The road to freedom or love can be understood when considering rural roads. Those roads typically have bar ditches. The standard explanation of a "bar ditch" involves creating drainage for a rural road. Dirt was taken from the sides of the road and used to build it, making it higher in the middle to drain water to the ditches on the sides.
You may know the name “bar ditch,” but you may not understand why they have that name. Well, here is a Wiki definition of “bar ditch.”
A bar or “borrow ditch” is a roadside channel dug for drainage purposes. Typically, the dirt is "borrowed" from the ditch and used to crown the road...Also, adjacent to pasturage, the ditch confines livestock, keeping them from straying onto road.
With that word picture, you can more easily apply the Image of God to the word love or freedom. As the definition says, you borrow dirt from the sides of the road to form the road or at least the crown of the road.
Love has the full image of God because God is love. Therefore, love is both powerful and relational. But love gets distorted in the same way God’s image gets distorted when you focus on one instead of both elements.
Love is powerful when it says difficult things to people to help them. That is often referred to as “tough love.” Actually, it is just love because love is powerful and relational.
While the following is primarily for husbands, it works for all relationships.
So, how does this work in real life? If you try to control your wife (dominate or manipulate) to “make her change,” then you are in the Power Ditch instead of on the road. Or you might be all about belonging, getting along, and “putting up with her,” which means you are in the Relate Ditch instead of on the road. Either ditch distorts God’s Image and what love is.
Each ditch creates problems for relationships, but a more significant problem occurs when you start trying to apply both elements (powerful and relational) in your love for your wife. From my experience, in the beginning, you may move from one ditch to the other as you learn how God asks you to love her.
Suppose you are in the Relate Ditch and say, “I’ll love her no matter what she does.” That is what God wants. But, if you are in the Relate Ditch, you may think, “I’m not going to say anything, even if she is in blatant sin, because when I say something, the relationship becomes miserable.”
Tolerating or “putting up with” sin is not unconditional love. Love pursues her best, which means that you accept her where she is and hope, pray, encourage, exhort, and even rebuke her ungodly behavior. If you live in the Relate Ditch, you will not “exhort and rebuke” because that requires power.
So, you have had enough at some point, and you “trade ditches.” You think you are on the “Pursuing Her Best Road,” but you end up in the Power Ditch. For example, you know you should not tolerate sin and think, “That’s right, I am tolerating her bad behavior. That behavior is wrong, and she keeps doing it!” You confront her in a powerful, unconstructive, mean-spirited way, meaning you just moved from one ditch to the other.
Or you were in the Power Ditch, became convicted about your judgmental attitude, and crossed the road to the Relate Ditch to get along. That behavior often requires giving up good values to relate or get along.
Both ditches are bad; the road is what is essential. Jumping back and forth from ditch to ditch solves nothing. The road combines both Power and Relating – that’s where God wants you. Stand on good and Godly values and relate those values patiently, kindly, sacrificially, and unconditionally.
AND always remember that her change is HER DECISION, not yours. God calls you to pursue her best, but her change is between her and God.