There’s an interesting challenge in loving someone where they are for who they are. You can’t expect them to change, yet when they do change you have to learn to love who they have changed into. We all change as we go through life. Every experience we have shapes and molds us in some way. We are affected by our decisions and by the decisions and actions of others. We are affected by everything that goes on around us. As we change and as we grow we sometimes struggle along the way. Sometimes our growth comes in the form of taking a step backward before we can take two steps forward. The same is true for our spouse. The growth that requires failures along the way can be the most difficult to love, but sometimes it is essential.
When I am sitting at the foot of the cross I hear Jesus saying to me, “Come to me as you are. Come with all your faults, all your failings. Come with all your reservations, all your questions, all your concerns. Come with all your strengths. Come to me exactly as you are in this moment.” He constantly reminds me that he loves me exactly where I am. He reminds me that I do not need to be “perfect” in order to come to him or in order to receive his love – he loves me in my imperfection. This is the first challenge of loving someone for who they are. It is accepting that person exactly as they are in the moment. You can never expect your spouse to be perfect. The idea that we can attain perfection in life is a lie. No one is capable of being perfect. So we must learn to love ourselves, our spouse, our children, and everyone around us for who we are – imperfect people.
You can only ever ask your spouse to be who they are in the moment. You cannot force change in others; you only have the power to change yourself. Instead of looking at the things you do not like in your spouse, take a look at yourself. Maybe there are changes you can make in yourself to better the situation. Maybe some of your frustrations with your spouse would go away if you made a change to respond more graciously and with more patience. Maybe your perspective on one of your spouses’s annoying habits would change if you saw each annoyance as an opportunity to say a quick prayer for your spouse and your marriage. Maybe if you really think about it you would realize that one of the things that bothers you about your spouse is actually the way they react to something you do that bothers them – something you have the power to change in yourself so they wouldn’t have anything to react to. All you can do is love your spouse and pray for God’s love and God’s will to be in them.
The second challenge in loving someone for who they are is in their change and growth. Since we all change and grow, the person your spouse was when you first met was likely different than the person they were when you got married. The person your spouse was when you got married will change and grow over time and throughout your marriage. These changes can be difficult, especially when they are not the changes you imagined would ever happen or when you watch your spouse make a decision that is something you never thought that they would do. Both you are your spouse are constantly changing. This challenge can also bring out the fun in remembering to date your spouse throughout your marriage, because you have the opportunity to continually get to know your spouse for who they are at that point in time. Each time you get to know your spouse and each time that they change is a chance for you to fall in love with them all over again – the new version of them. Each time they grow is a chance to appreciate something new about them.
It’s like sitting on the shore of the ocean, watching the waves come in. Each wave is different and with each wave the ocean changes, but yet it remains the same ocean. Each time the waves hit the shore, they deposit some things on the shore and take others back into the ocean wave’s fold. The ocean both impacts and is impacted by its surroundings. It constantly changes shape as the waves continually roll as well as composition as it gives and takes from the shore. Each person remains the unique and precious individual that God created them to be and while they are on their life’s journey they impact those around them and are impacted by the people and events in their lives. We are ever changing. Unconditional love embraces the changes in yourself and your spouse, encourages growth, and loves in each moment. It seeks to know and understand who your spouse is in each moment and chooses to love that person. It simply says “I love you – as you are.”