Love is not always a feeling; sometimes it is a choice….that statement just about sums up our 28 years of marriage. We do not have a happily ever after story… we have an ever after story. After your world falls apart. After your lives are forever altered. After trials and traumas so numerous it seems they never end. When I am asked how we have survived I say, “Love is a choice. It is not for the faint of heart.”
Yet, in the midst of the choice of love during the hard times it becomes real. It becomes deep. It becomes a sacred sacrifice. Sleeping beside a hospital bed creates a bond. Feeding your spouse because he/she cannot feed him/herself develops compassion. Teaching your spouse to walk, changing bandages, navigating wheelchairs and walkers…all of that caregiving changes your relationship. You hold hands during the pain. You wipe one another’s tears. You see the fears in the eyes of your beloved, and you reach out to ease them. Holding one another becomes about more than sex. A kiss means I am here…I am with you. I will not leave. A hug is a shared burden and a lightened load. In difficult circumstances, every smile is a celebration of love.
The most amazing thing about facing hardship together is the knowing that comes along with it. I am known. Truly. Deeply. So is he. All my insecurities, my weaknesses, all my baggage…every bit is known and yet, he loves me still. I see his shortcomings and struggles, and yet he is my beloved. There is no question. We belong to one another. This bond is like metals in a fire. They start out separate lumps, and as the heat intensifies they melt into one another. Soon you cannot tell where one begins and the other ends. They are liquefied in the red hot of the heat. The impurities rise to the top and are scraped away. The differing metals change composition and create an entirely new substance, which once it is cooled cannot be separated. The fire can heat up again and again and the only change will be the dross will be removed. Is this a fun process? No. It is painful in every way. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
In the crucible an abiding relationship forms. A dependence on God is a necessity for survival. A cord of three is not easily broken. The pain, the brokenness… all of it serves a purpose. The most amazing thing is that joy, and peace can be found there. It sounds crazy, but it is true. Side by side, step by step, hardship after hardship…joy comes. Peace like a river overflows. Compassion grows. Kindness is born. Encouragement of each other flourishes. It is beautiful. One of my favorite things about Bill is his complete support of me. He is my biggest fan in whatever crazy thing I am attempting. It is a precious thing to know there is someone who has your back…always. A treasure…like gold.
This is not to say we cease to have issues. Hahaha. Nope we still argue, and nag, and pick at one another…we are human after all. But those difficulties don’t really compare to the big stuff we have weathered. Underneath our petty bickering is a foundation of love that is solid. When I look at happily ever afters, I think they are over-rated because happiness is conditional…situational. It is a feeling that is not always present…in a marriage, in a family, in a job, in life as a whole…happiness comes and goes. Deep love on the other hand is produced through the fire and it comes out much better than simple happiness. It lasts…ever after.