"As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more." 2 Corinthians 3:18
How many of your original wedding gifts are still around? If you were married only recently, you probably still have all of them – and perhaps a closet full of duplicates yet to be exchanged. Many of these gifts, the very things you wished and hoped for – and registered for at the local mall – haven't even been used. They are brand-new, bright and shiny, clean and fresh, still in the box. You're not sure where you're going to put them all.
If you have been married for 10 years or so, you are likely missing several things from your cache of wedding gifts. A few pieces of your good china probably bit the dust – broken by you or one of the kids – and several more pieces are chipped and cracked. Your first set of towels and linens is now threadbare and consigned to the rag bag. Your wedding toaster finally crackled, zapped, and gave up the ghost. A couple of things are broken or lost in your last move. And what's left, silver pieces have begun to tarnish, colored items are starting to fade, and almost everything else is nicked, dinged, torn, or worn in some way. Except perhaps for a few expensive items, your surviving wedding gifts are worth a mere fraction of their original value.
And for those of you who, like us, have more than 25 years of marriage under your belts, you may have to search a bit to locate some of those gifts. You can put your finger on a few important things – most of your original silverware, an heirloom piece of furniture or art, a few cherished knickknacks – but a lot of them are long gone. Worn out or broken, some gifts have been discarded. Your tastes changed over the years, so several items were dispatched via garage sales or trips to the thrift store. And when the kids moved out, you sent with them some stuff that you no longer use.
Bottom line: No matter how we try to prevent it, new things become old, stuff breaks down and deteriorates, and our physical bodies age. Decay is normal. This old world of ours is slowly winding down and falling apart. In fact scientists tell us that everything in the universe is perpetually moving to greater and greater disorder – a state of entropy. Your best china will eventually turn to worthless dust. Your expensive new car will need expensive new replacement parts in a few years just to stay running. Your physically fit body will someday require supplements, therapy, classes, or maybe even a pacemaker to keep you functioning efficiently. And even the modern marvels of medical science can only postpone the inevitable final breakdown of death.
Before you lapse into a blue funk, let us share with you the good news. Some things have the capacity to break the sentence of entropy hanging over the physical creation. No, we're not gearing up to sell you a bottle of snake oil and magic elixir guaranteed to reverse the aging process or eliminate gray hair or baldness. We're talking about things that transcend the physical world. We're talking about spiritual things.
As the apostle Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 3:18, when you allow the Holy Spirit to do his work in your life, you are being renewed spiritually. So as you slowly grow older, weaker, and less agile physically, you can become more mature, stronger, and more agile spiritually. As your body ages and you look less and less like your old, youthful self, you can be more and more like the new you, who is being formed in the image of Christ. Think about it: On the day your physical strength runs out and you breathe your last, you should be just peaking spiritually, fit and ready for all the adventures of eternity with Jesus!
We happen to think this principle has a parallel in marriage. Why? Because, at the core, your marriage is a spiritual union ordained and blessed by God. Your special, God-blessed relationship with your spouse doesn't have to grow old and wear out – even though the two of you may look and feel a little older every year. And the magnetism that drew you together doesn't have to diminish; it can even grow stronger. The warmth of passion that bonded your hearts at the altar is not destined to cool; it can and should burn even hotter. Your bodies may grow more decrepit with time, but your hearts don't have to.
God's version of married love is like a potted plant. Unlike a bouquet of cut flowers, which after a few days dries up and crumbles, a potted plant is alive. It can bloom again and again. What we all need is a love that allows our relationship to grow continually and blossom repeatedly. We call this facet of love renewing love.
But beware: Unless a marriage is purposely kept fresh and nurtured, it will be as worthless as that old toaster that vaporized before your tenth anniversary. Marriage is a dynamic love relationship between a man and a woman, a relationship that is either growing deeper and richer, or stagnating and decaying. Your marriage doesn't have to wear out or break down, but it takes initiative and effort to reverse the process of entropy.
The real heart of renewing love is a commitment to never stop growing together. It's an ongoing promise to love to the utmost of your ability – and to never leave. It's a commitment sealed by the unbreakable bond God formed between you and your spouse when you made that one-of-a-kind promise. It's a living commitment powered by God.
Just as you grow deeper spiritually by welcoming and participating with the work of the Spirit in your heart, you grow deeper as a couple by welcoming and participating with the spirit in your relationship. Renewing love works – if you work at it together.
If you could travel back in time to your wedding day and relive those early years, would you do it? Why or why not? In what ways has your relationship grown deeper over your years together? In what ways has it grown deeper over this last week? What aspects of your marriage are being renewed and refreshed as you go along? What aspect seems to be aging or wearing down? How have you invited God into the process of renewing your love?
I have no illusions, Father, about finding a fountain of youth some day. I realize the time will take a toll on me physically, but I will not always look or feel as young as I do today. But thank you that as I allow your Spirit to work in me, my love for my spouse can be perpetually renewed and grow ever stronger. Help me to love, honor, and cherish my spouse this week in ever-increasing ways. And keep me from the complacency and stagnation that will cause our relationship to entropy. Amen.
Renew Your Love
Think of an area of your marriage that is not as fresh and vibrant as it once was, an area in need of renewing love. Perhaps it is some activity that brought you close, such as taking long walks together, enjoying a date night once a week, or working in the garden together. Perhaps you don't pray together as much as you would like. Maybe you take your spouse for granted instead of being super attentive and interested. What can you do this week to bring new vitality to that area? Come up with an idea to share with your spouse, or talk together about how to renew your love in that area.