In only a few weeks my oldest child will marry the love of her life. I keep seeing a little girl, dimpled cheeks pudging out from under a dress-up veil, tiny feet lost in mommy’s high heels, playing a game of wedding.
She’s not playing this time.
Something is squeezing my heart right now, making water flood my eyes in a kind of sweet sorrow at her leaving us and cleaving to her new family of two. Leaving. Cleaving. Sweet sorrow.
But a certain thought consoles me. She’s safe. She’s made the right choice of a life partner, because she has partnered with God in building a relationship that will weather the ravages of time, change, health problems and insufficient funds.
How do I know?
Because it already has.
I used to be infatuated with the idea of a picture-perfect courtship, a romantic springtime full of hearts, flowers, hummingbirds and perfect, uninterrupted accord. But Alison and John have helped change my tastes. These days, a beautiful courtship includes a bit of struggle; like how the worn wood of an old barn proves its strength and gives it character. I’ve watched from a distance as their young love rode through great storms, seemed about to crumble under the pressure, but instead came through like burnished gold. All real relationships do this. Their wedding colors—green, black and gold—capture their story of innocent springtime, intruding darkness, then, finally, enduring love.
True love happens when the things that normally ruin love actually deepen it. Humanly speaking, conflict, differences and disagreements pry us apart because they disrupt happiness, and most human relationships are simply about happiness. But spiritually speaking, relationships serve the purpose of reflecting a love stronger and deeper than simple human affection, a love that stays fastened upon its object even through the shattering of happiness. People jump from one relationship to another at the potluck table of instant intimacy, not realizing that by failing to endure, work through, resolve, and move on, they actually reduce their ability to experience true joy in a relationship. What we need is not more sources of happiness, but deeper capacity for it. That capacity develops more in the testing of love than in the feeling of it. But then greater capacity leads to greater feeling.
Ali and John have allowed God’s love to flow into their little vessel of human relationship. Their affection for one another is deep and strong and their commitment solid. They love and honor God and purpose to serve Him, the community of faith, and the world. She’s leaving us and cleaving to him, but they have our blessing because it’s obvious that God has blessed them.
God’s love can wash over a splintering log until it becomes elegant driftwood. God’s love can glue broken glass into a mosaic. God’s love can build a pearl from an irritating grain of sand. My little dress-up girl understands this. She’s not playing this time.