I sit there in my booth, book in hand, cup of tea steaming full of comfort on my table. My friend is delayed, so I savor the moments until she arrives. A little patch of alone time after a long day of marathon motherhood gives me the sigh my soul needs.
I look up from my book whenever the restaurant door opens just to check if it is her. I want to greet her and socialize and hear her heart as much as I want to spend a bit of time enjoying my own repose. As I glance towards the swinging door, I spot him. He sits at a table diagonal from me across the room. He grins through a grey and warm face which has raised children, sent them grown into the world. worked hard, retired and now sits across from his bride of many years. He gives me a pleasant grin — one unafraid of saying hello to strangers and one content from having walked hard roads. I go back to my book, but I can’t help looking up again and as I do, I see. He steps around the table to her. They are leaving now and he is extending not one arm, but both. He reaches for her and uses his feet to stabilize her as she gently rocks and then unsteadily comes up towards him. She is on her feet now. They have this down. She needs him more than ever and he is there for her. This is their life. They leave in their oneness — unaware of the imprint of their interaction. I am left so moved that I almost have a tear in my eye.
This is love — that we give our lives up for one another. This is love — that we become so entwined that we don’t even know the sacrifice because my giving to you is like breathing. This is love — that we are committed and we do life in sickness or health, for richer or poorer — and we smile the knowing smile of those who have walked together through all seasons and learned the dance by heart. These are the lovers who inspire. It isn’t the silver-screen passion that makes for good lifetime love. It is the durable, comfortable, well-worn love that gives me pause and leaves me longing to grow into what they have.
In this picture, who am I? Who are you? Are you this man, married long to your beloved, giving again because she still is the treasure of your soul? Are you this woman, dependent, but confident in the one upon whom you depend? I am most certain that their marriage has been normal. I am sure they have had fights. They have occasionally wondered, “Why did I marry THIS person?” I am sure. Because perfect relationships aren’t perfect after all. The marriage that lasts and inspires is the one which loves despite the sin – despite the failings – despite the tough times.
We can be so eager to satisfy our own comfort and our own longings. We have lost the art of hanging in there. We hear people say, “He changed,” or “We just didn’t connect anymore.” These are seen as reasons for ending life-long, covenant relationships. We have to go “find ourselves.” But, love isn’t about finding ourselves as much as it is about finding someone else and losing our self-centeredness in the process. As we give and sacrifice for love we find ourselves more filled and more whole. This couple, they know that secret — the secret we all really want to know — hanging in produces something beautiful.