Love. I had romantic notions about it growing up, believing that love was a tremendous, sweeping, passionate feeling that would lead to lifelong relational satisfaction and fulfillment.

Years later while engaged, at times I’d ask leading questions of my future husband.  “Why do you love me?” Naturally, I was looking for a flowery, poetic response. He’d respond (and still does), “Because I choose to.” Initially, this was incredibly disappointing, when what I wanted to hear were inspired, impassioned descriptions of overwhelming feelings of love.

Kirsten2

But marriage is tough, and in some of the most challenging times, you can bet that I’m deliriously happy that my husband chooses to love me through them, rather than base his love on his feelings. Similarly, I choose to love him when he’s sick, tired, upset, anxious or otherwise not fulfilling my personal needs. We choose to love one another – both when we feel like it and when we don’t. That’s real love.

Today is Love Your Body day, so why am I writing about love in marriage? Because love in a relationship looks different than conceptual love; and just like my husband and I are in a lifelong relationship, each one of us is in a lifelong relationship with our bodies.

When it comes to loving our bodies, many of the same rules apply. Loving your body is a choice. While some days it is easy, other days it is incredibly hard. Some days, hopefully like today, you’ll feel overwhelmed, exhilarated and blissfully happy with your body, hair, skin, shape and size, full of gratitude and acceptance. However, expecting that kind of off-the-charts joy every day is an unrealistic expectation. Just like the love in a marriage isn’t going to feel like the first date every day. That’s just not reality.

Loving your body is a choice when you become pregnant. It is a choice when injuries or surgery maim and disfigure. It is a choice when breast cancer scars cover a woman’s chest. It is a choice when the next phase of life brings on metabolic changes and added weight. It is a choice on that day when you have major breakouts on your face and a choice when you don’t. Choosing to love your body means giving it the rest it deserves, listening to its needs, and learning how to respond. You and your body are in this for the long haul, and only choosing love is going to lead to peace.

So on this day, choose to love your body. Choose to love it tomorrow, the next day and the next. And just like any other relationship, rather than the burden of unrealistic expectations, you’ll carry a deeper more profound kind of love in your heart for your body. One that is accepting, compassionate, full of grace and peace. And that is the kind of love that lasts.

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