The best love stories are those told at the end, not at the beginning.
Lately my daughter Harper is into “marrying”. She wants to know when Mama and I married. She imagines marrying some day. She talks about “kiss on da lips.” The other night she told me she will marry the prince at her birthday party and they will dance. She then twirled on the steps of our house and I just knew I would remember this moment when she is heading off to Prom one day or when she gets married. From our youngest days as humans we’re fascinated by love stories.
On Saturday night I officiated a wedding at Bethany. Hundred of people came dressed up in their finest. The sanctuary was decorated gorgeously. Candles shone. After the magical wedding, a limo whisked the couple down to the Fairmont Hotel for a gala celebration. Thousands of dollars were spent. Hundreds of hours were spent in preparation. And it was fantastic…but all for a 45 minute ceremony. Ironically, we spend months or years preparing for a wedding, when it’s really the marriage we should focus on. The wedding is not the thing. This is just day 1 of a journey of thousands of days. And really, the best love stories are told at the end, rather than at the beginning. We’ve grown skeptical of people’s promise to love, we want to hear about the couple that actually did it. That couple that made it through 50 years of highs and lows and that left a legacy of love by their actual example. These are the best love stories.
Ever wondered why Disney stories typically end after the adventure and courtship of dating? The book du jour my 2 year has me read to her lately is a princess book and it ends with a princess and prince running down the steps of a castle after the wedding. Trivia question: name the Disney movies that actually show married people? You could list “Up” (although the wife dies), “the Incredibles”, are there others? All I know is you’ll not find married people in a princess movie. “Little Mermaid”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderalla”, “Snow White”- these all end at “happily ever after”, as if a kiss and a promise will ensure smooth sailing. And yet, trouble arises. Tim Keller of Redeemer Pres. in NYC wrote this amazing article about marriage- “We never marry the right person.” Keller writes, “The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of the transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.” His point? Marriage is difficult. Marriage is beautiful. We’re called to the struggle.
Here’s what I’m learning slowly after 13 years with Heather. I love my wife. I love her more now than when I first met her when I was 21 years old. I love her more now than when I proposed by the waterfall in Spokane when I was 22. I love her more now than at the birth of our first child after a delirious 25 hours of labor. I love her now more than when we held each other tight after our son Fisher had died at 9 months in utero and Heather delivered him through the night only to say goodbye. These are highlights…these are days…these are points in the journey. The call to marriage is a lifetime of average days…of good and bad…happy and sad. People throw around the phrase “marriage takes work” and though I agree, I think what people mean is marriage takes patience. And marriage takes commitment. And mostly, marriage takes grace. For grace is the best term of being accepted and loved even when you don’t deserve it. Even on your bad days.
May grace reign in your home as you step into the Christmas season. If you are married, may grace for your partner dominate your life. And if you are unmarried, may you feel Christ’s grace in a new way this Christmas season. We celebrate at Christmas the very arrival of grace. God looked down and sent His son Jesus because humans just couldn’t get it right without God’s presence here on earth and in our hearts. God saw that we needed a new way. May your life mirror this grace and may your relationships thrive because you are able to extend this same grace towards all who you love.