We’ve spent over thirty Valentine’s together. Almost twenty-nine of those as a married couple. We’ve been together longer than we were apart. We’ve known each other since third grade, been friends since Junior High, and the best of friends since high school. But friendship shifted into something different, something deeper in our early twenties. And, as in all relationships, we’ve had our ups and downs, mountains and valleys, ins and outs, heartaches and heartbreaks. There have been trials, triumphs, temptations, and trustworthy devotions.
There have been times of disconnectedness and times of renewal. We have wept and laughed, held onto one another or stood stalwartly alone with a stubborn heart. We have both glared at one another or gazed lovingly into the other’s eyes. We have sometimes failed to heed the scripture to not let the sun go down upon our anger. We have slept side by side and held one another’s hands. We have sat apart in companionable silence or talked into the early morning hours. We have prayed for one another and prayed with one another. And through it all we have loved one another.
Oh, not always “felt” love for one another, but chosen it. We chose, many years ago, to join our journeys into a marriage of one. This journey has had loops and turns that rarely moved in a straight line. It is a journey of commitment along with a decision to serve one another.
There are moments in the day, when we are apart, that drift slowly into my soul, touching me lightly as a feather run softly against my cheek, interrupting the business of my day, distractingly claiming my attention, and then rooting itself to me as a feather embeds itself in hot tar-burning into my skin. These moments often arrive mid-afternoon, papers scattered before me waiting to be sorted so that they may find their home amongst others needed to be scanned or shredded or submitted for a judge’s signature. It is then that the feather claims my attention and the thought, no longer drifting lazily in my mind but claims its place-a place much older and stronger that the paperwork before me-Grady.
I think of him, desire to be in his presence; no words need be spoken, it is enough just knowing he is there and that I am with him-always safe, always protected, always loved, and comfortable, absolutely and completely comfortable.
There is much to be said for comfort at my age. And I know that the First Corinthians Thirteen love-true love-is the most comforting and wonderful place to be. It is a patient and kind love, never holding record of wrongs. It is not a raging fire-for raging fires suck all the oxygen from the room and consume everything in its path. That passionate raging fire thinks only of itself, takes, and offers nothing in return.
No, First Corinthians Thirteen love is a hearth fire-a fire that provides warmth and light to the household and those friends and family who gather there. It is a place at which meals are prepared and sustenance is made ready and shared. It is steady and constant, a fire that can be smoored and banked, never losing the life of the flame, even though visible flames may not be present at the moment.
The life of the hearth fire, however, can be stirred and thus, when fed, produce the passionate flames that give so much more that it takes. This fire requires care and tending, for to neglect it could mean death. Yet to allow this fire to burn without attention could reduce the fuel to ashes without spark or life. The life of the hearth fire ebbs and flows as the gentle tide-constant yet ever changing.
This is the love I have with Grady. It is a First Corinthians Thirteen love-a passionate beautiful fire at just the right moment, but most often a gently crackling fire-a hearth fire, smoored when needed, fed and cared for-a love, a fire, that gives so much more than it takes, not often seeking self, but offering self to the service of one another and others.
I’ve heard a song that says, “I want a love like Johnny and Junes.” I’m not even sure what they mean by that for they fell into a burning ring of fire that destroyed hearts and often took more than it gave. Well, I don’t want a love like Johnny and June’s! I want a love like ours-for it is here, in this love, that no matter where my body may dwell, my heart finds comfort and rest. It is here-In this First Corinthians Thirteen kind of love where I belong.
It is my home.
A dear friend and longtime pastor once wished us a well wishes for our anniversary. His words stand strong within my heart.
And though these words ring true, we must not now grow complacent, for the journey is not done. There are many more years left to serve one another, to serve others, and a myriad of opportunities remain to choose love, both for one another and for those who live outside our marriage. So, one day, as I close my eyes in sleep to awaken on the other side, I hope to hear my Father say, “Well done! Well done!”