The day that half the population runs from and the other half hopes will make their dreams come true. It’s a day wrought with expectation and disappointment.
All in an effort to say, “I love you.”
So what do you do when you’re the half of humanity that dreads this day more than the thought of a colonoscopy? Likewise, what do you do when you’re the other half that simply wants to know that you are loved above all others?
Join Matt and me, as we discuss some of our past Valentine’s day mishaps and what we’ve learned in 20-plus years that has helped us to love and honor one another despite our vast differences in approach to this holiday.
[Notice: This post does not appear in the same order as the release of the episode it goes with. Apparently, I forgot to attach this post. My apologies for any confusion. Also, the sound quality of this episode reflects how far we’ve come. – BJG]
With February right around the corner, it only makes sense to talk about football. Oops. I mean…love. Let’s talk about love, instead.
Specifically, how in the world do you know if you’ve finally found “The One”?
I mean sure, every time they walk into the room you feel your heart race and your face melt, but maybe that’s just the Taco Bell you ate for lunch.
And what if you decided that you DID find The One, but then four years into the marriage, you start to question your own judgment? They used to be The One, but are they still?
Let’s face it: love is weird.
Join us as for a Flashback to our second ever episode where we talk about what makes someone THE one. Coming from well over 20 years of being together through the highs and lows, we have some ideas that might help you decide if you’re ready to make the commitment of a lifetime or re-dedicate yourself to the commitment you already made.
“Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge
will become useless.
But love will last forever!
Three things will last forever –
faith, hope, and love-
and the greatest of these is love.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
I have fallen in love numerous times.
First, there was Chris, in the 2nd grade. He was a real cutie and helped me produce a play that I wrote about Martians visiting McDonald’s. It was a smashing success. Next came Steve. He was a toe-head. We played a lot of dodgeball and four-square during recess together. Then there was Bobby, Jason, Danny, Mike, JJ, Ben, Brad, Dean… you get the point.
I fell in love a lot.
If you’re new to this blog, you may not recognize that none of the above-mentioned names is that of my husband, Matt.
I fell in love with him, too.
It was all so accidental. It just seemed to happen, this constant falling in love. Some said I was boy-crazy. Maybe. Probably. But I never meant to be. I didn’t look for love, it just had a habit of whacking me upside the head and there I’d go, tripping and falling right into it.
It wasn’t until Matt came into my orbit that I began to understand that all those other times, maybe couldn’t be called love. Sure the feelings were intense and sometimes even lasted years, but there was a distinct difference that I could see nearly right away.
For the first time in my young life, I actually cared about another person as much, if not more, than I cared about myself. I wanted to see Matt succeed. I wanted to help him reach his goals and achieve his dreams. I wanted to be an active part of making his life better.
Granted, I was a dumb teenager who didn’t know how to go about any of that, so most of what I tried still had the stink of selfishness on it, but my intentions were (mostly) pure. I wasn’t only worried about how happy he could make me. I wanted to reciprocate and give back to him because I…I loved him.
My love for Matt was and continues to fail on a regular basis. I am often impatient. Sometimes I’m (gulp!) unkind. I am highly irritable. (Please tell me I’m not alone?) My love is 100% imperfect 100% of the time. I never get it right. If I even start to, I am quick to boast of how well I am loving and well….there ya go. It’s blown.
The fact is, in our broken humanity we will never get it right. Books have been written on the subjects of loving our spouse, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors, our church body, our communities, and even our enemies. We continue to seek The Solution as we strive to imperfectly love imperfect people. There isn’t one.
Or rather, there is, but it has nothing to do with what we’re capable of alone.
The Solution – what perfect love looks like – is Jesus Christ. He alone has fulfilled the very definition of love. He alone has the ability to love perfectly because He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and then defeated it.
He can love because He is love.
We can only hint at perfect love when we have Christ in us. Apart from Him, our ability to love is nothing more than a noisy windchime, being tossed about by the storms of life.
We have a God who loves us beyond all measure. How can we know that? Because He loved us so much, He sacrificed everything in order to be in a relationship with us. Look at John 3:16 with fresh eyes. Say it out loud slowly:
“For this is how God loved the world:
He gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16 (NLT)
That is perfect love. From a perfect God. And Jesus came to this earth to manifest that love in every tangible way.
Despite our best human efforts, we will never love anyone perfectly this side of Heaven. But with Christ in us, we can be emboldened to love freely, graciously, and extravagantly, in spite of those around us, not being swayed by our fickle emotions but standing firm in our choice to be obedient and answer the call to love God and love people.
“Life is full of little mercies like that, not big mercies but comfortable little mercies. And so we are able to keep on going.” – Alma Winemiller
Tennessee Williams; Summer and Smoke
We were sixteen years old when we met.
He was a transplant student, having arrived part way through our Junior year of high school. I was introduced to him along with a group of my friends, as we sat at our usual lunch table. Our theater teacher led him over and told us we had a new student in the drama program, would we please take him under our collective wing and welcome him into our group.
It wasn’t hard to do. He had shaggy blond hair, golden sun-kissed skin and dimples that melted my heart with his first smile.
Within that first year, we did a scene together from Tennessee Williams’ play, Summer and Smoke. He played the naughty little boy, John and I played Alma, the sweet minister’s daughter next door. (Our roles should have been reversed.) In that scene, we had our first kiss, a quick peck on the cheek.
Six years later, we walked down the aisle and promised to love, honor and cherish each other till death do us part. What easy words to say and mean when you’re caught in the throes of love and wonder.
Slightly harder when reality crashes in and you’re suddenly met with the very real fact that your life now includes caring for someone else’s needs more than your own on a daily basis. Oh, sure, you still mean what you said that hot June day, but actually living it out is harder than you’d imagined it would be.
And then one day, those vows get lost in the selfishness of your own desires and soon, the life you’d always imagined you’d build together begins to crack in a thousand different ways until you’re looking at nothing more than a pile of rubble.
When we sat across from each other 15 years into our marriage and decided that we were going to stay side by side and fight for what we’d built, we started with a very practical exercise.
We went back to the beginning.
What made me “me” and what made Matt “Matt”?
We shared stories of our childhoods. Going back to the earliest memories we could muster. We shared the first time we were let down by someone we loved, we shared the moment we first realized that Mom and Dad can’t always protect us from the bogeymen that walk among us. We talked about rejection and shame. We cried over the memories that scarred us, leaving us damaged, broken adults.
And what we realized in the space of a few hours was that, though we’d grown up in different places under different circumstances, we were really, pretty much the same little kid deep down inside.
We were both insatiably curious about anything and everything. We both loved a good story and had rich imaginations. We both felt really small and often unheard in a world full of giants.
Brandy, approx. 5 years old; circa 1978 Matt, approx. 4 years old, circa 1977
What we realized was simple: we were two adults that had been hurt in life as little kids (because let’s face it, we all get hurt in one way or another) and we had carried those hurts and fears into our adulthoods and ultimately, our marriage. Those places of childhood hurt had resulted in us each seeking different ways to fill or replace whatever we felt had been lacking.
It didn’t make us bad people. It just made us broken people.
Seeing each other through a new lens, that of a child has helped us to understand and appreciate each other more. We’re more patient and understanding than we used to be. We recognize more easily when the other is being reminded of a loss or hurt that reaches the depths of the subconscious. We’re gentler, kinder and more sympathetic.
We’re not perfect.
We still have our moments, but more often than not, when I look at Matt now, I don’t just see the adult version that stands before me, with a beard and a job and a mortgage to pay. I see a little 4-year-old, crouched in the barn, with a head full of dreams and a heart already feeling the effects of living in a broken and fallen world.
“Even in laughter the heart may be in pain. And the end of joy may be grief.” – Proverbs 14:13
Life is short, isn’t it?
Some days may slog on for eternity, but really, if you look back over your life, it’s gone pretty quickly. I remember when Prince was proclaiming we’re going to party like it’s 1999. And honestly, it just doesn’t seem that long ago.
But the fact is, our time here is brief. Maybe even briefer than we know.
In the past year, I have become acquainted with three separate families who have all had a child who’s been seriously injured in horrendous car accidents. These are good, Christian families with good, Christian kids. They weren’t drinking and driving. They weren’t doing anything “bad.” They were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time and life suddenly and irrevocably changed.
These young, bright, vivacious, healthy and active young people on the cusp of becoming independent have been brought to a place where they are fighting to relearn what they used to take for granted. And their parents are right there beside them, learning just how insignificant their efforts to protect their children have been.
I have watched these stories unfold as moms and dads are sharing the victories and the pain as they watch their children fight to live and then relearn how to walk. I hear their sorrow as they recall the bittersweet memories of their child on the basketball court, running and jumping with elegance and grace.
These are parents that never expected to be sitting up all night in their child’s hospital room, nurses and doctors speaking in hushed voices as the machines that are pumping life into their child hum and whir. They’re parents who, when their baby was taking their first uncertain steps, clinging to the coffee table, were making plans and sharing dreams about what their little lives would hold. They never imagined this is where they’d be 16 years later. Wondering, will my baby even live?
I spent yesterday in town running errands. Sometimes I really appreciate the time to do these simple chores on my own. I turn on a podcast or music, I pray, I people watch. It’s nice to have the time to just think.
But yesterday, my son, Evan wanted to join me. He’s 18, getting ready to venture out into life on his own before long and I was happy to have him by my side yesterday, not because I asked him for help, but because he just wanted to tag along. I figure I might as well take advantage of those moments while I can because they’re coming to an end.
We spent several hours in town, first in a local big-box store then on to get groceries. It truly wasn’t a remarkable trip except for this: the laughter that we shared.
We laughed so hard in Costco, as we sat stuck in an oversized lounge chair, sure that an employee was going to come and tell us to kindly remove ourselves from the store and never come back. We annoyed other customers who also wanted to take a seat in this, the comfiest of chairs, but we simply refused to move. We were having too much fun.
We laughed about everything. We talked about nothing. We shared a moment. That’s all it was.
My to-do list for the week is a mile long and seems to be growing by the hour. There was a part of me yesterday that really wanted to just blast through the errands and then move on to the work that’s piling up on my desk.
But then I remembered these parents whose lives are forever changed because they almost lost their child to a tragic event. And I remembered those parents I know whose children don’t even have the opportunity to relearn what once came so easily because their kids are gone. They don’t get to hear their voice or hug them close ever again.
And I embraced the moment to spend a few hours with this man-child of mine, who’s taller and stronger than me, but whom I will always and forever see as the little toddler just learning how to step out on his own. I cherished our time together to be silly, to laugh hard, to make memories and create inside jokes.
We don’t know what tomorrow or even the rest of today holds. We don’t know when our time is up when God will say, “It’s time to come home,” so we have to make the moments count.
Every chance, every day…. Be present. Say, “I love you.” Hug them hard.
Grief and pain are guaranteed. They may even be just around the corner. So hang on to the present and give thanks to the God who loves us in and through every storm life brings our way.