Where do you start a blog?  A friend, who has encouraged me to start this one, offered this suggestion: “Just tell them everything you know about marriage.”  Well, since Carol and I are about to celebrate 49 years of marriage, that could take a while, right? Don’t worry, we know it’s the Sound Bite Century, so we’ll give it to you in small bites.

As I thought about our maiden voyage to Blogville, it was immediately clear that it all starts with love—the love we have for God, the love He has for us, the love we have for our mate and kids, and (for years very foreign to me), the love we have for ourselves. (I was well into my 30’s before I had any clue that it was okay to love myself. That permission was not in my Boy Scout handbook).

In marriage, here’s the bottom line: We probably can’t effectively give away something that we don’t have. That includes love. If you’re married, or even thinking about it, you need to get very good at both giving and receiving love. Otherwise, your bucket will run dry fairly quickly—and so will your mate’s. Our love buckets are both leaky and subject to rust—if not well-oiled with love on a regular basis.

Like a lot of folks I know, I grew up believing (at least subconsciously) that I deserved love only if I was performing at a high level. So, for many years, although I was doing fine at work, I would blow it relationally.  Then, I would feel disqualified from being loved until I could become a “good boy” again for some indeterminate redemption season. Thus, when my wife would simply try to make a gentle suggestion for change, I would self-destruct emotionally, put my tail between my legs like a whipped puppy, and sulk for a few days.  Not a pretty picture. Not an atmosphere for a maturing, God-honoring marriage, right?

Praise God, things began to drastically change about 12 years into our marriage. A big reason for that change was simply learning about the kind of love God offers us—absolutely for free. Here are some of the amazing truths that I have discovered along the way. They deserve our ongoing reflection as we navigate through life and marriage:

1. God loves us unconditionally. Wow, what a profound truth! (For most of us, that is a foreign concept. That’s probably because human love seems to flow to us only when we are performing well, right?) But, for another kind of love, check out the Bible: When the heavens opened up at the baptism of Jesus, his Heavenly Dad spoke these powerful words that we all long to hear: “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”(Mt. 3:17). Have you ever noticed that the Father’s declaration of love and blessing came BEFORE Jesus did anything spectacular? (like healing the sick, multiplying the loaves and fishes, walking on water, etc). He loves you and me that same way–just because we’re His kids! Awesome!

2. When we learn to tap into this unconditional love, God brings healing to our wounds and restores us to wholeness. Here’s why: THAT kind of love can deeply touch the places in our heart and soul that need supernatural healing—the same banged up parts of our heart and soul that fuel our ugliness toward those around us. It blows my mind that God sent his only Son to the cross as a perfect sacrifice for our sins even before people like us felt guilty about them. (Rom. 5:8: “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”).

3. When we get in contact with some of this “amazing love” and have it deposited in our hearts, it helps us see ourselves through God’s eyes and to love ourselves as He does. Therefore, when we blow it, we don’t have to beat ourselves up until we think we deserve his love again. We can start to get over our junk simply by asking forgiveness and then trying to fix any damage we may have caused with our sin—both damage to ourselves and others. That is good news, don’t you think?

4. When we feel loved and lovable as an individual, we have the capacity to do something amazing for those around us: To allow God’s love and grace to spill over to our spouse, our kids, and others. The Bible clearly tells us that God can actually fill us with enough joy, peace, and hope that we can “overflow” to others by the power of His Spirit (Rom. 15:13). What a deal! Sure beats running on fumes…

Rom. 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peaceas you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.