“All’s fair in love and war” … or so goes the old saying that traces back to John Lyly’s Euphues written in 1578. For centuries, the adage has granted individuals license to cheat on the battlefields of ground and heart.

Ironically, any solider who has fought for his or her country will tell you that there is nothing fair about war. No matter the reasons for entering a fight, terror and ugliness abound savagely. But I’ll leave the subject of war for other writers to discuss. Love now weighs heavily on my mind.

Contrary to Lyly’s famous line, the only commonality I know that exists between love and war is that neither is fair. Yet, unlike war, it is the unfairness component of love that can add unfathomable beauty.

Love, in its purest, sacrificial form has never been fair. I don’t think it was designed to be fair. As God sculpted Adam from the fresh earth, He knew that His most glorious creation would break His heart. Yet still, God breathed man to life. It was not fair, but the beauty surrounding such love cannot be denied.

When the world knew only darkness and despair, God sent hope in the form of His son, Jesus Christ. The sinless man and true embodiment of love was scorned, spat upon, rejected, beaten, and killed by a method that glorified cruelty as sport. The image of my sweet Savior nailed to a brutal cross swells a lump in my throat. It was the greatest atrocity committed by mankind, one in which I bear some of the blame.

It. Was. Not. Fair.

But the beauty … the stunning, breath-stealing beauty pouring from such sacrifice cannot be denied.

Fourteen years ago this week, my life changed when my boyfriend of only four months sent me on an elaborate treasure hunt that ended with him on bended knee. The night I agreed to be his wife, as well as during the wedding-planning months that followed, delusions of fairness occupied an enormous space of my mental real estate. And as we exchanged vows, slivers of cake and many kisses I envisioned all the bliss the next fifty years could possibly hold. Oh, I knew that our life together wouldn’t be perfect, but I was confident that it would at least be fair.

Less than two weeks after my wedding day, I learned that my previous notions were laughable. Fifty-fifty? Equal give-and-take? Those are just good-intentioned, but flawed concepts. Our marriage experienced illnesses that rattled our faith, emotional pain that rammed us to our knees and losses that ransacked our haven. Not only did life hit us with some unjust blows, we also dealt each other some unscrupulous punches. That’s what human beings sometimes do when life gets gritty. We mess up. We make mistakes. We get angry with each other. We cause unwarranted pain.

My marriage is not and has never been fair, but it is worth fighting for and it does hold beauty that cannot be denied.

Arms open to embrace one in need of forgiveness … beautiful.

Fingers entwined as a new life swallows her first gulps of air … beautiful.

Tears cried for the one who aches … beautiful.

Hands steadying the one whose body is ravaged by pain … beautiful.

Laughter echoing throughout corridors … beautiful.

Feet that stumble as they walk a rugged path, but also glide as they dance … beautiful.

Lips that touch softly as evidence to both passion and commitment … beautiful.

Love. Unbridled, agape love, a love that is taught by its Creator, is not fair. But its glorious beauty cannot be denied.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13: 1-3 (NIV)

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  1. 1

    you are holding up both hands full of both sides of love in life. beautiful reminder of the beautiful mess that life and we can be. and that god redeems it all in a way that is undeniable. thank you angela. –kris

  2. 3

    I realize more and more that the need to forgive and be forgiven far outweighs my need for justice, in my marriage and in Christ.

  3. 5
    Lynette says:

    My pastor this weekend preached on Love. One thing he said I’ll never forget: “Love is not well-negotiated selfishness.”

    Real love, true love, love that follows the greatest commandments is entirely selfless.

  4. 8
    Beth Williams says:

    I absolutely loved the portrait of Christ on a cruel cross–shedding His blood for sinful me–unfair love–We should have died not him!

    True agape love sticks with you through thick and thin–argurments, good times and bad. Life isn’t fair and easy what makes us think love should be? I love my hubby of 9 years and wouldn’t trade him for anything! He’s been there when my parents got sick and when mom died@! Just shows me agape love daily!

  5. 10

    I love your words here. I find it so poignant particularly this week. But, really always. Sometimes it takes years to get in that place where love feels comfortable.

    • 11

      Thank you, Lisa. I remember asking my grandmother what love really meant when I was about 3 years old. She explained it well at that time … but I really never understood its depths until my relationship with Christ grew deeper.

  6. 12

    Whenever I think on what the cross bore, in the name of love, my heart wells up, too! The picture of love as unfair yet beautiful is an encouragement to me to stay in the fight to keep it strong.

  7. 14

    So true Angela. Thanks. Now just how to teach this in premarital counseling so it sticks!

  8. 16

    Such a great post full of truth.

  9. 18

    BEAUTIFUL!!! what a picture of how marriage grounded in HIS Love weathers the ups and downs of life!
    thank you for the words of encouragement of how to “grow” my marriage :-)

  10. 20

    wow! beautiful!

  11. 22

    This is one of the most true/concrete pictures of real love. Real marriage. [i have to believe though that if any of us REALLY understood it at the beginning we might not move forward] We [at least me] have no idea what our love will require of us…but when we get there, we [me] find that His grace and His love are indeed enough…

    • 23

      Kellie, I agree with you about how many may not move forward with love if we knew the requirements. What a pity that would be, eh? I think knowing that God did know what was involved before He created man is so particularly humbling.

  12. 24

    As a bride about to be married in May…I can say that I do not know fully, but I do know in part what a hugely monumental step it is to truly join my life with another. Your post is so honest, and real – we need more of that. Marriage is a journey of holiness, not only happiness…I am beginning to understand that more and more and more…

  13. 25

    Thank you for sharing, Grace. Wishing you many blessings for a beautiful marriage.

  14. 26

    You brought tears to my eyes as I read about God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice for us, both totally undeserved and unfair. The beauty of such love is breath-taking, and makes me want to live for him more intentionally. Thank you for your poignant post, Angela.