Monday, February 10, 2014
A Father's Love.
Lately, I've been examining the love I have for my daughters. After a great deal of musing, praying, and observation, I have concluded a rather unusual idea. I believe that our marriages would benefit if we loved our spouses more like we love our children. This sounds bizarre, but hear me out.
Before we proceed, let me diffuse a few potential misunderstandings. I believe that the difference between parental love and spousal love is not a matter of quantity but rather of the qualities that each relationship has. The problem doesn't lie in how much we love our spouse, but rather how we love our spouse. Also, I am not encouraging men to treat their spouses like children, or to view them as somehow inferior or immature. Regardless, even in a parent-child relationship, the dynamic between the parent and child changes as the child matures and grows.
To begin the dissection of this idea, let me pose a question: why do we love our children? If you have a child, you can relate to the feeling of parental love, but even if you are not a parent, you can still observe this in the world around you. We adore small infants without any real prompting, and we consider it highly unusual whenever a parent seems cold or distant with their children. There's a few reasons for this, and I believe we can gain insight into our marriage relationships by exploring this further.
I distinctly recall looking down to my two daughters when they were helpless infants in my arms, and coming to the conclusion that I absolutely love them although they do literally nothing for me. They don't help me, serve me, or understand me. I love them for the sheer beauty of their existence. The only thing they've done to warrant my love is exist.
Secondly, I look at the natural world and I have to attribute my fatherly love towards instincts. It is natural to care for my children. My biology demands that I protect them, provide for them and cherish them. In many ways, taking care of my child is just as intuitive as taking care of myself. I feed myself because self-preservation is one of the most basic elements of life, hard-wired into my brain. In the same manner, I love my children because something primal within my mind compels me.
I suppose that one could argue that we love our children because they are an extensions of ourselves, and we love ourselves in a simple and survival-centric way. The Bible notes in Ephesians 5:28-29 that no one really hates their body, but instead loves it and cares for it. If you remove the term "body" and insert the word "children", the text seems equally true. Again, this can be attributed to the very nature of being human.
Now, let's contrast these observations with what we often see in marriages. Sadly, marital love can often become transactional -- we love our spouses for what they do, what they have done, and what they will do. I want to love my spouse like I love my daughters -- for the sheer beauty of her existence. To me, this kind of appreciation is far superior to the norm that says "I love my spouse because she _____(completes/encourages/serves/etc) me." If you tether your marriage to a list of actions, your affections will falter when behaviors and circumstances change.
Furthermore, I want to love my spouse in a deep, instinctual, hard-wired way. This is a tall order, because no amount of determination can change a person's biology or genetics. It is a lofty goal, but I want to be so dedicated and rooted in my marriage that it becomes a native and engrained part of me as a person. In the Bible, we can look again to Ephesians 5:28-29 as it instructs husbands to care for wives as their own body. Sometimes I think we take for granted how serious and enormous this task can truly be.
I believe that our marriages would benefit if we try to love our partners more like we love our children and less like we used to "love" our boyfriends/girlfriends during our dating experience. If you are a Christian, I think the evidence for this concept is even more concrete. After all, we are commanded to love others like God loves us(John 13:34), and God loves us with a fatherly love(Luke 15:20-24,1 Cor. 13:4-8), so this means that we ought to love others in a fatherly way as well. Think about this. How can we love others in a Godly way if we don't understand what Godly love is like? I will explore this idea more deeply in a future post, but I believe the overall portrait we see in the Bible is a Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally, provides for us, and rejoices over the simple wonder of our existence. That's fatherly love for sure.
In conclusion, I hope we can embrace this idea of loving our spouses in a new way, and I pray that we can discover a deeper affection for our marriage as we see the beauty and simplicity of a parent's love. Let me know what you think in the comments or via e-mail, and thanks for reading.
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