Marriage has rarely looked the way I saw it on that screen back in 1995.
I was seventeen and trying to figure out love.
Trying to know just what it looked like, if it was healthy, how it should feel. And what I saw through the window of the world nearly twenty years ago had gotten me all wrapped up in none other than self.
I left for church in a fluster this past Sunday.
I had tried to sneak out the front door without any explanation, but the Cowboy knows me better than that, and he stopped me in my stone cold tracks... asked what was bothering me.
I spilled out a whole flurry of words, totally sure (now anyways) that I didn't even mean a single one of them.
Him sick with some sort of stomach bug and me tired beyond repair we stood there in the kitchen. My mind managed to recall little annoyances from all our years together and my mouth just flowed like river, a rush of things that were hardly the real issue just falling out all over the floor.
Then I left.
The moment hardly looked like the constant tender touch that I want our love to be... far from the picture of continual bliss that I picked up as expectation from those romantic comedies I used to watch back in those teen years.
The whole ride to church I thought above love. Thought about how my attitude and my words can and do so often cause a schism between me and the ones that I love most.
Thought about Christ and how He said He loved me. His is a love stained blood red, stung right down to the bone with rusty old nails, topped with a piercing crown of thorns.
Thought about how His love cost. Not at a small price, but in His laying down of everything... everything.
When I walked in the door after church and tried to slip quietly into just doing the dishes, The Cowboy came up behind me and laid that man-hand that I love on my still-prideful shoulder.
I knew I needed to let down that pride of mine, but how? It never ceases to amaze me how even the tiniest bit of willingness, can open the floodgates to freedom.
The Cowboy and I, we say it to one another almost simultaneously... "I'm sorry."
Humility... it stings quick, but it heals deep. I think the world forgot to tell me that humility would grow deep roots in my marriage.
The afternoon comes and our first born and I take a walk down the long, dirt, back road near our home. He rides his bike and I walk alone in thought and in a trail of his dust.
"Love is patient, love is kind..."
It comes to me as my boy and I travel down that dirt road.
And I can't remember it all while I'm walking so after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, I crawl up under the covers in our room and I open The Book, and that's when I see it.
See, how love is nearly always an action, and rarely ever a feeling. But this world and my heart, we're trained to find love in the feeling. And if the feeling's not there, we often give ourselves permission to run the other way.
But love, His love, calls us to rest in what we know to be true, and not in what we feel.
I should have known when I read that very first line...
'Love is patient.'
The root is "patir," a word that actually means "to suffer."
Who would have thought that the very first word used to describe real, God-love, is the word that means suffering. Or maybe it's no surprise at all when we think of Christ and His love...
"Love will endure a long time. It is the heart shown in God, when it is said of the Lord, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If God’s love is in us, we will be longsuffering to those who annoy us and hurt us."
And then He goes on into more action words...
"Love is kind,
It is NOT,
It does NOT
demand it's own way.
It is NOT irritable,
It keeps NO record of being wronged."
This list that He gives... it's so rich.
It's deep enough to take us through a life-time. And in so many ways it is so contrary to what I sometimes feel.
Love is a choice. Always a choice.
It's a choice to choose others above self.
'Love is never satisfied but in the welfare, comfort, and salvation of all. That man is no Christian who is solicitous for his own happiness alone; and cares not how the world goes, so that himself be comfortable.'
It's a choice to not be irritable.
'When the man who possesses this love gives way to provocation, he loses the balance of his soul, and grieves the Spirit of God. . . surely if he get embittered against his neighbour, he does not love him as himself.'
It's a choice to keep no record of wrong.
'Literally, this means “love does not store up the memory of any wrong it has received.” Love will put away the hurts of the past instead of clinging to them.'
It had been a long day.
I did not choose love in moments of that day.
But that's the gift in marriage.
The Cowboy and I, our marriage...
It's this incredibly beautiful masterpiece of time and grace and hope... all mixed in with the pain and sting of the refining. Because it's in the refining that the richness, the depth, of our relationship, can begin to overflow and splash out true, Christ-love onto those around us. It's in the refining that we can begin to shine for His glory.
I drift off with The Book still open on my lap and the Cowboy slips in and kisses my forehead soft. He turns off the light and closes the door.
The etching is often times painful.
But on a Sunday in late November,
Love grew a little and etched itself, humble, solid, and forever, up under the very One who call Himself Love.