I was 19 when I married Phil. Nineteen! Polished and responsible on the outside, idealistic and immature on the inside. Phil was my knight in shining armor, promising to sweep me into a happily-ever-after life of romance and passion, castles and crowns. For the rest of my days I would be loved, feel loved, overflow with loved-ness.
We would be different than my parents— or his. Or anyone else we knew for that matter. Fight? Argue? Bicker? Grow apart? Not a chance! We were better than that; we loved each other better than that. Our love would set a new precedent, we would be the ones to lead the way for others to follow.
Ha! My resolve lasted all the way till the first time he hurt my feelings. The moment he alluded to the idea that maybe I had some growing up to do.
The first time I didn’t quite measure up to his mom.
He never said those words. But I knew— I knew he was thinking it. Ruth Comer was gentle, submissive, hard working, kind. She cooked a delicious dinner every night—every single night— without fail. She never cried or sulked or argued or needed. Ever.
I, on the other hand, could hardly get a decent batch of food on the table. I cried at Hallmark commercials, at off-hand comments that sounded like criticisms, at things he said and things he didn’t say.
Lurking just beneath the surface of my try-hard-to-be-the-perfect-wife façade was a little girl who couldn’t quite measure up to her own ideals. No matter how hard I tried. I wanted to be better than I was, different, the Perfect Woman: productive, efficient, organized, logical.
At the tender age of nineteen I didn’t know I had hurts inside that needed healing. I didn’t know that my husband couldn’t fix my brokenness— that he wasn’t supposed to.
Somehow I thought his love would cure all that was wrong with me.
All I knew for sure was that I needed more love than he could give, and I assumed that meant we were doomed. Doomed to disappointment. Doomed to failure. Doomed to late night sessions trying to “resolve” hurts that didn’t make sense.
On a sure track towards everything I didn’t want my marriage to become.
What I didn’t know, couldn’t yet grasp, was the truth I know now. The truth that romance novels and movies and little girls’ dreams are not made of. The truth that has given us over 38 years of real love…
A love that lasts a lifetime involves two imperfect, flawed, deeply broken people finding all their voracious need for intimacy not in each other, but in the with-ness of God.
When both of us press in to God in such a way that we sense that He is present, He is working, redeeming all those broken pieces that create havoc on our insides.
When all that love and respect and satisfaction and romance we want from each other isn’t enough and we let go of expecting what our spouses will never be able to give us— that’s when true love grows and thrives and becomes something beautiful.
True love doesn’t fit neatly on the inside of a pink card. Real romance looks more like two people with gnarled hands and lined faces who’ve learned to receive love from the One who loves them like no other and then found ways to pour that love on each other.
And that kind of love lasts a lifetime.
From my heart,
P.S. As I write these words, Phil and I are on our way to Scotland. We’ll be teaching an Intentional: Raising Passionate Jesus Followers conference in Glasgow this weekend. On Sunday, Phil will be preaching on marriage at RE:Hope, Glasgow. Then we travel to the Lake District in England for a little romance, relaxation, and time to dream about the days ahead. I’ll also be sharing my story at a women’s event while we’re there in Windemere, England.
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