I’ll never forget the moment I first “noticed” David. I’d just spent the day with David and a bunch of other friends at a local event. The evening was coming to a close. I made my rounds and said my goodbyes to everyone…except for David. I couldn’t find him.
I headed to my car without another thought. As I was about to close the door to my car, I heard a voice call out my name. I looked back towards the parking lot and saw David running towards my car. He was coming to say goodbye to me. To me! What? Why? I looked at him through the rain and noticed him in a way I’d never noticed him before. “This guy is hot!” I thought to myself. I felt butterflies in my stomach. Something was different between us.
So let me ask you this: Were my feelings a sign that I had met my soulmate? Did cupid hit me with one of his arrows? Was I “in love?”
Well…not exactly. My feelings for David were very real, but they weren’t necessarily signs of true love.
What I was experiencing at that moment was a physical and sexual attraction to David. That attraction could lead me towards true love (and it did eventually), but in and of itself physical attraction isn’t the primary ingredient for true and lasting love. Romantic love is wonderful in the right context, but it’s not the type of love that will sustain a marriage for decades on end.
If you want a marriage that thrives beyond the honeymoon phase, you need a better vision for what true love looks like.
Thanks to Hollywood and our selfish hearts, most modern romantic relationships and marriages are built upon the belief that true love should always create happy feelings. That romance should always be at the center of every interaction. That sexual attraction should be the primary fuel for keeping your marriage alive. But if this is true, why are so many “hot celebrity marriages” fizzling out after a year or two?
If we, as Christian women, want better results for our romantic relationships, we have to get to the root of what genuine, true love is. We have to build our romances on God’s vision for true love and lasting relationships.
When we open up God’s Word, we quickly see that love defined by God is the polar opposite of most everything we see in our secular society. It also goes against every fiber of our being.
Love defined by God runs completely contrary to our self-centered hearts. In the Bible, there are actually 3 different Greek words to describe love. We can use these Greek words to help us determine which type of love we’re building our relationships on.
Eros (sexual and romantic love)
Phileo (friendship love)
Agape (unconditional, self-sacrificing love)
A lasting and vibrant marriage needs all three types of love to thrive. However, most of us place the largest amount of weight on the first one. Eros. We try to build our relationship on the foundation of romance and sexual attraction. But that doesn’t work long term.
God has a better plan. If you were able to read your Bible in Greek, you would see that the word “agape” is mentioned 259 times.
This should clue us in on how important this type of love is.
When we break down the original meaning of the word “agape,” its definition is earth-shattering. “The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice.” Did you catch that last part? The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice. This type of love isn’t built on sexual attraction, feelings, or romance—it’s built on choosing to serve someone else unconditionally.
God defined love isn’t built on romance alone but on a foundation of serving and sacrificing for another person. True love is an action, not an emotional feeling. Self-sacrifice is the action that best displays true biblical love.
Here’s a powerful story from my book, Love Defined: Embracing God’s Vision for Lasting Love and Satisfying Relationships that illustrates this type of agape love:
“I heard the story of a couple who had been married for over seventy years. As they entered their early nineties, the wife began to lose her sight. By the time her ninety-third birthday rolled around, she was completely blind.
Knowing how scary and hard this was for his wife, the husband stayed by her side every hour. He gently talked with her, prayed with her, sang her songs, cooked her meals, and combed her brittle hair. Wrapping his wrinkled hands around hers, he would softly whisper, ‘I love you more than life itself.’
Unable to look back at him, she would smile and say, ‘And I love you even more than that.’
Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. He stayed by her side. He served her. He loved her. His unselfish love was fueled by his deeper understanding of God’s faithful love to him.
Having experienced God’s sacrificial love for him for over ninety years, this older gentleman was compelled to love his wife in the same way.
One day the man’s grandson was visiting and asked, ‘Grandpa, don’t you get tired of just sitting with Grandma all day?’
Staring off into the distance, the grandpa paused for a moment then slowly said, ‘Son, she’s been faithfully by my side for the past seventy years, showing me the sacrificial love of Christ. Now it’s my turn to be faithfully by hers.’”
True love. That’s it. Right there.
If we, as Christian women, want to experience vibrant marriages that last until the very end, we must pursue this type of self-sacrificing love. We can’t build our relationships on eros love alone and expect it to last.
We need something more powerful.
When we look at the life of Jesus on this earth, we see a beautiful demonstration of agape love at work. His life was the ultimate example of sacrificial love and He calls us to love others in the same way.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love [agape], as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV).
Agape love is God’s solution to vibrant, lasting relationships.
That’s God’s good design for us. In my marriage with David, agape love is what has sustained us as newlyweds and new parents. I still think David is smokin’ hot (and sometimes I still get butterflies), but that’s not what keeps us going. Choosing to love and cherish one another selflessly has been the key.
If you want to discover more about God’s vision for true love and lasting relationships, grab a copy of my book, Love Defined. Inside this book, I unpack a radically better and refreshingly biblical approach to navigating your love life. Covering topics such as true love, purposeful relationships, sex, boundaries, and singleness, this book will take you on a journey to discovering God’s good and original design for romance!
First, I have a question for my single sisters out there! In what ways has our culture’s “fireworks version” of true love influenced your personal view of love?
Now I have two questions for my married sisters! In what ways have you put true (sacrificial) love into action in your marriage? What advice do you have for single girls on how they can practice showing agape love now?
Bethany Beal is head-over-heels in love with her best friend and husband, David, and is the super proud mommy of Davey Jr. She is the cofounder of GirlDefined Ministries (www.girldefined.com) and the author of Love Defined: Embracing God’s Vision for Lasting Love and Satisfying Relationships. She is passionate about spreading the truth of biblical womanhood through writing, speaking, and mentoring young women. To her family and close friends, she is simply a tall blonde girl who is obsessed with iced lattes and can’t get enough of her sweet baby Davey Jr.