When I was just twenty-years-old, God lit the flame. I stood in the kitchen with my mom, probably doing something mundane like cleaning up after dinner, and divulged – I know who I want to marry. Perhaps she thought I was too young; but then again, she pledged her heart to a lifelong love (44 years until my dad died) at the tender age of eighteen.
Even though little prospect of reciprocation existed, nevertheless, I knew. Of course, he was tall and handsome, bright, and best of all, fiercely in love with Jesus. We’d been friends for several years, even went on a date, then dated other people. We talked and laughed whenever we crossed paths on campus and played in the same circle of friends. But that was it. No romance for us.
Still, on the day I told my mom, I knew – this is a flame that will burn for the long haul.
Not long after, something shifted; and wonder of wonders, we were finally meeting in the same space. One date led to another, to another, to knowing we would marry, and then to falling in love. It’s out of order, but we knew the destination even as we explored all the nooks and crannies along the way and took our time falling in love.
One-and-a-half years later, we woke to an impossibly gorgeous spring day. Blizzards often roar through Colorado in April, and indeed it snowed a couple days before and the very next day. But April 17 dawned a brilliant gift from God. We said our vows outside at sunset, near the mountains we love; and every ray of sinking sun felt like God’s fire. We set each other’s love like a seal over our hearts.
In some ways we are like the best of country songs – boy meets girl, and they ride off into the sunset happily ever after. But in most ways, we are like the complicated plot of a bestseller novel. We stepped into the years and encountered unexpected tragedies – deaths and illnesses of loved ones, forced separation on different continents for 7.5 months during our daughter’s adoption from Kenya, not to mention misunderstandings and seasons of distance. But through it all, we’ve kept a tight grip on each other’s hands and hearts. We’re not letting go. The years ground and and filed at the sparkling edges of new love and now expose a golden heartwood – commitment that refuses to give way, come what may.
Twenty-five years later, I tell my young friends searching for their life partners: it isn’t about finding the perfect person, forming the perfect relationship. Perfection isn’t what seals the heart. No, it’s about seeing another person as they were designed by God to be and refusing to yield that vision, no matter the forces that rage against it. Most of all, when the person you love forgets. However warped and deformed the image may become in any particular season, you hold onto it with all your might. Two imperfect people pressing on towards a perfect God, weaving a chord of three stands that can never be broken, a shelter for the generations. A shelter for those who desperately long for a parable of God’s relentless love.
We pause on this 25-year mountaintop to look back, reflect and give thanks, to celebrate. Then we grasp hands again and start walking down into the ravine. Towards hell or high water.
We’re in this together, lit by His grace, still becoming the very flame of the Lord.
“Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the Lord.
“Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised.”
Song of Songs 8:6-7