Grace for Imperfection

 " Untitled " by  Sean McGrath  is licensed under  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .

"Untitled" by Sean McGrath is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Unconditional love and acceptance – isn’t that what every one of us searches for as we risk letting other people get close to us?  When we open our hearts to another person, our bottom-line desire is to be accepted and loved the way we are, warts and all.  We want to be able to drop the mask and be safe.  We want unconditional love.  We want the real thing.  Deep.  Lasting.  Resilient.

In our national survey for The 5 Love Needs of Men & Women, a majority of both men and women told us that unconditional love is their number one love need from their marriage partner.  No doubt many would expect the number one need for men to be sex and the number one need for women to be communication, but that was not what we found.  Instead, as different as men and women can be, both agreed on this one truth: We all need to be loved unconditionally by our spouses.

When spouses express their need for unconditional love, it simply means that they need to be loved and received no matter what.  For richer or for poorer.  In sickness and in health.  They need to know that even when they come up short, even when they can’t see beyond the pains and failures, they are still truly accepted.

So how do we practically implement unconditional love in our marriages?  Unconditional love starts with Christ.  Romans 5:8 speaks very clearly, “While we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us.”  We have the perfect model of unconditional love.  We cannot lose sight of that.  Our ability to give costly love comes from God’s unconditional love for us.

Just think about your own relationship with God.  Because you are convinced of His grace toward you, your faith has meaning and foundation.  After all, each of us knows the condition of our own heart; we know what we‘ve done to offend God in word and deed.  Yet as believers we are able to start anew each day with God, repenting for sinful lapses and being assured of His forgiveness.  Perhaps in a similar way we need a daily clearing away between husband and wife.

This becomes especially important for those of you who are in situations right now where the need to demonstrate unconditional love is a daily concern or struggle.  You may be living with a hard-hearted spouse.  Or perhaps your dreams and desires have been put on hold.  Maybe your spouse has wounded or betrayed you.  Or you may be married to a spiritually passive individual who’s not serving you as God instructed them to do.  Whether you are in the midst of a crisis, living with an ongoing circumstance, or just responding to the normal routine of married life, giving your mate the security of your unwavering love requires at least five elements:

  1. Showing grace with their weaknesses
  2. Affirming them whenever you can
  3. Helping them feel safe
  4. Taking time to connect
  5. Being a student of your mate

Unconditional love is the real thing.  The genuine article.  It is the kind of love that is given when it isn’t deserved.  Jesus models it, Paul writes about it, and our Father gives it to us.  Will you love your mate unconditionally?  This is the way a great marriage is designed to work.  God said so.