Hougham the Bear
Happy Anniversary! #3
When Emily was little she had a very strong attachment to a teddy bear named Hougham. It was a gift given at a baby shower, along with countless other items she could have latched onto. We cannot say why she chose what she chose but when she was old enough to express her preferences and opinions it was Hougham! She took him everywhere and there was more than one time when we had to track him down, or had to drive out of our way to collect him when he was misplaced, or have him cleaned when he got in the way of sick germs. Emily loved Hougham and I often thought about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. There were other toys that Emily cared for but nothing compared to her love for that bear! There was no real value in the bear, but it is safe to say that it was the most valuable thing Emily owned! It is also safe to say that if you loved Emily you loved Hougham. Some things are loved because they are valuable and some things are valuable because they are loved.
For me I am like that teddy bear and his friends. I am valuable because I am loved. So are you!
1 John 4:7,8. 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This verse says that God is love. Love that is indescribable, unconditional and complete! It is the kind of love that creates value in the object it loves. It is love that is dependent on the character of the lover and not the performance of the beloved. There was nothing inherently worthy about that stuffed animal and there is nothing about any of us that the God of the Universe should know our name let alone die on a cross for our sins! Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners (inherently unworthy), Christ died for us. That changes everything about who we are! The core of our identity is not based on who we are or what we have done. We have earned love in spite of our unworthiness because of the character of the Lover and not on our own performance!
We live in a broken world that constantly whispers that we will never be worthy or loved. Yet, God also whispers. We have confidence that his love for us is deep, endless, unfathomable because of who He is. Love is not one of God’s many activities; rather, it defines who He is so that everything he does permeates love!
The movie, Shall We Dance, has a great quote about the reason people get married:
”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”
I would add to that. “I will give you value, because I love you”. In marriage we get a little taste of that unconditional love for which we were created. Even more, this is the kind of love that it takes to make a marriage work! Marriages are made of flawed people and neither are worthy of the love they are going to receive from the other. Marriage is a picture of the gospel. Just as we are sinners who are loved, forgiven, valued and accepted because of the One who loves us, so our life partner is valuable because we love them.
It might have seemed like loving your spouse would be easy when you got married, as it was a match made in heaven. But it didn’t take long to be reminded that thunder, lightning, hail, and tornados are also made in heaven! I am not telling you anything new when I say marriage is not easy! Love is not easy when it is based on the performance of the one loved. We let each other down all the time! Instead, we are asked to model love that creates value in the object of our affection. Decide to love in spite of performance. I am so glad you committed to love each other with a love based on your own choice and not the actions of each other. God will continue to work in and through your lives and someday, at the end of it all, the legacy of your marriage and ministry will not be tied to how well you loved each other, but how well, together, you loved everyone else! Together you will create more value in the objects of your love than you ever would alone.
May your marriage continue to grow to be defined by the same kind of love that Emily had for Hougham! And May you be valued because you are loved well by each other.
PS – Hougham’s best friend is Hollister!
PPS – Hougham is pronounced Huffum! Animals were named after the people who gave them to us (Thanks to Anne Hougham, Heidi Rayment and Laurie Waddell)