We desire love in our inmost being and long for it as the one thing that will make life beautiful. The problem is that we are called to love people who are flawed, and those flaws get in the way. Our faults we can live with; it’s just the other person’s problems that are such a difficulty.
There are only two types of love we could call “true love.” One is a relationship where both people are so beautiful and so perfect they can’t help but be in love. This only happens in books, and they are fairy tales.
The other type of love that can be called true is where both people have faults, and yet they love. There is something absolutely beautiful about being able to expose all our faults and know that we are still deeply loved; that we are not condemned; that the other person believes in us so much, we are not afraid.
Scripture says that “perfect love casts out all fear”? This type of love is built on trust. I trust that even when you know my faults, you will still believe in me and desire the best for me and will stand beside me throughout all the fires and storms of life – even when it’s me that has failed.
This is the way we are loved by Jesus, and yes this love is also found in a book – the word of God. When we are loved so completely and so beautifully, we are truly changed from the inside out.
This is where verse about the “three stranded cord” comes in; “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart,” Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:12. But it’s not three equal strands. He is the cord of strength so that when the relationship is braided together, husband, wife, and Christ, it finds the key to experiencing what God intended marriage to be.
Christ’s love for us is the example we need. We are filled with all kinds of flaws and imperfections and yet He loves us completely. He forgives, He pours out grace, He never turns his back on us; His love never fails.
So how do you love someone who has flaws and imperfections? You forgive, you pour out grace, you never turn your back on the relationship; you love without fail. It’s a three stranded cord. In other words, forgive because you have been forgiven, pour out grace because you have received so much grace yourself; give mercy because of how much mercy has been poured out to you.
It would help a lot if we could just change the way we see imperfection. First of all, it is part of the human condition. We were born to imperfect parents, raised imperfectly, have been imperfect all of our lives, and then married someone who is also imperfect. So why are we shocked and upset when our spouse does something imperfect?
We need more patience with each other. We need more grace, more forgiveness, more understanding and kindness in how we respond when something goes wrong. When we understand that, it creates an atmosphere where love can mature.
Again we turn to the perfect definition of love God gave us in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind… love is not easily provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered… love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”
Jesus gave us another principle that applies. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:12. How do you want your spouse to react to your failings and imperfections? You want grace, you want forgiveness, you want patience and kindness given to you when you fail. Well then, do the same.
This is where maturity has a bearing on love. To respond to your spouse the same way you want your spouse to respond to you requires maturity, it requires you to favor your spouse at your own expense. Christ loved the church by giving Himself up for her, by taking her burdens upon Himself.
There is absolute joy in love when you realize you can love someone who is imperfect and you can be truly loved in all of your flaws and imperfections.