Twenty seven years ago, I trudged up a snowy mountain wearing his mother’s coat and snow boots.
I said “Yes” at the top of Prospect Hill, the highest point in southern Michigan. I cried and laughed, as young love swallowed us whole, insulating me from the snow and wind of a Michigan winter.
Faded Polaroids show us with fake champagne and my tear-streaked face. After hugs with his family, we walked across the street to celebrate with his grandparents, old love joyfully welcoming new love like parents ushering a baby into the world.
I wonder if their thoughts echoed the words of Frederick Buechner, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
We only had visions of beautiful.
I remember last year at this time, how my husband and daughter had an early Valentine’s lunch. Instead of talking about her life, which they normally do, they focused on his. He confessed that his husbanding had come up short lately, and he shared our well-worn dynamics of mutual retreat and withdrawal. It stunned her. “You guys still do stuff like that?”
Yes, we do.
“Will you have this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? This woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
Yes, we do.
Again and again, we do. We fail. We retreat. We repent. We have and we hold all over again.
“Why don’t you just talk to her about it?”
And so he did, weeks of tension dissolving in a matter of moments. “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? I’m sorry too. Will you forgive me? Here’s what I need from you. Ok. Here’s what I need from you too. Ok.”
That evening, we sat on the sofa, my arm wrapped through his, the dog vying for a spot between us. Last night we did the same, another year of hard-won love that points us to a divine faithfulness and grace much greater than our own.
Enduring love sees you at your worst and loves you there. It hopes for the best but loves you even if you never get there. It helps. It forgives. It does not enable. But it does understand.
If you’re lucky, on a cold February night, young love might swallow you whole again, as pride gives way to grace and vulnerability gives way to repair. Again.
May your hard-won love endure.