“I Love You” Through Gritted Teeth.
Believe it or not, Jacob and I don’t always get along. We had incredibly different upbringings, our priorities differ here and there, and our personalities don’t always mesh perfectly. There are days when these things – among others – make it difficult to live in the same house without going crazy.
In the midst of these crazy days, I try really hard to make sure I tell Jacob I love him. When I’m frustrated, when everything he does seems to make my anger grow stronger, when not having my own life is overwhelming, I do my best to vocalize my love for him. Both as a reminder for him after I have acted in unloving ways, and as a reminder for myself, as he acts in ways that I don’t like.
Don’t be fooled, though. While I think it’s important for “I love you” to be said in these moments, it does not sound the same as when it’s accompanied by the warmth of loving feelings. No, this “I love you” tends to be shoved through gritted teeth and, though I still mean it, it certainly does not feel warm to either one of us. It might as well be said in a foreign language.
As I said a foreign language “I love you” yesterday, a surprising thought came to mind:
“Jesus never says ‘I love you’ to us through gritted teeth.”
(Gotta love a good punch to the gut on Sunday morning.)
People – you, me, everyone – do all of the things that Jesus saved us from.
We act foolishly. We do things we know will harm us. We do things we know will harm others. We contribute to the brokenness of the world, instead of participating in healing it. We reply harshly to innocent questions. We snap at our friends and spouses because we’re holding on to something that bothered us yesterday. We talk poorly of others.
And yet, Jesus never says “I love you” through gritted teeth.
Instead, he is patient with us. He is kind when we are rude. He does not keep track of how many times we let him down. He does not make us feel bad for falling short of his perfection. He continues to protect us, to provide for us, and to be present for us when we need him.
Oh, how different the tough days in my marriage would look if I loved Jacob like Jesus does.
If I was patient with him instead of quick to judge. If I was kind when I felt like he didn’t deserve to be treated kindly. If I acknowledged my part in the conflict without insisting that he apologize first. If I trusted he is the same, exceptional man I married on May 30, 2015. If I called to mind the beautiful hopes I have for our marriage, and pushed out the fears that creep in when we don’t get along. If I put my energy into persevering, and not in persuading him to see things my way.
Oh, how different it would be if I didn’t selfishly say “I love you” through gritted teeth.
On our tough days, I’m reminded how incredibly thankful I am that Jacob agreed to give me his whole lifetime to learn to love him well.
I’m reminded how thankful I am that Jesus will never love Jacob as poorly as I do. That I was never supposed to take the place of a Savior who loves Jacob so well.