I used to be so polite when we were first married, “Excuse me, Sweetheart …” and “Please, Dear, would you … .” It was easy for David to love me then.

But during one recent argument, I was almost hateful. It was evident to me when I heard myself say to my husband, “Leave me alone! I’m sick of hearing about it!” along with a whole slew of other disparaging remarks. But despite whether or not I deserved it, David didn’t threaten to leave me; he hunkered down and stayed for the battle.

When I was single, I would have never talked to my friends that way. They could have worn my clothes, borrowed my money, and flirted with my boyfriend, and I would have gritted my teeth, bit my tongue, and asked them nicely to please consider their behavior. But I would have never yelled and hurled exaggerations about how they “ALWAYS” or “NEVER” do or say something.

Somehow, however, a bratty little girl came to live with my husband. The stress of life and my lack of sleep compiled into one big scream welling up inside me … and David was the lucky target. I hurled and wailed accusations and twisted and turned the truth as much as I could to blame him for my suffering.

When it was over, he looked at me with tender eyes, instead of revenge. He held me in his arms, instead of pushing me away. And bitter tears of shame filled my eyes. I was left with emptiness as I realized I’d hurt the one who loves me the most in this world.

David married me for life. What we have is a covenant, not just a contract. That’s why he was willing to keep his promises to love me for better or for worse, even when the darkest parts of my fleshly nature were revealed.

The image of Christ

In the same way, we are in covenant with Christ. He sees every sin I have ever committed, even those performed in secret. He hears my casual blasphemies and the little “white” lies that I tell. He knows when my heart is far from Him and when I blame others for my sin. Over and over I break His heart and take advantage of His love, and time and time again, He runs to me as I come dragging home.

The book of Ephesians explains the mystery of how marriage is the reflection of Christ and His people. “… As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her …” (5:24-25, emphasis mine). The covenant relationship between a husband and wife is meant to symbolize the unbreakable promise that God has with us that He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:4-5). That’s why it’s so important to realize that the vows we take at the wedding altar cannot be broken by signing documents, but they last “till death do us part.”

The unlikely marriage of Hosea and Gomer in the book of Hosea is another picture of God’s covenant love for His people. Hosea was a devout man who was asked by God to marry the prostitute Gomer. After their marriage, she continued to sleep with other men until she finally ran back to prostitution. Hosea later found her naked on a public auction block waiting to be sold into slavery. It was then that God spoke to Hosea and said, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1 NIV). Hosea bought his own wife out of slavery, and he brought her home to love her again.

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Like my husband, Christ loves me despite myself, but He did something even greater that no one else could do. He died for me—blood staining the path so that I could find my way back. He did all this not because I loved Him, but because He first loved me. And in return, it makes me want to love Him more, to repent from my selfishness, and return the unconditional love that He has shown me.

Stripping away the veneer

David and I both came into our relationship like painted furniture, hiding the knots and scratches of the soft barren wood underneath. It didn’t take long for the veneer of my polished exterior to chip away revealing the nature of my flesh.

The heart is tender and it bleeds, but even when I sling the gory mess at David, he scoops me up in his arms and loves me. That’s something I couldn’t have experienced through a contractual relationship. Only covenant love can do that. As long as the polish was still on, I couldn’t know that he would love the scarred and imperfect wood underneath. I couldn’t have known that kind of love until my flesh was revealed.

Although it saddens me to realize that I’m capable of hurting the love of my life, I’m also overwhelmed with a sense of peace that after all the flaming darts I threw with my tongue, David still loves me.

The funny thing is somehow I felt safe to reveal it. I wanted to reveal it. I needed to know that he knew me—dark and light—and that he loved me anyway. But the most amazing part is that in those times when he shows me undeserved love, it makes me want to love him more, to repent from my selfishness, and return the unconditional love that he has shown me.

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