June 1, 2013, we became Mr and Mrs Isaac Stanley and had that first awkward kiss before a watching audience. It has now been over 2,000 days since I became Mrs Stanley, and I’m still not used to that name.
That sunny June day, almost four years after the first time we first met, we thought we loved each other. But in reality, it was essentially untested love. Sure, we had to work through some things before we got married, but that day when we publicly vowed to love each other, our love was really only in its infant stages, definitely still in the fuzzy-feeling and blushing stage of young love.
Fast-forward six years: we don’t write love notes to each other like we did when we were miles apart from each other; we don’t sit for hours on the couch, gazing into each others eyes like we did before we were married; we don’t bombard the other person’s phone with sappy love texts.
Thankfully, love is characterized by more than these things. In fact, despite the current absence of them, I would say we now love each other more than we did six years ago when we vowed before God and witnesses to love each other, come what may. Yes, with the passing of time, the particular dynamics of how love is expressed in our marriage has indeed changed, but I believe it has changed for something better, something more mature, something grounded in something deeper than love notes, whispered sweet-nothings, and a rush of emotion while holding each other’s hand.
As I look back on the last six years, I can see how time and God’s work in our lives has taught us a little bit more about what it means to love. Indeed, similar to how winter melts away and spring bursts forth from the ground, then summer’s heat warms the earth and even eventually cools into the crisp fall air, our marriage has transitioned from one season to the next:
There was the season as newly-weds where we learned how to live life together, adjusting to each other’s daily habits and idiosyncrasies.
There was the season of anticipation, tainted by sorrow and grief.
There was also the season of learning to lean hard into the ministries that God had placed before us.
There was the season of pregnancy, birth, and then a brand new little life outside of the womb, which then led into the season of parenting, filling our lives with so many new and exciting experiences: the first blowout, the first tooth, the first word, the first steps.
We’ve now been entrusted with the season of training and disciplining this Little One so that she might learn to walk according to God’s ways.
Finally, we’ve just recently entered a new season of ministry.
As we enter each new season, we’re learning that love continues to take on different forms. Often, it manifests itself most strongly in the seemingly little things of life, such as washing a counter-full of dishes, changing a blow-out diaper, or walking side by side as we push a stroller, enjoying the opportunity to be with each other.
But there are other, less concrete, ways that we’ve found love to manifests itself:
Love is shown in learning to be each other’s biggest fan, encouraging each other in dreams and interests instead of simply pursing our own.
Love is shown in learning to appreciate what the other person loves.
Love is shown in learning to serve together.
Love is shown in choosing to love because we have promised to love, even when we don’t feel like loving.
Love grows as we seek to love God more.
Love is made stronger in the stormy waves of life, not the glassy, calm sea.
Love is displayed when we recognize our mistakes and failures, forgiving each other.
Love is shown in learning to trust each other.
Yes, genuine love is hard and takes work; it constantly demands patience and sacrifice, over and over again. Such love can only happen because of God’s enabling grace in our lives.
Have we “arrived”? Definitely not.
Can we expect that one day, perhaps after we’ve been married another six years, we will have “arrived” and will love each other perfectly? Again, no.
Only God can love perfectly, for He is the author of love itself. He also holy, not having sin to taint His perfect love, unlike us who daily, minute by minute, have to deal with the constant struggle to be proud and selfish, seeking our own interests instead of the interests of the other person.
However, despite our sin and because of Christ’s work on the cross, we can be confident that He will continue to carry out and complete His work in us, making us more like Himself. It is in this then that we can have confidence that in the coming years of our marriage, He will accomplish His work in us, little by little increasing our love for Him and for each other.