Love because He first loved you

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I'm at the age when younger couples have started asking me advice on marriage. This is a very strange realm of influence to be in because 1) I feel woefully under qualified to give such, and 2) I want to think I'm still in the throes of youth, made more of impulse than wisdom. Alas, having visited an indoor trampoline and not jumped, I've begrudgingly accepted my new designation.

I've been asked to speak with a young couple in marriage counseling, and I'll be honest (also, hopefully they don't read this column), I'm not completely sure what I will tell them. I have been gleaning from my personal experiences in marriage in an effort to offer view at least some sage advice. I thought this column might be a good place to air out some of my limited insight.

- To newlyweds: Every person has an opinion on how to fold bath towels, and, often the person you say "I do" to will do it the wrong way. How you handle the bath-towel-folding-practice fight will set the tone for future fights. Fight fair, fight well, and fight with the goal of grace in mind.

- The level of love you want to practice is taught by God. "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19, NIV) Because we have been given God's example of love, we are love in return. God's love has no conditions - He doesn't love us because we are good enough or smart enough or because he loves with an erratic or impulsive love. When we love others the way God loves, we bear out this Bible verse. Love your spouse because God first loved you.

- Terrible movies and terrible situations are both made bearable when you have someone you love beside you.

- The best nonverbal testimony that middle-aged and elderly couples can give is to hold hands in church. I now know these people love, not because there was a moment that they became experts in love, but because they committed to growing and adapting with one another. More to the point, they focused on growing toward God, and that eliminated a lot of things that would steal from their relationship.

My advice is a little clumsy, and, granted, I don't have the mileage under my marriage as many of you do. The best advice I've found comes from 1 Corinthians 13 which says "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NIV)

Here's to love - may you love because you have first been loved by God.

Email Jamie H. Wilson at faithmatterssumter@gmail.com.