“I love you, Katie. But I’m not in love with you,” said The Boy who broke my 16-year-old heart. And with that, our 18-month-long relationship (an eternity in teenage time) was over.
That statement: to love but not be in love. I didn’t know what it meant, what The Boy meant. All that I knew was that it felt like an anvil on my chest.
Years later, mended and moving on, I rested my head on The Man’s shoulder as we gazed at the Chicago skyline. “I’m so in love with you,” I said in a breathy voice. “Well, I’m not in love with you,” my then-fiance told me.
Bubble of romance: burst.
I lifted my head and turned my face to him in confusion. He clarified, “I love you, but I’m not going to say I’m ‘in love’ with you.”
Yep, I heard him right the first time. And I feel like I’ve heard this before…
“Because being ‘in love’ with you means that I can also be ‘out of love’ with you. And I’m not going to let my love for you be based on whims of falling in or falling out or falling at all. It’s not based on emotions or romance or things beyond our control. I am choosing to love you, with God’s help, day in, day out, for the rest of our lives.”
I thought I understood everything my fiance said to me that night. But five years of marriage to him have taught me that lesson over and over in ways words can’t express. Because in five years of marriage, he has seen every shade of my character, heard every insult in my vocabulary, unveiled all of my secrets, uncovered all of my sin issues, and he still loves me more today than he did yesterday. It’s not because I’m wildly desirable at all times, but it’s because he made a commitment that will not waver when emotions do.
The Boy lost interest in me. Lost infatuation with me. Saw the ugly side of me and bailed. So maybe it wasn’t love at all, just a deep care and comfort developed over a substantial period of time. As much as either of us knew of love, but not real love. Tested but failed. Immature and temporary. Once in love but never fully committed to love.
God juxtaposed The Boy and The Man’s philosophies of love in my life for a reason. Not just so I could [hopefully] unveil truth about real, committed marital love to you, but so I could learn for myself about real, committed covenental love from and for Jesus. Because His love for me doesn’t change when I sin against him; it doesn’t waver when I disobey. He loves me through seasons of rich communication with Him and sacrificial service for Him and also through seasons of complacency and disinterest in Him. My life is absolutely unlovable, but His love is absolutely unconditional. In return, my love for Him need not be based on how intimate I’m feeling with him on a given day. It’s not about emotions. There is no falling in or falling out. It’s a God-enabled commitment that I made to love Him day in, day out, when I feel like it and when I don’t, with my whole life. And that means striving to obey and be like Him but also leaning on Him when I fall short.
I don’t know everything there is to know about love, but I know The One who does. And I’m thankful, thankful that He loved me first and perfectly, that He sent His Son to love me to the point of death on the cross and sent The Man to love me through all the perils of this earthly life, that we both may be rendered holy on the other side.
“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
1 John 4:12 (Go deeper: Read 1 John 4:7-21.)