Experiencing Enduring Love
Updated: Jul 18, 2022
Imagine the infatuation of new love when a couple first meets and starts dating. Talking
or texting late into the night. Changing their status from single to dating on social
media. Trying new foods and laughing over a glass of wine. The thrill of holding hands,
a tender caress, and that first kiss. Snuggling on the couch while watching a movie. If
the relationship lasts, the couple may then experience the joy of an engagement,
wedding, and honeymoon when everyone gathers to celebrate their commitment to the
ideal of lifelong love.
However, with the passage of time, the honeymoon high fades and the realities of building a life together set in. Most couples experience highs and lows in their
relationship. The highs most often lead to times of celebration while the lows test the strength of the bond that holds the couple together.
So, what does it take to experience enduring love? A love that lasts and stands the test of time requires more than emotion, physical attraction, and sentimentality. Enduring love requires long-term commitment, but for many people, commitment is scary.
I proposed to my wife Renita, more than 30 years ago, during my senior year at Purdue
University. To this very day, I can vividly remember walking down East State Street in
West Lafayette, Indiana, heading back to my apartment from class, when the reality of
my wedding vows hit me:
"I, Roosevelt, take you, Renita, for my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part."
That phrase, “until death do us part” screamed in my mind, “This is PERMANENT!” I
was terrified. To me, that meant my marriage was meant to last a lifetime. There were
no “do-overs.” I loved Renita and thought she was a person with many wonderful
qualities; however, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a lifelong commitment.
Our pastor was very wise in how he walked me through this decision process. He asked me a few simple questions beginning with, “Are you and Renita compatible? Do you get along without conflict?” I answered “Yes.” Then he asked, “Do the two of you have good
chemistry? Are you attracted to one another?” Again, I answered, “Yes.” Finally, he added, “The one thing that I can say about Renita is that she is a ‘fighter’, meaning when things get tough, I know that she will fight to preserve your relationship. She won’t quit and give up.”
For me, that was the deciding factor. Our pastor helped me to reflect on the past
four years of friendship that Renita and I shared. We had a history of consistency,
faithfulness, and transparency in relating to one another. Since that was our shared
experience, I was pretty sure that we could carry that on into our future. With that, I was
ready to go buy her engagement ring and ask Renita to marry me.
Since that day, Renita and I have made three important commitments to help foster enduring love in our marriage:
1. Make God and his Word foundational to your marriage
Early in our relationship, Renita and I made a decision to honor God and his Word as foundational truth. From his Word we learned that love is more than a feeling. Love is an action. The scripture reading on our wedding day was from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Verse 7 reads, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” The Greek word for love used in this verse is agape which is the highest form of love. It denotes the sacrificial, self-giving nature of God’s actions toward mankind.
Agape love does not come naturally to us. We can at times do loving things, but sooner or later our fallen nature takes over and our selfish, self-serving nature emerges, and we do or says things that are hurtful. We make mistakes and disappoint one another causing our love to wane. However, we can be thankful that God doesn’t expect us to demonstrate agape love in our own strength. Instead, God through the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts and fills us with his love.
Romans 5:5 says, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
2. Invest in resources that help to build our marriage relationship
Early in our relationship, we realized the value of drawing on the experiences of others who had great marriages.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
We’ve made it a priority to build a culture of God-honoring marriage by learning from others. We invest in reading books, listening to marriage enrichment webinars and seminars, attending marriage retreats, and taking part in activities we both enjoy which help us to grow together.
3. Practice forgiveness
Despite our best efforts, we’re going to fall short, make mistakes, and disappoint one another. James 4:2 (NLT) says, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes.”
That being the case, we must practice forgiving one another. Although it’s not easy, God makes power and blessings available through forgiveness.
I found a wonderful article by Sunshyne Gray entitled "7 Benefits of Forgiveness".
The benefits are:
3. Improved Health
4. Better Mental Health
5. Improved Relationships
7. Living in the Present
The sense of infatuation that a couple feels when love is new is a wonderful experience and it seems to happen naturally, unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. Enduring love, on the other hand, doesn’t happen naturally. It requires a couple’s dedicated effort and commitment, which in the long run leads to an experience of greater marital fulfillment. Like a good wine, an enduring love gets better with age.