In honor of Valentine’s Day
“Love is a decision…”
James and I first heard these words from a priest about five years after we were married. It was a bit of a paradigm shift. Even in the pre-marriage class we attended, we could not remember hearing that concept. I mean, who needed to “decide” to love? You just did. Or were. Or whatever.
In the early years of our married life, we still relied on good “old-fashioned love”. We figured that is what would sustain us through inevitable hard times. And good times, too. Our passionate hearts would trump our rational brains and love would always be there; always reliable. But by the time we heard those words, like most married couples, the honeymoon had passed, and the reality of three children (there would be more), a mortgage, and the everyday stresses of life had taken its place. At this point the decision to love seemed like an idea worth exploring.
The decision to love doesn’t rely on feelings. Feelings can come and go with our moods and the circumstances of our life. If love was based on those emotions, where would we be when the warm-fuzzies disappeared? When the little annoyances became bigger annoyances? When tragedy struck? Instead, love relies on the commitment that we make to each other. We can know that even when things are tough, we have made a decision to love. Regardless of conflict, difficulties, hardship (we can be assured of those).
We celebrated our anniversary this week. 25 years. Nine children. The decision to love has been an important one. Through thick and thin. Through sickness and health. Through good times and bad. “Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly… love is life’s greatest blessing,” said Sister Catherine Wybourne, a Benedictine nun. How true.
Often love is as easy as taking a breath. We barely think about it. It is so natural. Other times it is hard. We have to dig deep. We have to remember the decision. Over time, love becomes the foundation on which the story of our life is built. Sometimes we recognize the building blocks as they are placed. But most of the time the structure is built outside of our awareness. Day after day after day.
The Bible tells us that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13). As I think about my marriage, I know these scriptural words are true. Yet I know, too, that they require a decision. For us, the decision to love demands Divine Help. It requires trust…not just in each other, but more (much more, in fact) in God.
Last week we were in Florida for a quick getaway to celebrate our anniversary. While running on the beach early one morning, I saw a sweet, elderly couple walking along. They were moving slowly, looking down at the shells. As I approached from behind, I slowed to a walk. They weren’t talking. Just walking. I followed behind for just a few minutes, wondering about their story. What was written in the pages of their book?
I started to head back towards the hotel, still thinking about the old couple on the beach. Just as when you near the end of a good book and slow down the reading of it to savor the story, I wondered, was this couple savoring the final chapters of their story?
I believe that much of our story is yet to be written.
I began to run again… Suddenly feeling blessed.
“My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee , The more I have, for both are infinite.” William Shakespeare