As I Have Loved You

Can you remember the first time you experienced romantic love for another person? When I was in kindergarten, I remember experiencing my first crush. I felt so embarrassed any time I was around her because I was afraid that my infatuation for her was written all over my face. My tongue was tied any time she walked into the room, and any time I saw her, I wanted to run and hide. Those early feelings of childhood fancy were so strong that I carried them into my college years. They became a template against which I measured my romantic attachment to other women.

Like many elementary-school-aged children, I had a few “girlfriends,” but I can’t recall most of them. I remember one occasion when I was playing football during recess with my buddies and a gaggle of girls ran up to ask me if I would “go with” one of their friends. Go where? I thought to myself. In retrospect, I can’t remember whether I said yes or no to the invitation, but in either case, I don’t think the relationship survived the school day.

Oh, I had a relationship or two in junior high that lasted longer than an afternoon, but for the most part, I was not much of a ladies’ man. The primary result of these experiences during my adolescent years was that I was gaining awareness of my attraction to members of the opposite sex, and apparently, some of them were beginning to develop an attraction to me. I didn’t fully understand the feelings I was having, but I knew that, occasionally, those feelings toward my first “crush” in kindergarten had resurfaced when I spent time around females. There were even times when I may not have felt attracted to a girl — at first — but when I learned that she felt an attraction to me, I began to feel an attraction to her, too.

We all develop romantic feelings toward the opposite sex at some point in our lives. Psychologists tell us that these affections develop from our relationships with our mothers and fathers early in life. As a mature adult who now spends several hours each day with my wife, I now have a more complete understanding of the complicated art of sexual attraction, and I am aware of various attachment theories that describe how and why these processes develop. However, as I was having these experiences for the first time during childhood, they produced within me very powerful emotions that I did not fully understand.

Although I don’t like to admit it, these passions were primarily driven by my own selfishness. When a girl caught my attention in the sixth-grade classroom, I didn’t think about what she might want from me. Rather, I was mostly concerned about what I could get from her. In those days, all I knew was that there were certain individuals who inspired within me a surge of emotions that I wanted to prolong, and the more time I spent with these people, the longer and more intensely I could experience those new and exciting feelings. At the time, I did not stop to think about how I also might be satisfying an emotional desire that was welling up inside my female counterparts.

Unfortunately, many men and women enter into romantic, long-term relationships without ever becoming conscious of their selfish motivations in the partnership. Too often, we are swept off our feet by powerful currents of sexual attraction, and then we are carried away by them. Over time, these fleeting feelings of romance begin to dwindle as the mundanity of life begins to take center stage. It is during these times that marriages become vulnerable. One of the partners might encounter someone new, a person who reignites those passions from early adolescence. You may begin to notice someone at church, at work, or in a social circle who reminds you of your first crush in kindergarten, or perhaps you become aware that someone has taken an interest in you, and you begin to consider the possibility of allowing yourself to entertain those nostalgic feelings of youthful desire.

Some people become permanently trapped in this cycle as they jump from relationship to relationship, seeking to experience over and over again the blissful pleasures of a third-grade romance. Rather than learning to mature in love, these individuals remain in a perpetual state of emotional immaturity, never finding the most important key to building a long-lasting relationship that is offered to us by the Author of Love himself, who said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you should love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34 BSB).

You see, true romance, godly romance, is not driven by a need to satisfy a longing within ourselves. Instead, it is driven by a desire to give of oneself in the same manner that Jesus Christ gave himself for us. The Bible commands husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 BSB). Similarly, wives must learn how to meet their husbands’ needs, not by drawing attention to themselves with red lipstick and sweet-smelling lotion, “but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4 BSB).

Truly deep, truly sacred love can only exist when both partners recognize and put into practice the pattern of love that God demonstrates toward us. Our God, the Creator of the Universe, has offered us marriage as a way to understand how to realize his love for us. God is a giver of love, and marriage is an opportunity to learn how to grow into his character and likeness, not by seeking to satisfy a yearning for love within ourselves, but instead, by seeing to satisfy a godly desire for love within another person.

However, this does not mean that it is easy to endure a one-sided relationship. Very often, people become trapped in relationships where only one partner is giving, and this is extremely destructive to a marriage. God designed marriage to help us grow in our relationship with him, knowing that we become like him by pouring our love into another person, but we also depend upon him by receiving love from another person. Both needs must be satisfied to fulfill God’s plan in marriage.

Today, ask yourself two questions. First ask yourself, “Do I know how my spouse wants to receive love from me?” As you contemplate this question, you may begin to notice that you have not been paying close attention to the emotional needs that you are capable of satisfying in the heart of your husband or wife. The second question is, “Do I know how to receive love from my spouse?” Sometimes our partners are trying to satisfy our emotional needs, but we have difficulty opening our hearts to accept what they are offering.

As you mature in marriage as a husband and a wife, you will learn to fulfill the commandment of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you.” The more that both you and your partner learn to take responsibility for loving each other as Christ loved you, submitting to one another in loving devotion, the more you will find long-lasting satisfaction and joy in the marriage that God has provided to satisfy your deepest romantic desire for physical and emotional attachment to another human being.


[Do you and your spouse need help learning how to meet each other’s needs both to give and receive love? Click here to set up an appointment for couples counseling with a Christian counselor].

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