We all have an inner desire to be loved and to love one another. When we talk about unconditional love, we sometimes mention how dogs love their owners. It doesn’t matter the mistakes we make raising a dog, the dog still comes back and still wants our attention.
This usually ends the talk on unconditional love, which has always bothered me. This may be because I am not a dog and nor do I want to love like a dog. It also doesn’t teach anyone how to love unconditionally. I think a better way to talk about unconditional love and how to love unconditionally is, to be honest, and open up and tell you how I learned the lesson.
I met my girlfriend in college and we had a lot of conversations about love and our views on it. Mine was very simple: “When I wake up in the morning I choose to love you.” I must have said this over and over to her. It didn’t matter how I felt about her or about me. If I just choose to love her every morning, then in my mind our marriage would last. If you look at society today, everyone gets married or starts a relationship because they fell in love.
Relationships fail and divorce becomes an option when the feeling subsides and neither person works on the relationship. This is how people fall out of love, so in my mind if I choose to love someone then this removes the emotion from it. Understand, I still fell in love with my girlfriend and soon she became my wife, all with the understanding that every day I wake up and choose to love her; that I choose to be devoted to her alone. If together we woke up every morning and chose to love one another, I figured we would have a marriage that would last, that would be affair-proof and one that we could both be proud of.
When Dreams Shatter
I never thought that she would wake up and choose not to love me, which, unfortunately, for a year of our marriage, she did. After 10 years of marriage, my wife confessed to me that she had an affair that lasted for a year, 3 years into our marriage. I was devastated and, honestly, I still am recovering from it. I couldn’t understand that if she loved me then why would she hurt me so much. I did a ton of research on why women had affairs, and all I could come up with is that I was not meeting her needs. I didn’t understand why she just didn’t tell me at the time why she chose to wake up and decide not to love me.
My self-confidence and everything that I knew was shattered. On top of that, I had to make a decision to stay with her, to continue to love her.
I never knew pain like this, and I didn’t know how I was going to survive it. I didn’t know how I could continue to love someone that wrecked me. Every now and then a phrase popped into my head and became my mantra, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” (Matthew 6:12, New International Version). I have said and heard the Lord’s Prayer my entire life, but just that one sentence gave me the will to move on. It now has a very special place in my heart.
Finding a Solution
After a few months, I was reminded of another thing I have always heard: “Love keeps no record of being wronged”. This was hard because even after I chose to stay with her and still woke up every morning deciding to love her, I held it over her head. I felt justified in punishing her. I was still broken; still slowly recovering my self-confidence back to who I once was.
But I kept a record of the way that she wronged me and deep down looked for ways to hurt her as much as she hurt me. This was not love, it wasn’t unconditional, it was just pure vengeance.
Looking back on how I treated my wife for two years after I found out about the affair, I am ashamed. I didn’t love her the way she needed to be loved. I hurt her in ways so that I could feel justified. I hated myself and everything about me since I never wanted to have a marriage where the one person that I put all my trust and faith in, ripped out my heart and threw it on the ground. I forgot how to love and how to be loved.
Living in Forgiveness
In looking back, we both loved each other unconditionally. I forgave her for having an affair and she forgave me for the way I treated her in those two years after her confession. I have come to realize that you cannot have unconditional love without forgiveness. You simply cannot have love without forgiveness and real love. True love keeps no record of wrongs. Love isn’t only something that you feel, it is a choice and it isn’t about you. If love is what you can get out of another person, then it isn’t love, it is want. The answer to the question of: How to love unconditionally is loving unselfishly, forgiving the unforgivable, and keeping no record of it. I think the issue of an extra-marital affair is a good example of how God has dealt with our sins.
We don’t deserve anything, but He loves us unconditionally. The wrongs that we have done are bought by the death of Jesus on the cross so that instead of harboring our wrongs, instead of holding them above our head, Jesus gave us freedom from them. The best example of unconditional love is what God did through Jesus on the cross. Instead of doing what I did, keeping a record of an affair or having vengeance on us because of the affair, God did something different; He forgave, and he unselfishly died for it so that there would not be a record of it.
If you want to love unconditionally…
…then please pray this prayer with me:
Lord, teach me how to love like you, how to forgive; how to keep no records of wrongs. Teach me how to love unconditionally, unselfishly, and how to forgive the wrongs that have been done to me. You took my wrongs and you died for them. I thank you for that. I invite you into my life to show me how to love those around me. Please show me your unconditional love. Amen.
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