When my wife and I first met, I was attracted to her personality. I loved her outlook on life and I loved the way that she made me feel when I was with her. I was drawn to her tender heart, enchanted by her great sense of humor, and of course magnetized by our chemistry. I grew to love her based upon these amazing qualities and the guidance of my wise Heavenly Father.
At some point in those first several months, a change occurred. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but my feelings for Tammy matured into an unconditional love. I ceased to care for her based upon how I felt when I was around her. Instead, I chose to love her for who she is and for the special place in my heart that she had taken up residence.
Unconditional love, held hostage by conditional hearts
Within a couple years, the pressures of blending a family and fueling a career began to take their toll on our lives. Stress robbed us of quality time, intimacy, and peace. We still loved each other, but the warm cloak of closeness and tenderness we once enjoyed had become threadbare. An overall selfishness and busyness overshadowed our home.
Did we love each other? Absolutely! We never stopped loving each other. Was love experienced? Was it FELT? Intermittently. Our love for one another was still unconditional, but our demonstration of that love had become very conditional. We handed out loving deposits as if they were a scarce resource that needed to be hoarded. Acts of love and kindness were exchanged based upon mood, stress, and the relative degree of tension or peace in our home. Our unconditional love was held hostage and sparingly demonstrated by self-absorbed, conditional hearts.
Love without boundaries
For those familiar with our story, things got worse before they got better. We came to the brink of divorce before recommitting to God, each other, and our family. A critical part of that renewal involved learning to demonstrate love without boundaries, rules, or conditions.
Early in our renewal process, we attended a weekend marriage conference from Intimate Life Ministries. We learned so much that weekend and truly grew as a couple. One of the exercises walks you through a visualization of seeing your mate as a child of God rather than as your spouse. This was a profound and life-altering experience for us both. In doing so, I learned to love my wife — on one condition.
Unconditional love — on one condition
Loving unconditionally is hard. Some days you just don’t feel loving toward your spouse at all. The epiphany comes when you stop attaching your love to how you feel. Feelings are capricious and unpredictable. My wife’s identity in Christ, on the other hand, is constant. I love my wife because He loved her first.
The one and only condition for my love is that she is a unique creation of my loving Heavenly Father. That identity makes her lovable. That relationship makes her worthy. God knew her before she was born (Psalm 139:13). Before she had a belly button, God had a purpose for her life (Jeremiah 1:5; 29:11). She was God’s child before she was my wife. The single and sufficient condition for my love, is that she is His daughter.
She deserved love and honor long before I ever proposed. It just took me a few years to wake up and realize it.