By all accounts, I should be the last person on earth to stand before you and talk about love. Romantic love, Eros, heart going pitty-pat, can’t eat, can’t sleep love. You see, by the definition we’ve all seen in television and the movies, and heard on the radio, I did everything wrong.
Here’s the thing about romantic movies: they all end when the guy gets the girl; they might stretch it to the wedding, maybe even have a quick scene where their children appear. But the message is clear: that’s it. After you find the girl and win her heart, you’ve “won the game” – and then there is the Great Nothing. Save for a few (usually dark and cynical) movies, Hollywood is silent on what happens after the engagement.
Wouldn’t it be neat if a love story started with the wedding?
21 years ago today, Feb 14th, 1986, Nashville had a surprise snowstorm. I was visiting a girl I had been dating; I didn’t call her “girlfriend” yet. We had only been going out sporadically since December. That afternoon, I had been watching sports with her dad, and generally just hanging out. I didn’t even notice the snow coming down until too late. She lived on a very steep hill, and I drove a Camaro. I was trapped there. Lintilla’s mother was mortified. Nevertheless, Lintilla and I hung out and talked deep into the night. Then, we laid out blankets by the fireplace and slept. Sometime during the night, we snuggled. Then, I knew. No fireworks, no racing heart. I just knew: it felt right.
There is always a scene in a romatic movie where the girl or the boy has a choice between a “safe” engagement, or running off with the unpredictible, impulsive one that makes their heart race. A friend asks about the safe one: “But do you love him?”, and we all know what they mean. Heart racing, can’t eat, can’t sleep infatutaion. The message: anything else is just settling.
I say it’s the second biggest lie ever told.
When I decided to marry the woman who is now my wife, I was most definately not “in love”, in the sense of fireworks and not being able to eat or sleep. She was my best friend, but I’m not really sure I ‘loved’ her at all, in the way we use the term today. I was young, impulsive, and I decided I wanted to get married, and I wanted it to be with her, my best friend. Probably not the best place to start, by today’s standards. But marry we did.
Once we got through those first 5 years, and quit trying to change each other, things sailed pretty smoothly. We learned that we were a good team, if we used our differences in a complementary fashion. So the years went by. And I had promised before God to love her, so I tried as best I could (in the “active verb” sense)
And a funny thing happened. It took all those years, but I fell ‘in love’ with her. Now, when she enters the room, I catch my breath. My mood totally lightens in her presence. Now, she’s in her 40’s, and I guess she’s probably not a beauty queen by most people’s standards. Lord knows, we could both still benefit by losing a little weight.
But when I look at her, I don’t see that. I see us moving into our first house in 1989. I see her gentle hands consoling me when the doctor told me I can’t father children. I see her there at the airport, holding our son, just off the plane from Korea. I see her almost fainting when they surprised us with the news that our son’s birthmother had had a girl, and wanted to keep the children together. I see her caring for her terminally ill father, then her mother, and the grace she showed. I see her crying like a baby as we stood behind the fire trucks and watched our house burn down. I see her beaming with pride when our son hits a home run.
I see a lifetime of shared experiences. And it makes her, to me, the most beautiful, captivating woman in the world.
We had many friends, back in our youth, who found themselves in fiery, passionate love. I can honestly say that I felt a tinge of jealousy at the time. Yet, unfortunately, many of them have fallen away. The raging fire dimmed, and there was…nothing. We, on the other hand, started with a deep friendship, and a promise before God to love one another. We did throughout these almost 20 years, despite some incredible difficulties, and God gave us a wonderful gift: a fiery passionate love.
When I tell people our story, I get the funniest looks; it’s like having desert before dinner. We did it wrong. It wasn’t until later that I was able to put into words what I had felt all along: love is not foremost something that happens to us; it’s something we do. And in my experience, the love that you do ends up becoming the love that happens to you.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” John Lennon
I love you, Lintilla.
And I’m deeply, hopelessly in love with you, too.