Just the Way You Are

Relationships: With five children mostly in their late teens and early twenties, there is no lack of relationship drama in our family. I was pondering this on my way to my swim time early one morning at the local pool. One child was in the throes of a painful romantic breakup. Another was recently married and finding adjustment to a fellow imperfect human a bit rocky.

We're respectful and loving toward one another both in my immediate family and my extended family. We have no long-term feuds, no awkward holiday celebrations. The older I get, the more I value this gift and recognize it for the enormous treasure that it is. We have our flaws, and we don't love one another perfectly, but we do work hard to avoid strife. We enjoy one another's company. That's a great blessing.

Desiring this same blessing for my kids, their current issues and difficulties were on my heart, as I got ready to join the other lap swimmers. I had been praying, searching Scripture, seeking ways I could give godly counsel and advice to my children (if asked), but at this moment I was just mulling things over and conversing casually with the Lord.

It's amazing how the Lord speaks to us at times. My pastor confessed on a recent Sunday morning that he got his sermon title off a sign in front of the local forestry center. That morning I got the wisdom I was seeking from a country song playing at the town swimming pool. The pool is a pretty noisy place, and usually I don't pay much attention to the music the lifeguards have playing on a little portable CD player. The song lyrics are difficult to hear over the splashing of water and hum of fans. For some reason, on this particular morning, the words came through loud and clear. The song was Martina McBride's, "My Baby Loves Me Just the Way I Am." I went home, looked up the lyrics, and decided it should be the theme song for every serious romantic relationship.

We all crave unconditional love, but extending it to others, even the people we profess to love the most, is a rare virtue.

It has been often noted that people are often kinder and more considerate to total strangers than they are to the people closest to them. There are several reasons for that, of course. We feel "safe" around intimates--free to express our most negative feelings. Sometimes, in psychological terms, it's a matter of projection. The flaws we hate in ourselves, we attack and criticize in those close to us. Sometimes, though, we're just plain lazy. We want unconditional love for ourselves, but neglect to extend that to our most significant others.

The most comprehensive list of the characteristics of unconditional love, the "God kind" of love, is found in 1 Corinthians 13. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (vv. 4-7, NKJV).

True harmony in intimate relationships is achieved in a counterintuitive way: you must set aside your own agenda and criteria for the relationship, and focus on putting someone else first. If you want to hear your special one humming "My Baby Loves Me Just the Way I Am," apply the "love chapter's" principles. It never fails.

By Margaret Mills