True Love: Covenant from a Single’s Perspective was written by guest blogger Nicole Miller. You can find out more about her interests and life journey at her blog: www.betterthanwine.wordpress.com.
God, in His faithfulness, is unveiling the meaning of covenant to me. Even though this revelation has evolved mostly through pain, the value of it, I know, is eternal. The definition of covenant is: a contract, agreement, undertaking, commitment, guarantee, warrant, pledge, bond, indenture, etc…
That word “guarantee” really stands out to me because for me a “guarantee” means when all else fails, this bond, this agreement, this contract, is guaranteed to last. Guaranteed to still be there. My pastors have been married closed to 40 years. They were married at a very young age, both teenagers, so the likelihood of them still being married just based on that fact is pretty slim. Fortunately, they beat the odds and have been together much longer than they have been apart.
When I asked my pastor how they were able to stay married for so long, after giving it much thought she responded, “We understood covenant at a young age”. That was probably one of the wisest questions I had ever asked anyone. Funny thing is, when I asked it, I had not really understood covenant myself. But God already had plans in place for that to change…
At 30 years old and single it may seem I have little opportunity to discover what it is my pastors learned at 18 when they said “I do”. However, God has a unique approach for all to learn His ways, and He has chosen to teach me the lessons He taught them pre-marriage and 10+ years their senior.
One of my closest friends and I decided to make a more firmer commitment to one another and before doing so I had to ask myself, “Nicole, will you be there for her no matter what? Will you stick it out with her through thick and thin? Will you agree to not call it quits or turn your back on her when it feels like she is tearing you down?” After seriously weighing those questions in my heart, I decided that “yes, I would”. Now she had no idea that I was having this conversation in my head, but God did.
And looking back on it now I realize it was Him that initiated it. He was showing me the seriousness of this decision because previously I would not have been able to commit wholeheartedly. I would have held on to fear of being hurt and I would have only given 80% to the friendship at best. Now, I am practicing giving 100%. 100% of the Father’s unconditional love that covers a multitude of sins. It may seem strange to you for me to take a friendship so seriously. After all, it isn’t marriage. It isn’t like I’m standing at the alter in front of a 100 or so witnesses and being spiritually and legally bound to another person. But in the eyes of God it is the same; in His eyes, covenant is covenant. Whether between a man and a woman in marriage, or a man and man/woman and woman in friendship.
In scripture we are shown these types of “friendship covenants” between David and Jonathan when it is said that “Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul (1 Samuel 18:1). These were heterosexual men who loved God and found in their friendship a love that rivaled that of even some marriages. Additionally, in the story of Naomi and Ruth, Ruth declares to Naomi “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:17). Ruth made a vow to Naomi and I would be hard pressed to find this type of selflessly, loyal dedication at the wedding ceremony of most married couples today. Couples may be able to repeat these words in the “lovey-dovey” stage of courtship, or even during their first year of marriage when they’re still in the honeymoon phase. But even then, most often those words would stem from an Eros love.
The type of love that’s based on feeling and romance and sexual desire. That is actually the only component of love our culture alludes to. Media, music and the like constantly lie to us, leading us to believe that love is a feeling, when in truth, love is a choice. At some point that feeling of love will dissipate or disappear altogether and you will be left with a choice to carry out the agreement. The contract. The guarantee. And what will help you in doing so? True love is suffering with someone. Sometimes that person will even be the cause of your suffering and they will cause you to suffer LONG. That means the suffering is not overnight. Either choose to be in it for the long haul, or don’t choose to be in it at all.
Recently I was faced with a decision to commit to a romantic relationship, but I could not because I knew that my heart could not bear with this person for the long haul. God had not given me the confirmation I needed that I could do such a thing for that person. One thing is for sure, I will need to utilize Christ’s love and support when I make such a decision. His love is the only love that will sustain the agreement.
If only our culture shared these truths with us. How many more would enter into such a sacred covenant with their eyes wide open? Instead, the reality is, so many are shocked and surprised at the truth of what they’ve agreed to after the fact.
To suffer long. To bear all things. To endure all things.
I’m grateful Christ has seen fit to give me a few pop quizzes before the real test begins…i.e “marriage”. I hope you are practicing learning unconditional love in your own way. Whether married or single, all genuine relationships require this type of self-sacrifice.