I think I loved the idea of you.
There’s no way I could have known that at 16 — shoot, I don’t think I could have known that at 32.
But I loved how your hair fell over your eyes when you ran down the back hall, late for Mr. Schurter’s grade 9 math class. (Yeah, you had so much glorious hair back then and I had gloriously less hips).
And I loved how you stuffed your farm hands in the back pockets of your jeans when you stopped there at my locker after home room, grinned this boyish gleam and got up enough nerve to say “Hi” for the first time. I can still feel that heat flushing up my cheeks.
I loved how one glance from you could make the inside of me perfectly weak and that surrender seemed right, all the walls giving way.
I had thought all that was love.
But who tells you that the love they sing about in pop songs is this fragile bubble of an idea that bursts when you try to carry it home?
I had thought I’d fallen in love with you —- with some young buck, with a farm boy, with a person — but I couldn’t have known that I had only fallen in love with an idea. With a vision of you and this mirage of a future with you and, if we’re being really honest here —- and who has time for anything else — I think I had fallen in love too with how you made me feel.
Maybe at first we only stumble into love with the idea of someone because the real falling in love with a person takes years —- the long, slow fall off the edge of control and into eternity.
And I had only fallen in love with the face of things, the feeling of things — your face and the way the whole world felt when mine found yours.
It’s okay. This is always the tender, unlikely beginning.
Falling in love with the idea of a person is ideally the beginning to living out love with that person for always.
So I guess that’s what happened: Somewhere along the line, we turned off the radio and learned the lyrics and lines to a love that lasts.
When I was the insane fool who yelled like a maniac, you learned to withstand the storm of me and not slam a door and shut me out.
I learned (ridiculously slowly) just that: When you feel a storm rising on the inside, the best way to ride it out is: 1. Never do Harm and 2. Only be Helpful — and 3. this is ridiculously Harder than you think.
You found my hand in the dark.
And at some point a light went on for me: Anger is in the business of making targets and bull’s eyes. If you don’t want to feel the pain of arrows, stop letting your anger make your back into a target. Force your anger out of the business of making you into a target and into the business of being your alarm system.
It’s like when a light goes off on the dashboard— when your anger alarm system goes off, 1. simply keep calm, 2. simply keep your seat, 3. simply keep to the right and pull off and take a look at what’s really going on the inside.
Anger is often just a costume for Fear.
You kept the headlights on and kept me close till I figured all that out.
You never wanted to leave the farm. You helped me learn how to. You’ve changed and so have I and we keep finding each other in the middle of the sagging mattress and when you touch the thigh of me, I feel found.That’s the unspoken miracle of marriage: You vow to keep loving someone who keeps growing into a mysterious stranger.
And I guess that’s what happily happens every morning when I turn around and there you are: You are always my tall, dark and handsome stranger. We are two strangers who keep meeting each other and discovering mysteries about each other, and freeing each other — who keep staying close to each other in all His widening expanses of freedom.
It’s strange how that always is: Freedom always comes from secure bonds of love.
When Clayton LawBourne’s wife Muriel told me straight out in the detergent aisle that my skin was looking awful these days, and I came home and straight way went to find you and ask you if you still loved the likes me? And you pulled me down into your lap and tucked my hair behind my ear and whispered, “You’re beautiful” —- I didn’t care if the whole world knew you were lying. I wanted your truth.
I wash away the stubble you left in the sink. You unplug the toilet. I let you sit quiet. You let me keep reading.
And the morning after we fought like two colliding cold fronts about who was the one who really had messed up and didn’t pick up the kids from piano lessons, when I was standing there in the first light at the stove, making up your bacon, I can only say I’m achingly sorry for you that I hadn’t known that about, say, oh, 20 years sooner: The only way to rise to the challenges of love is to rise and serve.
The bacon kept sputtering and splattering in the sunlight and I’d stood over the frying pan wishing I had woke up to that a whole lot sooner:
That there are only 3 ways to rise to serve the Challenges of Love:
1. you can serve with grace
3. you can serve with a grudge
3. you can serve yourself grief
Because the thing is? You will serve. That’s not an option. Somehow, that young kid who didn’t really grow up but got married anyway, she thought, way underneath of everything in the places we’re hardly even conscious of but of which our actions loudly speak — Somehow there’s this lie that there’s a way out of serving.
But the truth is you get to either serve others with grace, or serve others with a grudge — or you can simply serve yourself, and that means you will serve yourself grief. The question is never will you serve. The answer is you will serve — but who will you serve and how?
It’s only taken an excruciating and exquisite 20 years, and I’m the most painfully slowest of studies, but there it is — When you’re looking for the root of problems, look at the root of everything: Who is willing to serve? Who is willing to suffer for the other? Love’s griefs and greatness is rooted in the depth of service. Truth is, you can only fall in love when you are walking out sacrificial love.
When you held my hair up on Sunday to zip up the last bit of my dress, you lingered for a bit, your hand on my neck. I could feel the resonance of us right then. How together we were writing our own messy and beautiful and real love song. Dance to your own love song.
How the radio’s ditty love songs have found a deeper reverberation in the tenor of our doing love, serving love, giving love, paying the price of love. Real love has no need of adjectives to describe it — because love is a verb that does.
Yeah, let all the lovesick beats be cranked up right loud and let them play their songs and play at love —
And let a whole bunch of us grow old in this romance of conscious covenant coupling that has our souls mingling late into our sacrificing twilight.
The idea of the person we fall in love with, can become our ideal person.
You know when you come in the back door, and I hear the sound of you coming across the the old planked pine floor?
The rhythm of this old heart can still perfectly give way.