As the first-born, I have naturally known them the longest. Well...not counting all the people who knew them before me, but I hate to digress for the purpose of accuracy. Moving on...
I've known them for a brief (*cough*) 35 years. They've known each other for a scant 3 years more. I've watched and learned, listened and ruminated, and in the process I've learned what real love is.
I've learned what it means for lives to be joined for the better and for the worse. I've seen the heartbreak and the sweet moments of respite. I've been there when tempers got short and when humility won out. I know there are days that they stuck it out simply because it was a covenant they had made. I know there have been times laced with warm-fuzzies and tender kisses, too. And the beauty of all of it is that Dad and Mom chose God over self, commitment over ease.
And because they chose these things, they have bequeathed them to their children, all five of us. Such gifts are not lightly given; they are born out of sacrifice, out of choosing correctly day in and day out. Nor are they lightly taken. Two sisters gracefully married. My brother within days of marriage. My handicapped sister, perhaps more than the rest of us, has been blessed to have these lives ever present in hers. And I, single, have--more times than most unmarrieds--been able to share with married women what that lovely, messy bond we call marriage should look like--not because I've 'been there,' but because I have been present when it was lived, day in and day out. Each of their children are bearing forth fruit fertilized by their love and commitment.
There is a humorous story told in the family of a conversation between the two newlyweds. Mom, curled up in Dad's lap (as she would be so often over the years), asking, "Why do you love me?" A dangerous question, fraught with perils my father did not apparently sense. "Because I choose to," came his contented reply. The contentment was no longer a shared emotion...
But one of the great truths our parents passed on to us is that true love isn't about heart flutters, though those come sometimes and are lovely. True love is about choices that reinforce your original choice to commit yourself to the support, encouragement, exhortation, and pursuit of Christ-likeness of and for another. True love, as has been said before, is a verb.
At the time, my mother didn't appreciate the value of my father's statement, as no young newlywed bride would. But love that is chosen is far more powerful than love that is fallen into. For falling out of love is sure to happen, and then where will you be? But chosen love mirrors God's love for us: it sees warts, weaknesses, and all, and still chooses you. That's the kind of love that will sacrifice, will die to self, will die for you.
I could fill my blog daily with the lessons my parents have taught me and not exhaust them. But on this day, on their thirty-seventh wedding anniversary, I want to highlight this: The commitment you have continued in and the love you have shown bears fruit now to the third generation. Thank you for thrilling in the lovely times and for choosing in the tough ones. It mattered then and it matters now. What a beautiful example you are. Your lives will echo throughout all of eternity, to the praise of His glory.
With all my love,
P.S. Sibs, I'd love to hear from you on this.