This piece was originally written for a friend who posted it in installments on her facebook page as a part of a month-long challenge to “Step It Up” in relationships. Today, in part because I am swamped by life after a week-long migraine experience (more on that later) and in part because I just wanted to share, here’s the story of how my husband and I met:
My husband and I did not fall in love and get married; we married and then began to love.
It’s true. There’s a long, ugly story about why we met, but suffice to say that when we met, I was nothing more than emotional wreckage floating about in trackless seas of sleep deprivation. I was also not yet a follower of Jesus Christ and was a young woman with no solid ground beneath her feet, friendless and new to the city I was in.
When did I know that he was the one? On the day the pregnancy test showed unmistakably positive and the consequence of my careless and causal attitude about sex came crashing in on me – that’s when I knew.
Among the scariest moments of my life were the five or so minutes between seeing the positive test result and informing C. that he had fathered a child. Having only known him for four short weeks, I did not know how he would respond and I fully expected the words, “I’m pregnant,” to be among the last I spoke to him.
By the grace of a God I did not yet acknowledge, this man also felt an incredible weight of responsibility to the life we had begun, and so our beginning was not remarkable for romance. Even the reasons behind the act that lead to pregnancy were not romantic but merely thoughtless and rash. Yet there we were, two people inextricably bound by our duty to a human being we had yet to meet.
Neither of us felt able to walk away and charge the bill of our choices to the account of this tiny, yet-to-be-named person. Although we did not legally marry until our son was a toddler, from that time on, we were married in all other senses. We made a commitment and it was sealed in the flesh of an embryo carrying a portion of each of our DNA in his swiftly growing body.
As for love, at first love was very much an action verb – something we did, not something we felt. I’m not only talking about the physical expression of love (which the fact of pregnancy made obvious), but about our daily behaviors. During this time, love was merely a choice; something we acted on not because of but rather despite our feelings.
Through a process of dying to our dreams and taking up the mantle of responsibility and necessity, God got both of our attention. One by one, we both repented of our sin and trusted in Christ for salvation, and salvation gave meaning and reason to our action-verb love.
Through tiring years of learning to be a family and of three almost back-to-back babies, we learned some important lessons about choosing to love. We learned to love intentionally no matter how we felt and to make time for each other no matter what. We learned to listen when the other talked, to bring our worries or our hurt to the table in a way that was respectful and did not set off an argument. We learned how to speak gently and in a way that was not inflammatory or accusing. We built a life on the practical elements of love.
Over fifteen years have passed since the night I held that pregnancy test and watched as the consequences of my irresponsible lifestyle were summed up in two distinct blue lines. We have three wonderful kids ages 12 to 15. Blessedly, both of our emotions have healed and caught up with our actions and I can say that I am now truly in love with my husband.
Would I trade all the practicality and drudgery of the last 15 years for a wild, romantic adventure? Not a chance.
You see, we are in this thing for the long haul, and those early lessons in actively loving despite a lack of the emotional equivalent laid a foundation for true love that is as beautiful as it is practical.
There is no magic formula for genuine love, just as there is no magic pill for physical fitness. Both love and fitness involve hard work and sacrifice. True and lasting love also requires a healthy portion of putting the other person’s needs above your own, just as Philippians 2:3 commands.
Just like perseverance in working out, perseverance in love can be challenging. You will not always feel like hitting the gym, just as you will not always feel “in love” with your spouse. However, the rewards of sticking it out and seeing it through in both cases are well worth every ounce of hardship and sacrifice. For my part, by the grace of God, I look forward to growing old with the man who is my husband and my very best friend.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.