Be careful next time your wife asks you why you love her. "Because you're beautiful" is the wrong answer (raises the theoretical possibility of a more beautiful woman out there somewhere). "Because you're good to me" is also inadvisable (same basic reason). The correct answer, in case you need it spelled out (and I offer it two and a half months before Valentine's Day), is "Because you're you."
Be watchful next time you're at a prayer meeting. The first guy prays, "I thank You, Lord, for the new minivan You gave our family." (A round of muted amens ensues.) The second guy, readjusting the limbo bar a notch, pipes up, "I thank You, Lord, for saving me out of addiction to cocaine." (A more audible chorus of amens now.) The third guy, pausing dramatically, blurts out, "I thank You, Lord, not because of any of Your benefits, but just for who You are."
At this point, if one wife and half a dozen prayer breakfast members walk out of the room mildly depressed, it may have more to do with Emmanuel Kant than St. Paul. Francis Schaeffer warned us about how bad philosophy trickles down to the masses eventually and infects us unawares; even Jonathan Edwards, to whom we are indebted for putting justification by faith back on the map, may have betrayed a streak of romantic moralism in his idea of "disinterested benevolence." Do you want to know for sure that you're right with God, that in coming to Christ you have no ulterior motive but only the glory of God? Here's the Edwardians' bona fide test: "Are you willing to be damned for the glory of God?"
For those of us who have not yet attained to this rarified air of sanctification, there is much consolation to be found between the covers of Scripture, a book disdained by Hitler as being only about cattle-dealing but which for that very reason and that very earthiness affords examples of guys who love the Lord because ... He gives the land He promises, He multiplies the sheep and goats of the much abused (though not altogether innocent) son-in-law of Laban, He provides courier ravens for a beleaguered prophet stranded by the Kerith Ravine in a drought.
Do not tell your wife you love her because she first loved you, but tell it to the Lord as you reread your autobiography in Luke 15-the tale of a son whose father's life was an inconvenient roadblock to his inheritance, who hit the road for high adventure, squandered a fortune, ate with pigs, and even in the end came crawling home not compelled so much by love as by hunger pangs. Tell your wife you came to her purely, disinterestedly, but tell the Lord you were cornered like a rat, an unjust steward of your master's gifts, and then you saw the jig was up and there was nowhere to go, and yes, you would be there still, splashing about in your blood but that you grasped, in a clear moment, that it was God or death. Such a man finds commendation by Christ. Go figure, Mr. Kant.
I myself will probably not accept your love if it is not spontaneous, if I have to grovel for it-but that's because I'm a wretch. There is Someone else who said, "I revealed Myself to those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me, ... I said, 'Here am I, here am I.' All day long I have held out My hands to an obstinate people...."
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17). I don't know about you, but I'm not so holy that I didn't thank God for "things" on Thanksgiving Day. How do I love Thee, Lord, let me count the ways? Do I love You for Your benefits? You bet I do. Do I love You for the roof over my head, for the little bit of oil and meal that never run out, miraculously, day tumbling over day, 500 since my husband is gone? Unabashedly. I thank You for the old minivan that still runs, for beauty in surprising places, for waters without cost, for Beethoven's Seventh (second movement), for Grieg, Satie. I thank You for the jobs I got, the jobs I lost, and the working of all together for good.
I thank You for thanksgiving itself, an act that benefits as much the giver as the Receiver, clearing the mind, restoring reality, ushering in contentment-and then is credited to our account, to boot (Philippians 4:17), for so You have ordained it. I love You because You are good to me. I love You because You are beautiful. And yes, by Your grace, I love You-or will someday love You-just for who You are.