I’ll never forget the moment the processional started playing. My heart was pounding so hard I was sure you could see it through my dress. I grabbed my brother’s arm and we started up that long aisle, and to Daniel’s glittering eyes and face all radiant.
I still love going to weddings. They are such a beautiful glimpse into this mysterious thing called love.
But when the pastor leans over the pulpit and says, “…You have no idea what real love is,” I always stiffen. It didn’t happen at our wedding, but I’ve heard it several times…
Be gentle with this young couple because they ARE in love, and they DO know what love is.
Yes, innocent and juvenile at times, but on this day when they clasp hands and commit till death do them part, they are in love.
But in reality, love grows. It deepens. As life tosses a job change, a cross-country move, an early miscarriage, they hold tighter, they wipe each other’s tears, and they don’t let go. They love more fully. It is the same love that they treasured on their wedding day, just more mature.
I thought on my wedding day that five years had been a long time.
I had admired this guy for ever so long, but I knew that marriage didn’t fit with his adventurous missionary life style.
Thankfully, God’s story overrode my career plans and his, and 12 years ago, at 22 and 23 years young, we said: “I do.” To what, we didn’t exactly know.
No one would have dreamed that as I stepped away from Isaac to Daniel at the front of the church, that in three years, Isaac would be gone. That Daniel would be the one up at those midnight hours searching for his body.
No one could have prepared us for the bumps and knocks that happen on the mission field. The burnout, the feeling of abandonment, the disconnection from home and the creeping cynicism I’d fight on our return to States life. This certainly wasn’t the rosy picture I’d always cheerfully imagined.
But Daniel was steady.
He was safe, as I dumped my wobbling emotions and volatile grief. Just like Isaac had sat and listened to me dump out my woes years ago, holding my hand and there for me when he couldn’t “fix it,” now Daniel pulled me close as I learned to let go of my brother.
Of my dreams and expectations.
Real love isn’t perfect, but it is faithful. It is never letting go.
Real love holds on when the shoulders heave with sobs, and eyes can’t see straight.
Daniel has always been there for me.
We have had seasons of normal life, of an 8-5 job, a regular pay roll.
And now we are surfing the waves of raising four lively little mini-me’s, that keep us both on our knees and laughing till our sides hurt. Daniel’s school and work schedule keep us both panting, drinking deeply of our morning coffee together and winking at the long study hours where I keep the little ones quiet downstairs, and he crams upstairs on our bed. We couldn’t do this forever, but it is a season, and we are okay with that.
Sometimes being in love means being willing to do without.
To let go of expectations and embrace the uniqueness of today. To embrace the fact that our marriage won’t look like anyone else’s. Like when I took the children and joined my mom and sisters on a trip to Texas to see my grandparents, knowing that my grandfather might never see the baby if I didn’t.
But it meant two weeks of being away from Daniel, of showing him the Alamo via FaceTime and blowing kisses as the moose face on the other side of the screen.
(iPhone cameras can be brutal to us long-nosed folks).
Or like the time when Daniel went to Togo to help out at a mission hospital and his life was forever changed. It’s about odd hours of phone calls with me wrapped on the couch in a blanket and him on the other side of the globe, swatting mosquitoes and telling me about the fascinating surgeries he got to see that day. Of him sprinting from the airport to see the Eiffel Tower on his layover in true Daniel style, and sending me pics saying, “Someday we will do this together.”
Sometimes true love is about being excited for the other one while I make sacrifices.
Early on in our relationship, Daniel and I had a conversation about gifts, flowers, and chocolate. We are both free spirits and feel suffocated by expectations of chocolates and roses on certain days. We laugh and thank the other one for NOT buying us stuffed teddy bears. I would much rather a bouquet of wildflowers on a random day when it was genuine, over the dutiful dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day. One year he nailed it with 750 tulip bulbs that we planted and got to enjoy for years to come instead of one bouquet on our anniversary.
Real love is demonstrated in the nitty-gritty of life. In the filling the gas tank for me and checking the oil on my car. True love is helping me make the bed each morning, without a word. It is in the remodeling an old house for me or throwing the frisbee with the nine-year-old. Sometimes it means staying cool and calm while picking me up from a pool of blood and taking good care of me while I recover like he did two weeks ago. Love bends and stretches and grows.
When love is freely given, it is most powerful.
When it stands the test of time and holds strong in the salty moments too that love is best illuminated.
And sometimes it means walking into the kitchen where I am washing dishes with a bouquet of red roses behind his back.
Like he did last night.
Today is about being loved, and loving in return.
You might not be married. Days like today can feel salty and raw.
You might be in a marriage that burns painful each day.
Bouquets of roses are just a slap in the face because they represent what could be.
You might have faced severe betrayal and struggle even to want to love again. To trust. Love might feel like a lie to you.
But the truth is, today you are loved.
You are treasured.
You are delighted in.
If not by a man, by your Creator.
Stop and listen, He is whispering words of hope and joy.
Today, you ARE loved.