It’s that week of paper hearts and too much red and not so great chocolate. People are scrambling to have that perfect date or maybe bemoaning that yet again, they’re without a plus one.
Us? We’re in two separate cities in what has become a temporary normal. But then ours is not an ordinary relationship. In the past four months, we have been together less than a total of three weeks. And truth be told, sometimes we almost forget our anniversary.
Yeah, I know, the stuff of dreamy love stories.
No, ours is not an ordinary relationship. But whoever wanted an ordinary love?
Him with his red hair and gift for storytelling was never what I expected. But oh gracious he is what I need. And maybe I didn’t really see that until after we said our “I Dos”? Because who really knows what you’re signing up for when you stand all dressed in white in front of 300 of your closest strangers?
Not us. No way.
If you had told me we’d move 17 times in one year, go on welfare and have to beg our way through friendships just to keep our head above water, I would have said no. If you had told me we would fight tooth and nail about things I can’t even remember, or that we would wound one another in ways no one else could, I would have cut and run.
We’re seven years mostly strong but let me tell you, there were times at the beginning I wondered if I had made the greatest mistake of my life.
And then there were the first two movies that almost split us wide apart and we had to fight and claw our way back to anything resembling a happy marriage. Because it’s a whole lot easier to sit in your hurts and busy yourself building that wall than it is to keep reaching out and opening that bruised heart of yours.
Yeah, ours has been hard at times.
But oh, it has also been side-splitting, tear-inducing, heart-burstingly beautiful. And maybe the sweetness is made the richer by having walked the dark valley hands in hand, holding on to one another as you grieve and let go, pressing in and forward.
What I want my little girls to get, and maybe a few grown ones too, is that all those movies and stories we read of blissful romance, dipped in sappy heart-songs and wrapped in a picture-perfect filter, they gloss over one foundation-making truth:
Great Love takes Great Work.
My Man, he married a mess and took on the greatest sculpting project of his life. How could he know he would have to be the tool the Carpenter Man would use to shape this hard and rough-hewn wife? How could he have known that I would rage some days and weep others, that I would be strong to the world and crumbling behind closed doors?
And how can I ever thank him enough for patiently enduring to help me become a bit more like my future glory-bright self?
Oh my girls, don’t aim for a perfect love or you’ll get your hearts broken every time. Aim for an imperfect man rooted in the Perfect Savior who makes all things new. Aim for a love that sharpens and refines you and leaves you humbled by it’s beautiful simplicity. Aim for a love that keeps you coming back every day to boldly choose “Yes, you,” in a world that screams, “No, me!”
Because ladies, there’s only One perfect love.
And unless that becomes your heart’s first love, any love after will get twisted, tainted and set up to fail before it even gets out of the gate. You’ll spend your whole life trying to turn a mere mortal into a Savior and girl, you certainly aren’t about to be saving anyone yourself.
Yeah, there’s no perfect love except the One, but maybe all the good and right ones whisper and strive towards reflecting that in a thousand small ways. It’s not the big shows but the daily monotonous routines and small acts of sacrifice that build towards that day when 70 years later you look back and realize you’ve lived what the songs and poets try to grasp.
My two greatest loves, that Carpenter Man and this Man on earth, they have been my hardest endeavors. And my greatest joys. They have loved me in my ugly, have seen the depths of my depraved soul and not shied away. They have faithfully walked every day alongside me, when there was nothing in me to deserve it.
That is a love worth celebrating.
And I pray for nothing less for you, dear reader.