It had only been two weeks since my wedding day. I was a fresh new bride, excited about the future with my new husband. We were in love and “in the clouds,” as our families would say. As fabulous as everything seemed to be going, I found myself awake one night on our honeymoon, unable to sleep. I glanced over at my husband to find him fast asleep. As much as I loved the handsome man sleeping next to me, I wrestled in my heart with unmet expectations.
You see, prior to marriage, I had imagined specific things about what my honeymoon and marriage would be like. I pictured perfect scenes with a husband who would naturally anticipate my every need. I dreamed up the perfect first month and assumed everything would go according to my plan.
My dream world was absolutely perfect! But it was just that—a dream world. My secret imaginations didn’t include the fact that I was a sinner marrying a sinner. My dreams forgot to include what real, sacrificial love looks like. My fantasies just assumed I would be the perfect wife and that he would be the perfect husband.
As I lay there in the middle of the night, I began to realize how unrealistic and self-centered many of my expectations had been. The Holy Spirit softly convicted me of how selfish my perspective of love was. Rather than focusing on how I could love and serve my new husband, I had been micro-analyzing all the ways in which He could serve me better.
Did I mention I had only been married for two weeks? Yeah, say “hello” to my sinful heart.
As I read through 1 John 4, I was reminded of what true love looks like. Unlike my selfish version of love, God’s version isn’t based on emotions but on actions. God’s version of love isn’t about getting but about giving. I saw that Christ-centered love is about sacrificing your wants and desires for the good of others.
Here are some of the verses that hit me between the eyes that night:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:9–10).
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).
These verses pierced my heart. With tears silently streaming down my face, I knew I hadn’t been loving Zack (my husband) with this sort of love. I confessed my selfishness to God and asked Him for strength to become a wife who sacrificially loves her husband as Christ does.
This middle-of-the-night heart revival did wonders for the rest of my honeymoon and marriage!
If you’re single right now (or newly married), you may be stuck in the same fantasy world that I was. When you imagine a future romance and marriage, what does it look like? Is it a perfect fairy tale? What type of love do you envision?
Most of us pray and hope for a vibrant marriage with lasting love, but so few of us understand what true, Christ-centered love actually looks like. Lasting love isn’t sustained on infatuation and good looks. It’s sustained on loving Christ first, then sacrificially loving those around you.
The most commonly used word for love in the Bible is the Greek word agape. It’s used over 259 times and literally means “self-sacrifice.” In our new book, Love Defined: Embracing God’s Vision for True Love and Lasting Relationships, I put it this way:
God-defined love is built not on a foundation of self but rather on a foundation of self-sacrifice. Whether a woman is single or married, her greatest needs will only be met when she’s faithfully walking in a relationship with Christ.
If you desire to have a beautiful marriage one day with lasting love, start practicing agape love right now. Ask Christ to help you deny yourself and sacrificially love the people in your life. Whether it’s your parents, siblings, friends, boyfriend, or husband, choose to serve them. As Christ demonstrated His love for us through His actions, may we demonstrate that same love to those around us.
This kind of love is what lasting marriages are built on.
If you want to learn more about God’s beautiful design for love, romance, and marriage, I encourage you to check out our new book, Love Defined. Log on to the giveaway widget below before leaving us a comment for your chance to win a free copy!
I’d love to hear from you.
- Why do you think agape love is more challenging to live out?
- In what ways can you put agape love into practice today?