You know that scene from the last part of Pride and Prejudice where Keira Knightly is walking through the misty meadow and suddenly, there he is. Mr. Darcy. The macaroni to her cheese. Their eyes meet. Her heart stops beating. And they passionately embrace each other in true love’s first kiss. To women all over world, this is the very definition of love, packaged up nicely for us by romance novelists and Hollywood. But it’s not God’s definition, and we’re seeing the consequences of a culture that’s built their marriages on a foundation of feelings.
When you’re in the wedding planning stage everyone you know suddenly becomes a marriage expert, offering you an array of good, bad, or indifferent advice. Since I was in High School at the time, most of the advice I received came in some form of the question, “Are you crazy?” But the best nugget of wisdom I received came from my music teacher, who was also our wedding photographer. He pulled me aside one day and told me this:
“I don’t get to tell my bridal clients this because they are customers, but because I am your teacher I am going to tell you. All I hear you talking about is the details of the wedding, when you should focus on the marriage. The wedding isn’t the important part, the marriage is, and people just don’t get that. I see a lot of elaborate weddings who’s marriages don’t make it because they don’t get that.”
Thanks to that moment, I knew on my wedding day that even if I spilled grape juice on my dress just before walking down the isle, the candles set the drapes on fire, and if someone’s baby kept crying in the background, it would still be perfect. Because marriage has nothing to do with all that stuff. It wasn’t a fairy tale. It wasn’t a scene from a movie. It was two people saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord and making a covenant to pursue His will for their lives together, with Him. That philosophy has been the foundation on which we’ve built our marriage, and the anchor that we’ve held on to during the most tumultuous seasons.
With a 55% divorce rate in America we’ve got a marriage crisis on our hands, and I believe the way we see love itself plays a big role in that. The typical western-world story is to meet, fall in ‘feet-sweeping-off-the-ground feeling’, decide to get married, then spend the rest of their lives fighting to maintain that feeling. And when the seasons come when it’s not there, you think “I’ve fallen out of love with this person.” And the obvious solution is just to scrap that marriage and start a new one, or live the remainder of your years unhappy.
God defines real love for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
This is the kind of love you grow into during your marriage. Understanding the distinction between falling in ‘love’ and growing in love, can make all difference in the world. You fall into a hole. And you can climb out of one as well. But nothing can un-grow. Married couples that grow in this kind of commitment-based love have deeper, fuller, richer marriages than those that don’t. They understand that feelings are not equal to truth, but loving each other the 1 Cor. 13 way, the way Christ loves us, gives us an experience that transcends anything that Hollywood or Jane Austin could ever create.
My husband and I are coming up on 10 years of marriage, and in that time we’ve walked through pregnancy, babies, poverty, business ventures, failures, re-location, ministry, loss of family, loss of sanity, times of joy, times of sorrow, church-planting, home ownership, homelessness, you name it. Some days are filled with mushy-gushy spark, and others, well, just aren’t. But through it all, Donnie loves me this way:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25
and there’s no one else in this world I’d want to walk through those days with than my best friend. His car pulling up in the driveway brings a smile to my face every day. Sometimes I just look at him and am overwhelmed with gratitude, for God’s choice for me. Love is commitment. Love is sacrifice. Love is patience. It isn’t always glamorous, but it’s always worth it.