If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. MSG 1 Corinthians 13:3-8

Love, real love, isn’t a feeling. Love is decision to actively engage your spouse. So how do you engage your spouse?

Step 1.) Understand, in your marriage, you live for God – not your day to day happiness or control. Remember, God isn’t after your happiness, He is after your holiness. Step 2.) Practically that means that you now live to love your spouse. Pray for them. Be a friend. Talk to them and ask them, what can I do to breathe live into you? Do that. When sin in your life stops you from saying yes, you repent of it. Step 3.) If steps 1 and 2 are hard for you: it shows your heart condition. The pressure of marriage is squeezing out what is really on the inside of your heart That’s why James 1:3 says: You know that under pressure, [marriage pressure] your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. MSG

Here is the reality of marriage. We enter into a relationship with a romantic notion that sounds something like this: I’ll gladly serve you because you make me feel good. In other words, I have expectations and right now you are meeting them – this is so romantic. She gets married and thinks, this will be cool. We’ll talk. We’ll be friends, shop, awesome. We’ll plan for the future together. He will meet my needs. He gets married and thinks, this will be cool. We’ll have sex. Then we’ll have more sex. Then we’ll hang out. Go hunting, watch football/Nascar. And she will meet my needs.

After marriage, we discover that something shifted. What was easy is now harder. What was fun and romantic is now hard and filled with responsibility. Your spouse is no longer meeting your expectations!!! We begin to say things like, “You aren’t meeting my needs.” “I am hurt.” “I am angry.” “I blame you for shattering the romance in our marriage.” How do we behave? Normally, we think, “I will do the least possible for you.” Read 1 Corinthians 13 again.

We have a huge dilemma. Do you take the monster risk and forgive them, serve them and love them? Or do you play it safe and selfish and stay angry and bitter and do the least possible for them? If you want to fully engage into your marriage, I have one word for you: FORGIVE. Do you know what FORGIVENESS means? I will release you from my expectations and I will fully engage you. I will fully love you. Jesus put it like this; If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? MSG John 20:23

That’s a great question. What do most people do? They choose to never forgive and they hang onto hurt, anger and blame. What happens? They damage themselves and the relationship. And what they don’t want to admit is this, I’m not going forgive because I want things just the way I want. I am going to stay angry, bitter and do the least possible because I want to be in control. I have no plans what-so-ever to do it God’s way.

You might ask: How do you know about this stuff – why are you so confident about this? Because I am married. One of the great ugly things that is squeezed out of my heart is: I want things just they way I want. My ideas are better. I don’t like her ideas as much as I like my ideas. I don’t want to forgive. I don’t want to engage her. I don’t want to do it God’s way. If I do, that’s no guarantee she will love me back!

If you really forgive them, you accept them for who they are. In other words, you give them the permission to be who they are – not who you want them to be. Your job isn’t to get them to be who you want them to be. Your job is to release them from your romantic expectations and accept them for who God created them to be. Are you loving them like I Corinthians 13 asks you to or are you ‘selfish’ and in control?