Love’s Incarnation: A Letter from a Young Bride

Dear Ruth,

I can hardly believe it has been a year since your wedding. What a lovely day that was. And now I hear that you are expecting a baby! Life can change so quickly.

I was thinking about you yesterday and wondering how all of these changes have impacted your spiritual life (I remember that at one point you wanted to be a nun so as to have more time for prayer). How differently and yet how beautifully the Lord has ordered your life.

Write me when you have a moment— I’d enjoy your thoughts.

Love,

Elizabeth

 

Dear Elizabeth,

Our minds seem to be pondering similar themes—I too have spent time reflecting on the changes in my life and the blessings they have brought. You remember how we were talking about the joy that must be experienced in heaven when we see God face to face, and that we knew there was more of this joy to be had on earth than we were currently experiencing? We both accepted that Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), that if we have seen Christ we have seen the Father (Jn 14:8-11). We did not doubt this to be true, but also knew that, while accepting this truth, we had not yet experienced it. We needed someone to make Christ visible and tangible in order to know Him and thus the Father as well.

For me, this personal incarnation has begun through Dave. I knew about God’s unconditional love for me, but now I have experienced it in the flesh and see it before me each day. My husband’s love, though imperfect, points to and illuminates the perfect love of the Trinity. Freely given, it is independent of the way I look (he loves me first thing in the morning!), the things I know, or the choices I make. I am confident that his arms will always be ready to embrace me and that there is nothing that I cannot bring to him.

My understanding of love has further deepened and broadened since learning that we are expecting our first child. Before this pregnancy I knew that love involved the cross, but now I am beginning to understand that love is the cross. True, Christ-like love requires that we deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him (Mt 16:24). This reality has become incarnate for me in my pregnancy. While I am, of course, thrilled and grateful to be co-creating a new little person, there are tangible sufferings, physical as well as mental and spiritual, to be embraced each day.

Whether it is weeks of continuous nausea, aches in every part of her back, offering up the glass of wine with dinner, or choosing to endure a headache rather than expose her unborn child to unnecessary medications, every mother voluntarily and involuntarily nails herself to the cross each day. Through these small deaths to self she is preparing for the moment when she might have to offer her very life for her child. And despite the pain, indeed through it, she experiences tremendous joy.

This is love: this forgetting of self for the good of another; this basing every decision on the needs of another rather than one’s own desires. This is love. It is what Christ meant when He said that it is only in losing ourselves, in dying, that we find ourselves and find life (Mt 16:24-28). And as I am daily humbled by my selfishness, which prevents me from truly dying to self for the sake of our daughter, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and wonder at the love of Christ, which knows no limit and is absolute and unstinting.

I hear that children can divide parents, distracting them from each other and consuming their love. I am not concerned about such a division because I now know that love is not a limited commodity that must be rationed. As I already knew, love is seeking the best for the other.

Love absolutely includes the desire to see Dave and the overwhelming leap of joy that my heart gives when I unexpectedly encounter him, but it is so much more. Love is also making dinner when I am so nauseated that moving seems like torture and I’m tempted to let Dave forage for himself. Love is asking forgiveness for my crabbiness and patiently encouraging Dave when work has him down.

The incarnation of love that I experience within my very body is in no way divided from my married love—indeed, she is a fruit and an outpouring of that love. The love that Dave and I proclaimed on our wedding day, the love that has been deepening over the months through many small acts of service, enjoyment, and forgiveness, this is the love that I now find growing within me. True love only multiplies when it is offered.

I know that at times my desires and Dave’s best interests are gloriously in line, while at others my inclinations must be sacrificed in the name of love. The beauty is that, in a marriage founded on Christ, that is, on Love, Dave is doing the same for me. So these many sacrifices and deaths become a symphony of love that we each offer to the other.

I know that in choosing love I am choosing the cross and I do so consciously, for on the cross I will find Christ, and my joy will be complete. I pray that someday soon you will experience the same joy.

Much love,

Ruth