Time flies when your having fun. And, for the past nine years, I have been having lots of fun. Nine years ago, my wife and I said, “I do” thereby declaring our commitment to one another, come “hell or high water.” Through nine years we’ve experienced both “hell and high water”, yet together we remain!
It’s wild to think how quickly these nine years have gone by. It feels like yesterday we were walking down the aisle exiting the church for the first time sharing a name. Today, with children, a mortgage, and the stress of life, I see the woman I promised myself to, and the woman who looks back at me is more beautiful and wondrous than ever before. Getting to this point has been quite a journey.
Marriage is hard. You probably already know that. Marriages are ending all the time, some who have been married for decades, and those only married for a few years. Each time I hear of a marriage falling apart, my heart breaks. My heart breaks for those involved because such things can often be prevented. Throughout our nine years, all that “hell and high water” we’ve gone through created opportunities to make small compromises. Marriage has a way of either humbling one (thereby turning individuals after the image of Christ) or hardening someone (thereby turning individuals after the image of the devil). Those radically different destinations start out as a simple, small step off the path. Those small choices if not corrected turn out to change radically the destination of one’s journey.
Sadly, marriage today is seen not as a commitment, but a feeling. You “fall” in love, you marry, and when you “fall” out of love, you leave. You may not make nine years, or five (or less). What a sad reduction of a lifelong journey with your spouse! To make an eternal covenant into a passing visceral feeling is deplorable. There’s something far, far better than the feeling of “being in love.” The better thing is promising, come “hell or high water” to be love to your spouse. Nine years of marriage has begun teaching me what this looks like.
Let me share with you a quote by CS Lewis that speaks to this:
“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
― C.S. Lewis
Nine years ago, our engine of marriage was started by the explosion of “falling in love.” Now, the quieter love that enables us to keep our promise has kept our engine running (sometimes rougher than best). This quieter love has fostered not only a good marriage, but my deepest, most intimate friendship. Nine years has cultivated a marriage that less reflects the passing (pathetic) ideals of cultural marriage and more the relationship that has Christ and his church as the ideal, the relationship that shows what true love really is, love that acts for the better of the other, no matter what.
I wish I could say I’ve mastered such love in these past nine years, but lying right at the end of a calendar year is not a good way to finish. I don’t think I’ve graduated kindergarten. Praise God, however, that my journey with my wife, my chance at learning this type of love, will last my whole lifetime.
* Image from public domain