Less than ten minutes ago, I walked into the living room where hubby was sitting and said, “Quick, name three ways love changes!” Then I noticed the front screen door was open. I have been saying for days we needed to keep that door shut. The outdoor cat is coming in, and staying in, and losing control of certain organs. And I can’t stand it. So I yelled, “You left the front door open! I hope the cat makes a mess on your side of the bed!” Mind you, my first sentence and this sentence flowed with hardly a breath between. He looks at me and replies, “Well, your love certainly has changed!” Then we had a good chuckle. We can be funny people.
And then I realized the word I want is not how love “changes”, but rather how love “grows”. Love changing doesn’t always feel good and is not always healthy. But love growing, well, that just means it’s going to get better and better and there is much to anticipate.
In a few weeks, I will have been married for 31 years. Thirty-one years. That love has even grown in our little garden is a testament to a Master Husbandman, God Himself. We were married young, just having turned 17, and had only entered into marriage because it was arranged by our parents. (Read our story in Kindred Grace’s collection of Love Stories.) Thank God we are not the same people we were back then. I’m so thankful He nurtured our love to not simply change, but to grow. We still need His help in both areas.
Here are just three ways and maybe you can recognize a bit of your own growth, especially if you married young.
1. We have grown in purpose.
It took awhile for us to find a purpose in our marriage. For many years, we found purpose in meeting physical needs, providing companionship, and having children together. That was wonderful and I am thankful for each of those blessings. But we grew deeper into our purpose over the years. It was no light thing, our coming together. There was much loss and pain around our union and we couldn’t just overcome that with positive thinking: there had to be a purpose beyond ourselves. We needed depth and we needed it badly.
Our purpose is to glorify God. That simple sentence has diffused more issues and kept us together for thirty-one years. See, we still don’t fit very well all the time. He is him and I am me; we are nothing alike. The very idea that God is glorified in us and our marriage had brought us tremendous joy and peace. When our love grew deeper than just our benefits, we transitioned onto a new level of love.
2. We have grown in vision.
We want more now than we did years ago. We have one son left at home and are almost empty nesters. We have felt the ticking of the clock, and in my emotional moments, I envision us all fifteen years from now, and it can get downright weepy. When I was younger, this seemed so far away–my vision and plans only went as far as a decade or so. But now we’re thinking long-term, we’re thinking eternal to things that matter beyond this moment. And it’s changing us. The growing of a vision for our family is also growing our ability to manage time. We’re filtering everything through the fact that we are so very close to eternity it’s almost palpable. We are wanting less things. We don’t like bringing stuff into the house if it’s not needed. We get rid of stuff. Things and items are tending to weigh us down and we have no problem casting them off and away.
We’ve grown in the idea that we don’t hold things tight in our hands anymore, but we are holding our loved ones tighter. We’ve outgrown the things that don’t matter and can’t stop feasting on the things that do. Our vision has grown and it now includes invisible things. Meals under the canopy with twinkle lights and music playing and the grandbabies dancing in the yard. Time with the homeless on our streets and filling their backpacks with things they need. Reading books that make us rethink how we’ve molded God into our own image. Waking earlier than we ever have simply to pray more. Our vision has grown and stretched itself over the banks of the river Jordan.
3. We have grown in response.
We were so very young when we married. We literally grew up together. We were not seasoned or well-matured teenagers when we got married. We may have thought so, but wisdom says differently. And we responded to each other and to situations according to our age. Thankfully, we’ve gradually come to a place where acting on the 1 Corinthians 13 love responses seems logical and hardly difficult at all. We’ve tried it our way too many times and it rarely worked out, and even if it did there was a taint to it. We’re saving time, precious time, by simply choosing true love’s actions first. The Beatitudes of Matthew 5–mercy, gentleness, hope, and patience, just to name a few–are becoming more standard responses to situations of all sorts. It doesn’t set well in our core to lash out anymore. There’s not much worth the price tag of making the last child at home listen through the walls and hearing us fight.
We’re talking things out and we’re doing it before seeds of bitterness take root. We believe that soft answers turn away wrath. It’s not just age that’s mellowing us–it is God. I know this because the crises are still the same; nothing in our realm has changed. We’re still on a tight budget. Our vehicles are still breaking down. The leaky roof is still our waterfall feature in the library. I still can’t make up my mind and when I do, I change it. And we still can’t pick a place to eat that we both agree on. But the response is different. We’ve grown into a safe place, a place where we trust that the other one loves God more and that love for Him controls the love for each other. We don’t feel threatened with fear or with pain.
Are you growing in love as well? Oh, I hope so! I want to leave you encouraged to know that growth is a sign of life and to not be afraid for things to change. Especially if the growing brings peace and tranquility into the home. Whether you’ve married young, or you are maturing in your love, if God is present there will always be growth and not just change. And aren’t we so thankful for that?
Photography by JenniMarie Photography