The Shape of True Love
"God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9b-10 (VOICE)
The first time I danced with my husband my nose came up to his armpit. We were swaying straight-armed beneath the disco ball at our eighth grade graduation party, and I joked about how I hoped he’d used plenty of deodorant that day. His face turned crimson, the red rising from his neck, as he solemnly promised that he was protected with a double-dose.
I’d stood on my tiptoes in an effort to shrink the gap, but even with my hair ratted and sprayed as high as an ‘80s girl could manage, that boy loomed tall above me.
Of course, I had no idea I was dancing with my future husband that night in the junior high gym. I never would have guessed that six years later we’d trade the sheen of a disco ball for the gleam of rings and pledge to love one another ‘til death do us part.
Though we were no longer gangly teens on our wedding day, my groom still towered 10 inches above me. But I wasn’t bothered by my armpit view on that special day; I’d set my sights on the heights of love.
I’d given my husband a hand-written letter just hours before I’d walked down the aisle, the words scrawled across the page capturing my hopes for the future: "No matter what life sends our way, our love will always stand tall …"
It was a poetic line, not unlike one you might find on a Valentine’s card this month. But after 21 years of marriage, I’ve come to believe my sentiments were wrong.
Love is, indeed, a sacred and lofty gift, but two decades of loving and learning has taught me that the mark of true love isn’t height, it’s humility. True love doesn’t stand tall; it bends low.
As we see in today’s key verse, God sent Jesus to demonstrate how true love is sacrificial at its core.
True love stoops to pick up the trash bag sitting near the kitchen door and crouches to look a sullen child in the eye.
True love bows to change diapers and to shovel snow, to deliver goodnight kisses and offer hugs.
True love bends over the dishwasher and over the sick child. True love hovers over the hurting and kneels quietly in prayer.
True love chooses to be righteous instead of right, servant instead of master, humble instead of haughty.
Let’s be honest, true love isn’t headline news. It’s not greeting card verse. It’s not blockbuster buzz. True love is Heaven’s hope, as we see in 1 John 4:10: "This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
God didn’t declare His love for us with a bouquet of red roses. He didn’t wrap up a box of fine chocolates or a flowery card. Instead, God wrapped His only Son in wrinkled flesh and proclaimed His undying love on Calvary’s cross.
It’s crazy when you think about it, the way the truest love of all stooped the lowest — so we might know the summit of His glorious love.
I didn’t realize it as a starry-eyed bride, but the heights of love can only be discovered in the depths of surrender. It sounds unnatural, doesn’t it? Impossible … on our own.
But 1 John 4:14-17 tells us that when we confess Christ as our Lord, He perfects His love in us. And as the stooping Savior makes Himself at home in our hearts, our lives proclaim the truth that the whole world longs to hear:
The shape of true love isn’t a diamond. It’s a cross.
Dear Jesus, Thank You for loving me with a true and unshakeable love. Grow in me a humble heart so that Your perfect love can shine through my imperfect life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 John 4:11-12, "My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us — perfect love!" (MSG)
I John 4:17, "God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us …" (MSG)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What is one way you can "bend low in love" today?
Send a friendly text or write a thank-you note this week to someone who has "stooped low in love" for you.