Jere and I were learning about love, romantic love, in the era of Love Story, the novel-made-movie by Erich Segal. Remember that one? Love means never having to say you’re sorry?
So many of us bought that idea, tucked it away in our minds and hearts, and then when we got into our relationships and marriages we were shocked to discover it wasn’t that easy. We struggled…many of us decided that if we did have to say sorry, or our partner needed us to say sorry, then the relationship must just not be right, right?
We believed that somehow love, no, L O V E , was only real and valid and sustainable if it just – worked – . Not having to say sorry.
We don’t believe that anymore.
Today, after 30 years of marriage, Jere and I have a love that is incredibly connected and passionate and real. Our souls are knit into one: my heart is pierced when he hurts and he feels joy in my discoveries. We share a heartbeat and a oneness that is tangible, yet we are growing in our encouragement of our individual pursuits. We really live in abundance: as our relationship thrives and grows, so do we personally. It is crazy how crazy-good love can be…
Not so much before though: the first 27 years were spent with us each vying hard for our individuality. Making sure the other didn’t get the better of things. Jockeying in words and money and deeds to take care of ourselves, and contribute to the whole – as long as the whole was giving benefits back. We heard of sacrificial love, and we both paid lip service to that – our sacrifices might be not buying a new dress so I could get the kids fabulous holiday outfits, or giving up one fishing trip so he could go on a week-long fishing trip to Venezuela…always calculated for what we got in payment for the sacrifice.
We looked so good on the outside, shiny smiles and darling kiddos. We had great jobs and invested in the community and church and school and looked like we had it all. But secretly, we were so broken. Thinking there had to be more and finding ways to fill the holes in our lives…me, with community engagements and Bible studies and food. Him, with hunting and fishing and alcohol and women. Now, we both know that we both wished it was different, that we wanted to really be what we looked like as a couple, and as a family, but we never quite told each other. We went to marriage counseling a few times during extreme crisis moments, and would have flashes of hoping it would be better but –ultimately, we went back to our corners of quiet despair and just kept getting up every day and doing what we needed to do and wishing it would – it could – change.
Until 3 years ago, when the brave “Sid Breeze” chose to write an anonymous email that uncovered the chip in our closely-held covering. The chip that was a fissure that was a gaping, raggedy crack that really severed us completely. There we were. Him there. Me here. And just a wad of ugliness and lies and self-interest and protection and reaction and pain between us. We could have walked away, and done as we’d done so well to that point with our pretensions and masks. We could’ve turned our backs and headed in opposite directions, making it official, and delved into new people and places and experiences.
Except that is when we learned what love is. What is really is.
What a day to be writing these words. The day that our faith is rocked by the greatest love story of all. The day when the Truth of love is revealed as our Savior chose to walk directly and totally and completely into our filth, to take it on and wrap it around himself. To have it whipped and flogged into his very flesh, and to have it pressed into his head. To have it screamed at him in mockery and threats and anger. To have it nailed through his bones. To have it pierced through his side. He didn’t turn his back and head away – he turned TO our mess and dove in as blood and sweat and tears dripped down his nakedness. As He cried out to the Father on behalf of the very ones who had placed Him there.
So I, so we, could be free. Free to be loved. Free to love.
As Jere and I began to survey the wreckage that was our lives, the pain that had been heaped on us, and the pain we had flung, we saw Christ. We saw Him in the garden, asking and begging for the cup of the Covenant to be taken…but no…He chose to continue what he’d started. And it was this pivotal moment of our despair in which we saw, with incredible clarity, what love really is.
Love doesn’t mean saying you’re sorry…once. It does mean hearing His words on our behalf: Father, forgive them…Through our healing, we have learned more and more and more ways to feel sorrow for things done to us and by us. And to feel each other’s hurt, and to soothe each other’s wounds. Our lives are now wrapped in understanding the beauty of our pain, the path through sorrow to freedom and the enveloping love of surrender – to our Savior, and to our marriage covenant that is Jere, me and God. Our love, this love, was birthed, and grows, through walking directly into the scary places with vulnerability and transparency. He led us there – to where and what love really is.
“And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)