I’m pretty sure I could be a fan of arranged marriages,
because I’ve learned a lot about love in my life time and what I’ve learned has transformed my way of thinking about love.
I’ve learned that falling in love is easy.
That feeling you get when someone sweeps you off your feet by saying just the right words.
That warm feeling inside when you know that someone else thinks about you as much as you think about them.
Yes, falling in love can happen unexpectedly and change everything about your life.
But staying in love?
That’s a whole other conversation.
Because mixed with all those sweet words we love to hear eventually come hard words.
Words that challenge us, irritate us, convict us, and sometimes even hurt us.
And both kinds of words (sweet and bitter) come mixed with actions.
And these actions come mixed with consequences.
time passes and the act of “falling in love” is something that is as foggy as the darkness outside my house this morning.
As a matter of fact, I noticed the fog as I was waking up Olivia this morning and I thought to myself,
“How foggy my memory is of the early years……”
See, today is Tim’s birthday.
I spent a lot of yesterday reflecting on his presence in my life and his presence in his own family’s life.
His birthday started as a gift to his parents when he became their firstborn on his dad’s birthday in 1965.
A breathing birthday gift!
A shared celebration every year.
Father and son.
Who could ask for more??
But then, without warning, his birthday became a bitter part of our life story.
We awoke in 1992 on his birthday to find our baby girl not breathing.
Suddenly, everything special about this day was obliterated.
It became a dark day.
A day I couldn’t acknowledge for many years.
Saying, “Happy birthday,” seemed cruel on a day that was no longer happy to us.
And time passed.
Other dark days came for our family, as you know.
Darker ones if that is possible.
And suddenly his birthday resurfaced as something that needed attention.
Nick’s journey through cancer reminded us all that every birthday is a gift to be celebrated.
A day to rejoice that God has given us one more season together.
A time to say “thank you” to a God who gives and takes away.
A moment in time when all the ups and downs, highs and lows, good and bad are seen as part of a big story.
And the candles on the cake reflect all those memories mixed together.
If only the “good year” candles were allowed on birthday cakes, our cakes wouldn’t shine as brightly,
because God uses all our years – the good and bad – to make us who we are.
And so goes love.
Falling in love means absolutely nothing without the “staying in love” part of a relationship.
It’s the “staying” that makes the “falling” so meaningful.
I can fall in love with someone who is singing a beautiful song.
Truly, I can.
A songwriter can melt my heart for a moment in time.
But I don’t stay in love with them because there’s no building of something bigger, something better, something painful and yet worthwhile.
Today, on Tim’s 48th birthday, I believe I can say “Happy birthday” with a smile.
And I can say that I understand what it means to “stay in love.”
After 27 years of marriage, two apartments, two houses, several college degrees, six children, more than 6 dogs, several cats, and a few fish,
I have learned that staying in love has very little to do with falling in love.
Staying in love is all about endurance.
It’s about forgiveness, sacrifice, mercy, compassion, renewal, grace and every other word that requires effort when it comes to love.
Staying in love means lifting the fog from time to time and remembering the days when holding hands and taking a walk were all that mattered.
“Me and you and you and me,
no matter how they toss the dice,
it has to be.
The only one for me is you and you for me.
So happy together,”
seemed like a perfect melody.
Because staying in love means that you understand that “happy” is conditional but love is unconditional.
Today, as I reflect on Tim’s birthday,
I reflect on more than just one more year of life.
I reflect on a journey that has not been easy.
I reflect on a relationship that almost ended on several different occasions when the road got just a little too rough for either of us to walk easily.
I reflect on moments when we looked at each other and thought,
“Life might be easier without you.”
I reflect on a lot of wonderful memories and many painfully horrific ones.
And I realize this:
Falling in love is easy.
Staying in love is work.
That’s the difference.
Maybe it’s not the one you wanted to hear about this morning.
Work is not always fun.
But, I promise this.
Work is worth the outcome.
Not just in marriage, but in friendships, in parenting, in our jobs, and in our relationship with God.
When we invest our time, our energy, our laughter, our tears, we gain more than this world can ever offer in quick, momentary pleasures.
I fell in love with Tim when I was 17.
That was easy.
I have stayed in love with him for 30 years.
And that’s been a lot of work.
Today, I have to say, it’s been worth it.
Happy birthday, Tim.
May the many years we skipped your birthday because of our sadness be redeemed by the ones still to come.
And I believe with all my heart and soul that Nick and Adrienne are celebrating with us today……….
in ways too beautiful to imagine with our human minds.
You are a great husband and dad.
I am thankful for you.
I have to add for all my friends who have tried to save their broken marriages and been unable to do so,
thank you for trying and know that God will redeem your tears in His time.
For many of you, He already has.
To my children, thank you for enduring the highs and lows of your mom and dad’s marriage.
Many times it was you who held us together.
To my students and friends who have fallen in love,
remember work is always worth the outcome.
Work hard at staying in love……
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.