In my 37 years of pastoral ministry I have probably presided at about 300 weddings. That’s a lot. Sometimes it feels like too many. Too much of a good thing can be too much. Unfortunately, familiarity can breed contempt. Or if not contempt, this familiarity with weddings has at times bred a certain degree of cynicism in me.
I’ve had my moments when it has been hard for me to preside over these expensive celebrations of love. Frankly, they can seem a bit delusional. For I know at some point this love that the couple has fallen into, this power greater than themselves that has overwhelmed them, this storybook feeling that they think will never diminish, will in fact come under question. They will experience that moment of waking up, looking over at their spouse and wondering who that person is and why they ever chose to get married. With an exasperated sigh they will conclude “He/She is not the person I married.” And if they happen to come back to me for counseling in the wake of this disturbing discovery, what I will eventually say to them is something like: “Thank God he/she is not the person you married. Now you have the chance to get to know who she/he really is. And the good news is that he/she is probably a lot more interesting and exciting than who you thought she/he was.”
The love we fall into may be what initiates our relationship and inspires us to take the leap of commitment in marriage or friendship. But the love that sustains any relationship is the love we choose. Another name for it is covenant love: A conscious choice to seek the other’s best and trust that the other is seeking your best. When two people daily choose to love in this way, they grow into a deeper kind of love as they come to appreciate the gift that God has given them in the other. They realize that this is a gift they will never stop unwrapping, for the depths of the mystery of the other are unfathomable and there will always be more to discover.
It is this choice to love that describes God’s love toward us. The New Testament writers used the word agape to describe this love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son (John 3:16).” God chose to create us and chooses to pursue us and love us. God seeks our best. And God invites us to respond to that love by sharing the same kind of love with one another. “We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).” God’s love generates love in us. My seminary preaching professor put it this way: “Agape, is the love that makes the loved one lovely.”
God’s love makes us lovely. It is a love that grows us in our ability to love others. It is the love that both builds up our self-esteem and equips us with the energy to extend ourselves for the sake of the other. It delivers us into a place that cupid’s arrows cannot. For it does not mesmerize with passion as much as it calls forth gratitude for a gift that we cannot help but give away. It is thus, as St. Paul says, the love that “never ends, (1 Cor. 13:8),” for the Source of this love will never stop loving us and therefore never stop growing that love in us.
(Dave Rohrer, 2/4/19)