I used to think love was freshly picked Magnolias, playful puddle jumping, and holding hands in the rain. I thought it was sweet nothings and kisses behind the ear. I thought it was letters penned with passion and odes to love carved into sand. I thought it was skywriting, fireworks, and kisses that make cartoon hearts pop out of the besotted.
I still do. But, oh my goodness, how those things only scratch the surface.
Our entire little family of eight (save the baby) came down with Scarlet Fever this weekend. It was just about as unpleasant as you would imagine.
Misery, thy name is Scarlet Fever.
Thankfully, there were a couple of smiles mixed in, too. Like the moment my little Lucy stood up on the top of her bunk at bedtime and dramatically announced that it was a good thing she had medicine because without it she would have “DIED because Scarlet Fever is a VERY SERIOUS DISEASE.”
Thank you, Velveteen Rabbit.
So, smiles, yes, and also love. Love like this:
I spent most of Saturday lying in bed while Dan held down the fort. I won’t lie — I was pretty relieved that he’d thus far been spared so that I could sleep, soak, and wallow. He cooked and cleaned, doled out medicine and wiped feverish brows, and he ran errands. He insisted that I sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. He served without ceasing, complaining, or seeking recognition. (I almost never serve without ceasing, complaining, or seeking recognition.)
Later in the day we decided it was time to take the older boys to the ER. They left well before dinnertime and stumbled back in after bedtime. The boys gathered around me on the couch — while Dan made one last run to the pharmacy — and regaled me with tales of their ER adventure. At one point, their eyes got very big and they told me in hushed, serious tones that when the doctor had looked at their Daddy’s throat she had pronounced him the sickest of all.
The sickest of all.
That’s right. My “healthy” husband who had been keeping the family afloat while I slumbered was in truth, every bit as sick as the rest of us. He never said a word; never uttered a complaint; never even sat down to rest.
That, my friends, is love.
Sometimes it’s all that other sparkly stuff, as well, but when you get down deep into the heart of it, love is profound self-sacrifice offered with a sweet kiss, a wink of the eye, and a tender smile. (And I’m pretty sure those last three things are optional in a cherry on top kind of way.)
Someone once asked me (innocently) why husbands and wives praise their spouses publicly. Was it just to brag?
I don’t think so. At least not all the time.
There’s a lot of talk out there (some of it coming from yours truly) about how very hard marriage can be. That’s not a bad thing. I think that being honest about our struggles helps others to feel a little less alone. It’s good to know that the valleys are normal so that they don’t seem quite so cold and dark when you stumble upon them.
But that’s only one part of marriage.
A marriage on its best days will light up the sky far more brightly than any man-made fireworks. To see another selflessly (and often at great cost to themselves) pour themselves out for you — and to feel that irresistible urge to pour yourself out for them — will take your breath away and make you wonder at God’s love for undeserving you. At least it’s always had that effect on me.
People need to hear these happy, hopeful stories, too.
Marriage will stretch and challenge you in ways you never imagined — absolutely — but it will also bring you more joy than you once thought it was possible to possess.
The more challenging moments will not only pale in comparison to the happier ones but truly and in some mystical way, the good times will transform the bad times into things of beauty. Sometimes only in retrospect and in a “I’m grateful for the growth opportunity” kind of way, but still. The interplay between the two is really something.
I could go on and on, but I’m all drugged up and who knows where and when that would end, Plus, I should probably run and duck because when Dan sees that I wrote this, he will surely send the pillows flying my way. He’s not a huge fan of my sharing the sweet, selfless things he does with other people.
Plus, I have a VERY SERIOUS DISEASE to combat.