What Is Better Than Cheap Love?

My sister is worried about me. I have written here about my struggles. Lately, I can’t seem to complete a long run without bursting into tears.

As a result, she has been contacting me more often, calling, texting, sending me links I might enjoy (like this link to the osprey-cam, which I now check compulsively throughout the day), suggested activities, and funny memes, like the one below.

Meditations in Motion

My husband Bill and I spent a lot of time together even before the Coronavirus crisis. As of last January, we are both retired and at home during the day. We are also running partners, biking buddies, and together we drive for Meals on Wheels.

After a few weeks of following the stay-at-home order, I commented to Bill, “It’s a good thing we kind of like each other.

It could get unpleasant very quickly otherwise.

It’s also a good thing we are forced to be in such close quarters at this point in our relationship, rather than earlier in our marriage.

Oh, we loved each other deep down. Deep, deep, deep, deep down. But there were numerous times when the air between us was loud and angry and one of us (me) sulked, pouted, and held a grudge when she didn’t get her way.

We had three children before we were thirty. I question now how well we even knew each other back then.

We were consumed with working out how to pay the mortgage, arrange for child care, keep our cars on the road, maintain some semblance of order in our living space, and stay one step ahead of three lively young boys.

Meditations in Motion

When I was still teaching, I used to eat lunch every day with two young women who taught math.

Every Tuesday, they would have an animated discussion about the television show, “The Bachelor” for the entire lunch period, discussing the back-stabbing, maneuvering, and positioning they witnessed the night before by the young women competing to win the bachelor’s hand.

I thought I might watch the show so I could participate in the conversation but after less than one episode, my hubby quickly nixed the idea.

Bill, ever the romantic, was skeptical of the show’s premise. “All 20 of these women instantly fall in love with the bachelor and are willing to participate in fierce competition to see which one he proposes to?

It’s true. He was right.

These women didn’t know the bachelor. How could they be in love with him?

Sort of like Bill and me when we were first married.

Meditations in MotionGerman theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer often employed the term, “cheap grace” in his preaching. Initially, I thought this meant grace that was not earned and I was puzzled how Bonhoeffer, a brilliant theologian, could believe we had to earn grace, which is given to us freely, not merited by good deeds on our part. I now believe I have a deeper understanding of the meaning of his term.

When Bonhoeffer spoke of cheap grace, I believe he meant grace received without living a life of discipleship, without choosing to follow Jesus through hardships, turmoil, even heartbreak, dragging ourselves over rocky terrain to follow Him if we must.

Costly grace is what causes us to drop everything we have at a moment’s notice to follow the living Christ, Imago Dei.

Meditations in MotionIn addition to cheap grace, I believe there is also “cheap love“.

When we first fall in love, we often see the object of our affection through a lens that removes faults, erases personal tics, and airbrushes away imperfections. This is cheap love.

Cheap love can be good, it can hold a relationship together for some time, but it is not transcendent.

Being loved by someone who knows you is costly love, this is love that is worth something.

Being loved by a person who can look at you knowing your human foibles, your tendency to exaggerate for the sake of a good story, to be a know-it-all, to need to have the last word in a discussion, to refuse to cook beets (OK, that may be too specific), that is love worth everything.

Time does not always result in costly love. There are plenty of long-term relationships in which the participants grit their teeth and stay for reasons other than love.

To achieve costly love, you must be willing to do the hard work of seeing the other person, of deep listening, of making yourself vulnerable enough to be known.

Then, once you have it, you hang on to this love with every last scrap of your strength, with tenderness, forgiveness, and tenacity. You recognize how valuable and rare your love is. You appreciate it. You revel in it. This love is precious and enduring, wild and ferocious.

This love makes you a better person, it leaves you unprotected, exposed, and it gives you strength. It gives you compassion and it consumes you. It makes you more patient and fills you with hope.

Meditations in Motion

And, who knows? Someday it may be enough to compel you to cook beets for the one you love.

But don’t hold your breath.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

its good to be loved when you are known. talk about when we were first married,

 

 

91 comments

  1. Laurie, I truly hope you find a clear trail through your struggles soon. Perhaps you’ll find a guide where you least expect one. I’m intrigued by your concept of cheap love — I’ve thought a lot about the difference between “falling in love” especially when we’re young and willing to be so happily hypnotized by the charms of another and overlook their warts — and love that has put down roots deep enough to survive life’s storms. I’m torturing metaphors here . . . but I’ve often thought that if we weren’t so set up for that initial intoxication with someone, real love wouldn’t stand a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jan I hope I find a way through soon too. I agree with you – if there weren’t that initial spark, we wouldn’t start a relationship that can grow into real love. Magic plays a role too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post, Laurie! I had to read up on the original German term used by Bonhoeffer (“billige Gnade”) and what the general understanding is. You’re spot on.
    I also like your definition of cheap vs. costly love. If I ever had to give a wedding talk (very unlikely) I would incorporate this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Catrina! I am glad the translation was good. Sometimes the meaning of the term gets altered in translation. I had 2 semesters of German in college but that was a long time ago! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. wonderfully thoughtful. I am sorry to say I’m envious of your sister’s love. I can’t persuade either sister to love me…I’ve accepted it but it’s a loss. An inheiritance of living in a hard family. Still… that kind of contact is just what would lift me up. I agree with your views on growing love. I kind of like thinking about a new way to view grace although to me it’s given as a gift freely. I get what he’s saying. I put a link to animal cams on my thursday “I LIke” post…. it’s so calming to watch nature continuing on….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really resonated with your post. I had been married before -twice-when I met my current husband of 25 years. The love we found together totally transformed our lives in many wonderful ways. We found self-acceptance, compassion, and tolerance. We became the people that we needed and wanted to be for ourselves and for each other. It wasn’t always easy, a little like trial by fire, actually. But we came out of it happy with each other and fully dedicated. We have been thriving in this stay-at-home time. We both work full-time from home and we enjoy it. Definitely expensive love.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tried posting a comment but for some reason it did not take. If a tear drop was an option for this post, I would press it. Glad that your sister is reaching out. isolation and Staying at home put extra pressure on lots of relationships. Give yourself some grace. I will be praying. Blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your post. we were so young, 17 when we got married so we loved like a 17 year old and hard a hard time. Now at 73, we love like 73 year old’s who do understand the cost of a deep abiding love. It’s cost us ourselves, forsaking ourselves for each other, being there when we wanted to be somewhere else. The hard times are not over, the trials of life always bring back those 17 year old immaturity. thanks God, it does not last long and sometimes is stopped before it does any damage. There is never a word of the d word, always I am sorry, will you forgive me. I don’ t think of our early love as cheap just very immature. Real grownup love is painful and costly. It takes courage to die to self, real love will do that without the feelings. I think that is what gets in the way of early love, feelings. We want the kind we read about or saw in a movie and that about five second. Love without feeling is a lot more stable then love with feelings. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We were young when we got married too and loved like a young couple, so we had a hard time too. Congratulations on your long marriage. The struggle is sometimes what makes a relationship beautiful – the cracked, broken, mended places. It does take courage to die to self. Courage and strength. Thank you!

      Like

  7. When you mentioned the beets, Laurie, I had a hearty laugh! I’ve always been a beet-hater since they were forced down my throat in grade school. But you know what? Danny fixed a beet salad one night with goat cheese and other goodies, and I discovered that I couldn’t get enough of them!
    And that’s a lot what love looks like. You persevere through the quirks, the disagreements, the presuppositions, and even the occasional distaste we have of our partners, and we learn that when we stop focusing on ourselves, and open up to understanding our spouse, we open new doors of possibility where love can truly flourish.
    Yes, especially in these times, I’m so grateful that God gave me Danny to love and cherish. Even in the times we don’t see eye-to-eye, love remains.
    Blessings, my friend, and hold fast to the promises of the Lord!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can eat beets in a salad, Martha, and my niece made some delicious mixed roasted vegetables for Thanksgiving that included beets, but just beets by themselves – no! 🙂

      I think you hit the nail on the head – when we stop focusing on ourselves, love can grow. I am especially thankful for Bill to quarantine with these days too! Blessings to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post. I met my husband when I was 22 and he was 28, but we were friends before we fell in love and we’re friends now too. When we moved up here away from friends and family I wondered if we’d be enough for each other and while there are definitely times he drives me mad I’m sure I do the same to him. Next week will be our 26th wedding anniversary and 31 years together. Our love has changed & I think it’s needed to as we have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jo, you did it exactly right. I think some of the best marriages started out as friendships. Bill and I met when we were 17. We have been married for 41 years. We are friends now, but I don’t know if I could have said that earlier in our marriage.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele. I think you and your husband did it exactly right. Couples who were friends first often have the best marriages. When I look back now, it seems like I didn’t know Bill at all when I married him.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My coworker and I used to watch the SWFlorida Eagle Cam – https://dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html – and I got so emotionally attached to these birds. Harriet is the name of the female/mother eagle. I should get going on this again – and maybe some others as well.
    It’s funny how now we seem to be more honest about what works for our feelings.
    I’m married 49 years this year – we got married at 19. We are committed to each other although we are two very different people. We find common ground in getting older.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a lovely post. I’ve actually never been in love. No one has also been in love with me. It worries me and it’s one of my regrets (as I’m 52). I don’t know why or understand it. I tend to blame my weight… I’ve been fat and unattractive and felt that way, so….

    But yes, I agree with you re The Bachelor. Usually they’re all hankering for fame rather than love and snap up an acting / TV hosting gig if possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Deborah. I hope you find someone to love. I enjoy reading your blog posts and I’m sure you would be a lot of fun to talk to. I guess you’re right – all the people on the Bachelor are after their 15 minutes of fame, not looking for love at all.

      Like

  11. Hi Laurie – my husband and I have been married for 37 years through many ups and downs. I’m grateful that I’m used to him working from home and being around a lot – trying to adapt to that with all the other changes that came with COVID would have done my head it. I still feel myself getting a bit cranky and short with him at times and hate it, but I guess human nature still comes into play. I think we just need to remember to be kind to ourselves and those we love – and to extend patience and grace wherever possible – none of us are perfect and life is quite unsettled atm (and that affects us all differently). I hope you’re feeling perky again soon xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! My hubby and I have been married for 41 years. I am glad he retired a year ago so we had a little time to get used to spending all day together before COVID hit too. We are all a little bit on edge these days. Be kind to yourself and to him as much as you can. None of us are perfect, you are exactly right. Thank you!

      Like

  12. Excellent post. Too much of what we chase after is cheap. Gone are the days of counting the cost before making the commitment. But marriage, like grace, is something we have to work out. Not to earn it, but to understand and appreciate all that it offers. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Denny. I agree – we do seem to covet the cheap. Cheap grace, cheap love, even cheap food. What we put into our bodies as nourishment matters. Appreciation is the key. It took me a while to learn that! 🙂

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  13. I LOVED this post, Laurie for so many reasons. First of all, I’m so glad you’re open and vulnerable about the challenges you’ve faced in marriage. That tells me you are stronger and healthier, ironically, than most! And yes, I also believe there is a “cheap love” that so many run after and think is the standard for whether or not to stay in a marriage. Great thoughts! I’ll be tweeting!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Congrats on knowing a good thing when you found it and made the commitment to hang on together. In these uncertain times I do admit that I worry about couples forced together who may not really want to be together. Cheap love can be costly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ally. It took me a long time to figure out how good it is. I’m a slow learner, but I do learn eventually. I worry about the same thing. I hear a lot of loud voices coming from our neighbor’s house!

      Like

  15. Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling Laurie. I’m glad your sister is reaching out and you have your husband by your side. Do you practice meditation or yoga? There are many videos on YouTube to choose from. I find both keep me calm. Now maybe time that you and Bill can cook beets together 🙂 #senisal

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Natalie. I do yoga – just a little bit of yin yoga every day. I used to meditate but I can’t seem to make that a habit that sticks. I should give it another try. Two of my sons meditate. But no beets! 🙂

      Like

  16. I’m with you, tried and true love won through hard nights and tough times together is better than cheap love. We probably all start out with cheap love, but it needs to mature to last. I was talking with a good friend who has been married for quite a few years and we were saying how it is so comforting to know we can have a fight with our spouse, or get angry with each other, or deal with a hard situation, and know they will still be there the next day. Because we are in it for the long run. We already know each other’s faults and still love each other. There is such comfort in knowing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are right, Theresa. We do start out with cheap love. I am thankful for the same things. Our love has been tested and we can rely on each other to be here for each other through thick and thin.

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  17. Laurie,
    What a tender and vulnerable post. Cheap love like cheap grace comes easily but doesn’t stay or satisfy for long. It is truly a gift to know that you are still loved even at your very ugliest (and I’m not talking looks). Love lets go of unmet expectations and chooses to love unconditionally. This kind of love, I’m convinced, is impossible without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Praying you find peace and tranquility on a run…soon!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bev. Yes, cheap love doesn’t satisfy for very long. It’s like cotton candy – it dissolves at the first hint of trouble. Thank you for your prayers. I appreciate them!

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  18. Your openness and honesty are a credit to you Laurie and I hope you feel better soon. I agree with your thoughts about liking the person you’re spending all this time with – I worry about those who are in less than loving relationships at this time. Anxiety is real and I am so glad your sister is watching out for you – that’s what sisters are for! Keep writing your thoughts down and sharing, you have lots of support and encouragement coming from around the world. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ve had a more than a few comments in my life about having stuck by a husband who can’t work for medical reasons (because the man has to be the income earner – eye roll) and sexism aside, I think it says a lot more about their relationship than it does mine!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Laurie,
    Thank you for your candor, losing our freedoms at the time is difficult.
    Especially not being able to see family.
    But how wonderful that you have a hard earned & time tested treasured man to share this time with! 😀
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I actually really like beets! I do tend to cook them so they burn a bit on the edges. Need to get better at that. The cheap grace definition sure has me thinking. Reminds me of a sermon I heard recently about being a Christian means following Christ–truly following Him, not just lagging behind and going off on side-roads and still say you are a Christian. I’m on over 20 years of being divorced, but still hold out hope I’ll have another chance on marriage with a best-friend who I could live through a pandemic with! I hope you have a peace-filled day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and my hubby would get along just fine with the beets! :)I am also reading a book about discipleship. I hope you have another chance at marriage with a loving best-friend kind of guy too, Lynn.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. It is a good thing you are where you are in your relationship and the ideas of cheap love and cheap grace are intriguing. You’re not alone in crying, I’ve found myself all over the place during this and the only thing that’s helped is getting outside and attempting to get some sleep. There should be a Kubler Ross five stages of quarantine. Do you still deliver Meals On Wheels? Am going to check out that osprey cam pronto. Take care and hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean, Jeanna. I am having trouble sleeping. When I get a good night’s sleep, I feel completely different in the morning. I do deliver Meals on Wheels. I just wrote a post describing my new delivery protocol that will be published on Friday. You take care too!

      Like

  23. I like your joke about changing quarantine partners – try living alone and then having to be REALLY ALONE. It is a struggle and I can use all the grace and patience I can get. I always find a visit to your blog is a nice respite
    from life giving me a new perspective. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’ve never heard it put that way before, “cheap love.” You make a great point though. True love comes at a cost to ourselves, especially in the areas of pride and humility, but it is worth it in the end, I think. Hubby and I have been through some tough seasons in our 34 years of marriage, but by the grace of God we have come through stronger than ever. Btw, we both really LOVE beets! lol I love the way you write Laurie! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. True love demands humility and for us to dispense with pride. I can attest that it is worth it. Glad to hear you have persevered in your relationship too. Hmmm…you two would get along great with my hubby. He wants beets but I don’t cook them! 🙂 Thank you!

      Like

  25. That’s sweet of your sister to check on you. My sister and I have been checking on each other a lot more the past few weeks too. We tend to worry about similar things, which may be good or may be bad. ha. But at least it makes us sympathetic toward each other. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It IS sweet of her, isn’t it? I’m glad to hear you and your sister have been checking on each other too. It’s comforting to have someone who has known you your whole life to be concerned about you.

      Like

  26. Ahhh, Laurie. I so liked this post. 🙂 Of course, I like all of your posts. Your thoughts about cheap love and costly love. We get to choose love in each day, in each interaction with our people, don’t we?

    I LOVED this: “Costly grace is what causes us to drop everything we have at a moment’s notice to follow the living Christ, Imago Dei.”

    Yes and amen. May we always have hearts that desire to follow Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. That was a powerful post for and about these COVID-19 times! Thanks so much for sharing your concerns, your story and your ideas.

    We met at 21 in 1970 and married then. Our first child was born just 7 months later. We love each other but we had never been together as “just we two” till 2015. We always had much to do as a couple and as individuals. Interests, work and more. He became very unwell for a few periods in our long marriage. I found aspects of that a challenge but we have stayed together for love. The move away from family and all we knew in 2015 hurt my heart in a major way and I was not right emotionally yet he loved the freedom and where we were living. My cancer diagnosis nearly 3 years ago brought us right back together and now, we are very comfortable in each other’s company but even in COVID19 times can keep our hobbies and interests going. Thank goodness our initial love (we knew as our eyes met the first time!) has buoyed us through much. We are opposites so maybe that helps too.

    Thank you for linking up for Life This Week. Next week the optional prompt is 18/51 Taking Stock #2 4.5.2020. Hope to see you there too. Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! You went from single to married to motherhood fast! We were just 17 when we met. I feel the same as you – we never really had time with just the 2 of us until our youngest moved out of the house in 2003. Thank you for sharing your love story with me, Denyse. I am glad you have each other to be with now during the pandemic. I feel bad for everyone living alone during this crisis. Thank you for hosting. See you next week!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I loved reading the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. I never really thought about it before. My definition of grace before was always that it was an undeserved and unearned gift from God. I love Bonhoeffer and his wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I enjoyed reading this, Laurie. It’s so true, love is hard work. It doesn’t seem like it at first. I always appreciated that Elisabeth Elliot said we marry sinners because there is no one else to marry. And we’re sinners as well. So there are bound to be sparks when those sin natures bump against each other sometimes. That’s why there are all those verses about forgiving and forbearing one another. But it’s still hard sometimes. Remembering God’s grace to me at my worst helps me extend that grace to others even when I don’t “feel” it. (For us it’s asparagus. 🙂 Thankfully neither of us has a desire for beets.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like Elisabeth Elliot’s thoughts on marriage. And yours. Forgiveness is hard but it’s something we need to learn if we hope to sustain a long relationship. Ha! I like asparagus but I can’t work up enthusiasm for beets, which Bill loves!

      Liked by 1 person

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