Last Friday proved to be a terrible, awful, no good day.
I felt on the brink of collapsing all day, like a Jenga tower that has too many blocks pulled from its layers.
The blocks yanked from my tower of life left gaps like mental exhaustion, computer-induced optical fogginess, task ambiguity, frozen shoulder syndrome, and even a makeup meltdown.
Somehow work ended and I finally pulled into our driveway, twelve hours after I had pulled out.
But what met me when I walked through the front door was a total surprise.
A fire crackled. Calming piano music streamed from the stereo. And a plate of strawberries and a glass of wine from our honeymoon awaited me on the coffee table.
Mr. B stood there smiling.
Now hold on. Before you get overwhelmed by the warm fuzzies, let me tell you I would not always have appreciated this love that Mr. B gave me last Friday like I do now.
Before getting married, as a middle-child, people-pleaser peacemaker, I was subconsciously convinced that I had to earn love.
To earn my parents' love in high school, I put the expectation on myself to maintain a 4.0 GPA. In college, I had to be everything to everyone in all circumstances in order to have friends that loved me. In dating, I gave so much of my time and energy that when these relationships ended, I felt like a hollow clay jar crackling from the dryness that had been spreading during the months of emotional drought.
In hindsight, I see who ratcheted up the pressure--Me, Myself, and I.
I saw love as a performance. A great skill that should be learned, practiced, and performed. If it wasn't perfect the first time, I would keep practicing. Keep giving, or performing rather, till I got the response I wanted. Rarely did that happen. Instead, I experienced burn-out after burn-out.
But gradually I started learning that love is not contractual. It is covenantal. It is not duty. It is a response to undeserving grace.
In marriage, I see this now more than ever. When I love based on performance, I find myself curmudgeonly crossing off things on my list of "love to-do's" and then become easily irritable at how ungrateful Mr. B is for all that I did for him.
But when I love out of a heart amazed by how I am loved with radical grace, I find that I am free to try new things to creatively serve Mr. B, like he did for me on that terrible, awful, no good day. He couldn't have loved me better.
Catherine Baker is a graduate of Arizona State University and currently lives in Seattle, Washington. She got married in June and will share her experiences as a newlywed in a weekly column for WORLD on Campus.