True Love Keeps Growing
I love the new lush green growth of spring. Spring does not last for just one day. It is a transition from winter to summer that takes a couple months. So it is with love. Love doesn’t just appear in full maturity in one day. It grows and matures over time. Jesus tells us, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples” (John 13:34-35 NLT).
This experience of a growing love was well illustrated in a story entitled “The Three Men I Married” by Pamela F. Dowd. She tells it in her own words:
I have been married to three kinds of Rodneys over the past two decades. The Rodney I met right after college asked my father for my hand in marriage, but he never proposed to me. He claimed bragging rights among his fraternity brothers that he didn't have to bend a knee to a woman. It never occurred to him that his boast offended me. When I brought it to his attention after the newlywed sweetness dampened, he said, “You married me, didn't you?” As a young attorney, he made an unarguable point. I looked at the traditional solitaire diamond ring and remembered June 10, 1978, our wedding day. Though he hadn't officially asked me to marry him, he'd given me his solemn vows that day – vows we both intended to keep.
The week before our 10th anniversary, June 10, 1988, Rodney and I fought long-distance. I was 150 miles away at a work-related conference. Each phone conversation left me in frustrated tears. I arrived home five days later in a foul mood with a sour disposition. I knew it was the end of a difficult relationship, and as much as I didn't want to leave the marriage, I convinced myself that he wanted out.
When I arrived home, I only wanted to see our three children. Rodney was the last person I wanted to spend time with, but he was the only person waiting for me. He suggested a walk downtown in the heat. The vapors rose from the sidewalk on that June day and steam seemed to be pent up inside me as I tried to feel happy to be home. As we walked he tried to engage me in small talk. He took my hand. Sweat mingled in our palms, and I thought of all the sweat and toil that had gone into keeping both of us sane through so much fighting over the years. Our marriage felt like the dry leaves clinging to the trees under which we walked.
He said, “Sit down,” and indicated the courthouse steps. I knew what was coming, and though I didn't want it to happen I felt unable to stop it. I held my breath, shut my eyes and waited for the word ‘divorce.’
“Would you marry me again?”
My eyes popped open as I said, “What?”
Rodney held a ring box gingerly before me. He laughed a gentle laugh and dropped down on one knee. “I said, Would you marry me again?” As he opened the box, a deep blue sapphire and diamond ring caught the sunlight and winked at me. I let my held breath out with a rush and said, “Yes!” I'd never been more startled.
“I didn't like you being gone this week,” he offered as an explanation for his incessant fights.
“That's what all that was about?”
He looked sheepish, but he nodded and grinned. “Surprised you, didn't I? You said you'd do it again, and now you can't take it back.”
I smiled at him and thought to myself – and so I will do it again.
As we walked home hand-in-hand, the leaves didn't seem as dull; I'd finally gotten my down-on-one-knee proposal. This time, though, I entered the ‘engagement’ with less hope than I'd entered the marriage. Proposal or not, things had to change. We talked about that, too.
We changed all right, and when the third Rodney came to propose, he did it with a flourish and a gentled heart.
The morning of our 20th anniversary, he called me from work. “Let's go to the Versailles exhibit in Jackson, Mississippi, today,” he said, as if it were normal to take 300-mile day trips. I've learned to say ‘okay’ over the years to my impetuous husband, so I willingly agreed. The trip was pleasant. We talked and laughed and shared our dreams. Before we crossed the Mississippi River, he suggested we change drivers. We stopped at a small convenience store, and while I was inside, he snuck out the back door to retrieve a small box from the glove compartment. When he slipped back inside, I was buying Junior Mints to celebrate. I never knew he'd been gone.
Back on the road again, we soon approached the Mississippi River bridge. Right in the middle of crossing, he popped a ring box open and held it at the height of the steering wheel. “Will you marry me?” he asked with a grin plastered on his gorgeous face. The sun glinted off the diamond and emerald ring. I gazed at the green ring against the backdrop of the verdant bridge high above the water below; it's a wonder I didn't crash the car. Rodney had planned the perfect proposal for me, his incurably romantic wife. We exited on the other side and talked a security guard at the Mississippi hospitality center into capturing the moment on film. All my questions of when and how were answered with a hug and a smile. He'd been listening to my heart and taking notes for 20 years; he knew me well.
It's like I always tell young brides, “You don't often get the sensitive, caring husband you long for on the day you marry him. That process takes years. You grow there together.”
The month of June, especially after graduation, is a favorite time for weddings. You too, may have a June anniversary. How many “Rodneys” have you been married to? If it’s more than one, thank and praise God for a love that hasn’t given up, and is constantly growing (Cf. Philippians 1:6).