It was the laugh that made me turn to look. His head was thrown back, his long blonde hair curling in every wild direction, eyes shut and mouth wide. That unrestrained sound brought a smile to my face. I was across the room, not in on the story, but his laughter drew me in and captured me. We were married three years later.
Three decades have brought our fair share of candlelit dinners, roses, gentle walks on the beach and strong embraces. Yet, when my mind wanders over the journey with this man, it’s not the romance that I remember.
The memory of the first few years of our marriage is filled with our arrogance. We were stubborn and proud and were determined to stand up for ourselves. I smile at those twenty-something-year-olds, fighting over principles now long forgotten. We were yet to learn that greater joy comes in standing up for the other.
Somewhere on our journey, I’m not exactly sure where it happened, we discarded our high horse and acknowledged to the other our imperfect self. Instead of condemnation, we offered our empathy. By God’s grace, not our own goodness, we understood that the greatest gift we can give each other is not perfection but love. Love that is not conditional on the other’s actions toward us. Love that sees through the present flaws and looks at the person in progress. Love that protects the other, mostly from themselves. Love that will never walk away, can be depended on, that is there, present, no matter what. Love that recognises that the two have indeed become one and chooses to be kind to that Oneness. Is patient with that Oneness.
There are days when our actions and words are cruel and unforgivable, but we choose to forgive. There are days when we get it right, when we touch with the perfect pressure, when we speak golden words and do deeds that dig deep and we delight in these. There are days when in exhaustion we pass each other with nothing more than an acknowledgement of life and we nod in understanding.
Ours is not a saintly marriage. Far from it. There are days when for no good reason my anger burns white hot at this man, my husband. Yet, I know that in the morning he will still be there, goofy smile on his face, the storm forgotten in the calm of a comfortable marriage.
As I stand on this hill looking back at our relationship, I remember hearing him laugh for the first time. Today, his curly blond hair is shaded silver and there is not enough of it to hang on his shoulders. He still throws his head back and laughs without restraint but this time I am in on the story and it has drawn me in and captured me just as it did 37 years ago.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7