1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Next Saturday I will have the pleasure of officiating a couple’s 15-year marriage renewal. Like weddings, renewals are filled with love and family. What strikes me about weddings and renewal of vows is the love that flows so freely. There is love at so many different levels at a wedding. Of course, there is the bride and groom love, the parental love, the family and friend love. Even more so at wedding renewals because the love is more mature, broader, deeper, more comfortable.
My mind and heart moves to the marriages of my own children, Daniel and Rebecca and their wonderful spouses, where there was pride, respect, and a sense of awe as I watched the events unfold. Now, their relationships have grown passed the honeymoon star-struck giddiness to the maturity of a rich and deep love. This applies to my oldest son, Shaun, as he makes a life with his beloved Erin and her daughter Oona, now a part of our family.
Happiness, joy, security, openness, intimacy, caring, closeness, connection, passion, attachment, commitment, attraction, trust, appreciation, approval, acceptance, valuing. That is love.
At one point in one of my children’s receptions they were doing some toasts, and I felt compelled to share a bit of marital wisdom. It was short and to the point: “Happy wife, happy life.” Yes, it is cute and funny, but I believe it is profoundly wise.
When I was first married, I think I still carried the idea that somehow Mary would make me happy. For a few years, that was my attitude -- that Mary was making me happy. The problem with that mind set is that as long as Mary was doing and saying things I liked, and behaving the way I wanted, then I was happy. But if not, then…should I be unhappy?
Somewhere over the years, my thinking deepened. I came to believe that really…if I made Mary happy, then not only did I feel happier in the process, but she was happier, and life was better. It was within this new mindset that I was introduced to the concept:
Happy wife, happy life.
We are taught in Philippians 2:3-4 -- Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The secret to love is to release it, share it, give it away, and not let our personal agenda impede its flow. ‘Happy wife’ means that it is not about me; my happiness is not central. It is Mary’s.
Now this is not just a directive for men; the principal applies to women as well. Only it is not as catchy to say, “Happy husband, happy life”. We could go with ‘Happy spouse, happy house.” But it is, in reality, all about love: sharing it, daring to express it in as many different circumstances as possible. So this is not just limited to marriages, but is applicable to every relationship: parent-child, siblings, friends, and associates.
Why stop there? Why not extend it to people that we meet: grocery clerks, and strangers. Love is not about us; it is about someone else. There are enough kinds of love to share with all we meet, and it will be a bit different with everyone. Some researchers have categorized love into as many as seven divisions. There is love for every occasion, every person, every connection.
We have all this love within us because God is Love, and God expresses through us. We can call on love any time we feel fearful or weak, and we will receive God’s strength and courage. Any time we feel down or abandoned, we can call upon God’s love and we will receive comfort and companionship. If we feel vulnerable, by calling upon God’s love we will become unshakable. Such is the power of love. When we love one another, through us God supplies whatever the other needs, and we are healed as well.
When I find ways to love Mary so that she is happy, then I am made happy directly, as well as through how she then treats me, speaks to me, thinks of me, and behaves around me.
Happy wife, happy life. Happy spouse, happy house.
As found in Forbes Book of Business Quotes, British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, said, “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace."
This thought applies to the world as well as our personal lives. When we stop trying to control another person – like my trying to get Mary to make me happy – and instead, express the power of love in trying to make them happy, then we will know peace.
Ephesians 4:2 teaches this: Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love.
When we are impatient with someone, we are trying to control them. We want them to live by our time schedule. When we are unkind to someone, in a sense we are trying to control them by running them off or making them feel subordinate. When we hold a grudge we are trying to control someone through guilt.
Love is patient, love is kind, so says the Bible. Bryant McGill, in his book Voice of Reason says this: “Hate controls everything it touches, but love sets everything it touches free.”
That must be why I enjoy weddings so much, because of the freedom I feel - lightness and joy in the air and on all hearts. That is one of the reasons I like coming to church: I feel a lightness and freedom in my heart. I feel uplifted and buoyant. I feel love.
When we think the clouds of life have covered God’s presence, call on love. In our minds ask God to express as love through us. Affirm in our minds and hearts that “I love, and I am loved.” By making it a constant prayer we will come to realize what God already knows about us: we are love.
Although at times it may look like the love of power is diminished by a foreboding presence in the world, in truth the power of love is always seeking expression through every man, woman, and child. Christ is faithful, love never fails. Love is a chameleon and wears many faces; Love will find a way. Will we be its vessel today?
So, as we leave our homes and are getting dressed to go out into the world, or as we get out of bed, or just awaken and leave our sleepy dream land, let us remember the words of Colossians 3:12-14: Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.