34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35 The Message)
A few nights before my wedding, some friends and I gathered together and spent a few hours gluing hundreds of tiny pieces of paper to hundreds of Hershey’s kisses. They were little party favors placed at each table. Printed on the tiny pieces of paper were quotes about love. Everyone had a different one. I had so much fun finding all those quotes. There were thought provoking quotes like one of my favorites from Toni Morrison when she said, “I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.” There were cute ones like the one I chose from Winnie the Pooh which said, “It isn’t much good having anything exciting like floods if you can’t share them with someone.” There were words from poets – Oscar Wilde who said, “who, being loved, is poor?” and great leaders – Winston Churchill’s words to his wife when he wrote to her, “my greatest good fortune in a life of brilliant experiences has been to find you, and to lead my life with you.”
As I found these quotes and typed them up and then cut them into tiny slips of paper before my friends came over with hot glue guns in hand, it was a blessing to think about those words. To think about reflections of love – some romantic, some cute, some bittersweet, some courageous – and to think about the love I had come to know in my own life.
Chad and I weren’t engaged very long. It was the end of April when he asked me to marry him as we sat at my kitchen table one evening. And we decided we’d get married at the end of July. My memories of the days and weeks before my wedding are some of my favorite. That summer it seemed like the weather was always perfect, every meal was the best meal, every song that came on the radio was one of my favorites, everything was happy and good. I knew I was living in the first bloom of love and I knew that love has many seasons…so I was going to just enjoy every minute of those quick days.
We are fifteen and a half years, two children, and thousands of miles from that place and that summer now…and while I’m thankful for those first weeks and months of love’s first bloom, I’m much more thankful for the time that has passed since then. The sharing of life. In my memory it is a slide show of small and big moments: loading a moving van in New York, buying our first house, seeing our boys being placed in Chad’s arms after they were born, standing by the graves of Chad’s parents and then my parents, loading a moving van again and seeing the mountains disappear in the rear view mirror and our arriving at our new home here. The seasons of our lives and the lives of the people we love unfolding all around us.
But that is how it is, isn’t it? Love. Some bits of it are about the romantic quotes, the sweet kisses, love’s first breathless bloom. But true love is something different. True love is what remains after the first bloom fades. True love is the companionship through good times and bad. True love is steady. True love is built over a lifetime, only really recognized through shared experience and achieving shared goals and continuing to choose each other. Continuing to care about the other’s cares. Continuing to listen to stories you’ve heard before. Continuing to keep building onto the village you’ve begun rather than leaving to start a new one. I think C.S. Lewis said it best, he said, “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing…Love…is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habits reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God…On this love the engine of marriage is run; being in love was the explosion that started it.”