This morning I stretched over cool sheets, feeling the yards of empty space, knowing the house was still with his absence-- no head hunched over the computer keys, finishing up lesson plans, no pot of hours-old coffee burning slow on its rusted heat pad, no books strewn across the table where we would now no longer share a meal. A little melodramatic, I know. It was how I imagined I would feel all morning. But as I ventured out of our sleepy room, a lovely little scene of floating candles burning soft in the early light, and a small card awaited me.
Perfection is not a word we would use to describe our marriage. And yet, in the lone moments of our seventh anniversary, I was reminded by the man I vowed to love until death that, "Every good and perfect gift is from above... and so I know that in this sense, it is perfect, and I am grateful for that."
Last night we went out on our own, reminiscing about earlier days and thinking about days to come. We stumbled onto the subject of friends near and far who have separated and now live in that broken place that seems terrifying in its depth of pain and sadness. It was humbling to think through how they may have reached that point. We looked at ourselves and knew, saying it aloud even, that we could see how it could come to that. We have known our share of painful silences, misunderstanding, loneliness, even anger and frustration towards the other. We are in the midst of raising several small children and it is easy to understand how you can buckle down, become focused on getting through and caring for your children-- brushing aside the things that bug you or hurt you, thinking that it is too hard to work through it just now.
And then you look up, at some point, you look up. And perhaps the waters have become too deep and the depth of hurts or frustrations or issues too murky to wade through. So you jump out. We could see it, sitting there, with our seven years behind us and our eyes still full of hope and joy in our union. The topic didn't stay on this hard place, but we looked at it and knew that it is not because of our excellent personalities or our sheer determination or our fairy-tale romance that we will, by God's grace live long together. It is love of the highest kind.
I know that people who don't know God, or care two hoots about him can love one another deeply. They can even love one another unselfishly and for all the years of their life. I don't believe that it is only those who know Jesus that have the best marriages (though the christian book store may try to sell you something that says so). But I do believe the love they have is not something they came up with. And the vows that we choose to stand by, if indeed we choose to stand by them, until death do we part, was no one's idea but His first. There may be a lot of modern talk today about the worthless and even harmful nature of this vow, but I believe that if for nothing else, the Source of it is far more trustworthy. And certainly the outcome of not holding to it has not proven itself superior.
The other day I found an old "Outside" magazine that someone had sent us in a package awhile ago. It was strewn with articles on how to be at your healthiest, your best, your most amazing self. There was even an article where the top surfer in the world spoke about learning to do "gratefulness exercises" as a way to live a healthier life. The author went on to cite various scientific studies that prove this (of course) by scientific, measurable methods such as raised endorphin levels or the releases of certain hormones when we are grateful, etc. etc. How funny, I thought. Did they think they came up with this idea? Giving thanks always and in all circumstances.* It has always been His idea first.
So this love that gives when it is tired of giving, that pursues even when the pursued is no longer lovely, that stays when there seems to be little or nothing to be had in return, this is Love from Above even if you don't know it.
I don't struggle to love someone who is unlovely at this point. He says the same is true for him and my sweet little boy confirmed it tonight as he stroked my (rarely) painted fingernails and pronounced me "weally, weally beautiful." But we would be fools to think that our attraction alone is why we love. I don't have a mountain of issues to work through, but I know that I am an Issue-Factory and could easily get there, so I would be a fool to think it is only because we don't have "serious problems" that we love. I don't struggle to enjoy my man's company, loving his conversation, his humor, his talents and rugged athleticism, but he could easily be robbed of all that tomorrow and so I would be a fool to think that our happy comraderie alone is why we love.
Love chooses in the face of all that is thrown against it to do good for the other, no matter what. And that is the life-giving, death-defying, world-renewing, all-redeeming power of love. And it wasn't our idea.
I feel small to be celebrating only seven years of marriage. I feel inadequate to really know or speak of time-tested love and commitment, come what may. We may have celebrated the goodness that we have seen and tasted, filled mostly with children, moving, and discussions about money, but I am humbled in the truest sense when I see my great weaknesses and failures as a wife. And yet, even so, I believe so strongly, and it grows stronger with time, that the love we have is from Above, and that is a love that does fail.