Romeo and Juliet. Beauty and the Beast. Tarzan and Jane. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Westley and Buttercup. Noah and Allie. We all want our love story to be the stuff of legends and fairy tales. We crave the dramatic romantic gesture, the happily ever after. We want the love that lasts “til death do us part.”
In a culture that idolizes true love and soul mates, but devalues marriage and responsibility, many end up jaded and cynical. Hearts get broken, and the rose colored glasses of infatuation fall off. Families fall apart, and so do hopes and dreams. The very security and longevity we crave to find in romance cannot be found apart from the deep and lasting commitment of marriage.
A year ago today, Michael and I entered into that deep and lasting commitment. We added our names to the list of lovers who have vowed to love, come what may. Some say that the first year is the hardest. Others say that it’s the “honeymoon stage.” I have found it to be somewhere in the middle. There have been times of special connection and deep sentiment. But there have also been times when it has been hard. Our love isn’t perfect. It is a knitting together of two imperfect people.
It’s not perfect because I’m not perfect.
With so many marriages ending in divorce, the culture we live in makes it easy to believe that love stories that last are somehow unique. They are viewed as having some kind of special something extra. But while each love story is unique because it is comprised of two unique individuals, the feeling and the commitment are not. People have been marrying and giving in marriage for all of the ages. So our love story may not be one for the record books or even the story books. But it doesn’t have to be, for it to be beautiful.
Our romance is not the love story to end all love stories. That story has already been told.
It has been told in the story of the One who loved a Bride who repeatedly rejected Him. It is the One who sacrificed His life for this same Bride, while she was still whoring after others she thought could please her better. This same Bridegroom rescued His Bride from the filth of her disgrace and clothed her with His strength and dignity. It is a story of sacrifice and redemption which has no rival. It is the mystery of unmerited favor that gives worth and makes it’s object beautiful. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32).
The beauty and value of marriage are not found in their uniqueness, but in their conformity, not to a fairy tale ideal or a tragic passion, but to the sacrifice and faithfulness of that greatest love story.
So while our love story may not be perfect, our marriage does not bear the weight of convincing anyone that marriage is good and worthwhile and beautiful. Marriage is inherently those things. It has been those things since the beginning, when God brought man and woman together and declared it “very good.” And in our fallenness, it becomes good as it reflects the image of Christ and His Bride more clearly. Our love story is beautiful when it mirrors the ultimate love story.
That is why I can say with freedom that my marriage to Michael isn’t perfect, or a happily ever after. But oh, it is beautiful, and it is good. It is a joy to know and be known. It is a delight to walk through life with a Godly man who teaches me daily what sacrifice and service are, and challenges me to grow in these things. It is a pleasure to have a partner in rejoicing and in mourning, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband, and I love him more deeply than I can say.
That is also why I can say with assurance only one short year into marriage that ours will last. Our emotions may not always be tender and sentimental towards each other, and we may not always feel the same bliss we felt a year ago when we vowed to love “until death do us part.” But we have a Savior who is molding us and our marriage into the image of Himself.
“Not all of us can fully face up to all the details of the possibilities at the time we make these staggering promises. We make them in faith. Faith that the God who ordained that a man and woman should cleave together for a lifetime is the God who alone can make such faithful cleaving possible…. The underlying principle of love is self-giving.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Marriage can be extremely joyful. But it isn’t a happy ending. It’s a sometimes happy, sometimes difficult in-the-meantime that is an instrument God uses to prepare us both for the real happily ever after, when we are united with Him. Thank you, Michael, for a first year full of faithfulness and self-giving. Our love is not yet as deep or as Christ-like as it will be. There is room for growing together toward a clearer reflection of Christ and His Church as long as we both shall live. But our love is deep and founded on unshakeable commitment. And, by the grace of God, our love is becoming what it ought to be.