.
Now we can see how marriage-as friendship agrees so well with love-as-commitment. On the cross, Jesus did not look down on us with a heart full of admiration and affection. He felt no “chemistry.” But he gave himself. He put our needs ahead of his own; he sacrificed for us. But the Bible tells spouses not only to imitate the quality and manner of Christ’s love but also the goal of it. Jesus dies not because we were lovely, but to make us lovely. He died, Paul says, to “make us holy.” Paradoxically, this means Paul is urging spouses to help their mates love Jesus more than them. It’s a paradox but not a contradiction. The simple fact is that only if I love Jesus more than my wife will I be able to serve her needs ahead of my own. Only if my emotional tank is filled with love from God will I be able to be patient, faithful, tender, and open with my wife when things are not going well in life or in the relationship. And the more joy I get from my relationship with Christ, the more I can share that joy with my wife and family” (123-124).
People are just playing at being married all around us. But what a gift in companionship it is to be mutually committed to one another’s holiness! I hope that our children can see this blessing. Piggybacking off of what I said in my last RR, I really think our youth need more purposeful education on selecting a spouse, as well as the whole purpose of marriage. Think about what a dating relationship should look like if you are pointed toward a marriage in which you will commit yourself to that person’s holiness.
Just these two paragraphs from Keller are a treasure of advice for both singles and married couples. It certainly shuts the mouths of those who say that they have fallen out of love with their spouse. It may show us that we have never truly loved at all. But there is still hope in Christ. Those who thought their marriage was bad will read this and realize it is a lot worse than they thought. But they will also see that Christ’s love and forgiveness is much more abounding than we could ever have imagined. It is by his work and his Spirit within us that we are able to love as he ultimately loved us.