People change. Very few of us have the same figure or physique we had on our wedding day as we walked down the aisle. And even if you can still fit into your tuxedo or wedding gown on your tenth anniversary (or maybe even your twentieth or thirtieth), you’re not the same person you were when you stood at the altar. You may have a few wrinkles or an extra chin that didn’t show up in your wedding photographs. That jet black hair you had may be well on its way to gray or white. Or maybe it’s disappearing altogether.
In whatever ways you and your spouse change with age, one thing about you should never change: your unconditional acceptance of one another. Acceptance is another facet of serving love. You serve your spouse by accepting him or her completely at every stage of life—wrinkles, gray hair, love handles, and all.
But aging is only part of the issue. Other changes occur in ways that are not as natural and are often more difficult to deal with.
What happens when the person you married is no longer “the person you married”? Old age takes its toll, but so do unexpected illnesses and injuries. You may have also discovered that your starry-eyed expectations for your spouse were a tad unrealistic. Or you now see a side of your spouse you were blind to when you were courting. He isn’t the corporate-ladder-climbing entrepreneur you expected him to be. After the kids were born, she never regained her girlish figure as you hoped. The social butterfly you dated has turned into a homebody.
On top of all that, you now realize that your spouse is human, not an angel. He or she makes mistakes, forgets things occasionally, and is sometimes short-tempered with you. How do you handle these disappointing changes and unwelcome surprises, great and small? Serving love continues to accept a spouse no matter what happens to him or her.
When you are trying to accept your spouse, try to remember how God responds to us in our weakness and failure. We are painfully aware of our own fumbling and bumbling as his children. But consider these passages from God’s Word describing God’s heart toward saints who are not always saintly:
“Praise the Lord, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” Psalm 103:1-3
“The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us as we deserve.” Psalm 103:8-10
“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Psalm 130:3-4
“He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8
“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” 1 John 1:9
How does God respond to us in our imperfection? He doesn’t look down his nose at us. He doesn’t condemn us or ridicule us. He doesn’t distance himself from us. He doesn’t compare us to someone who may be more disciplined or mature. He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. How can he do it? The apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). God forgives you and accepts you because you are in Christ, and Jesus is 100 percent acceptable to God the Father.
How does it make you feel to know that God loves you unconditionally, even when you may have trouble loving yourself? It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? This is how your spouse feels when you accept him or her despite his or her changes, imperfections, and failures. What a privilege to serve our spouses as Christ has served us.
*For more helpful insights on how to connect with your spouse, check out Renewing Your Love: Devotions for Couples in our online bookstore.