The 19th June 2019, was our 15th wedding anniversary. And I am here to tell you that after two children (with the all inclusive highs and treacherous lows), three post codes (from inner suburbs to the sticks), five career changes (mine), weight alterations (my gain, his loss — literally), through the ebbs of sickness and flows of health, experiencing times of richer and doses of poorer, that team Bundy is still going strong. However, my understanding of love has been trounced, beaten up, refined and risen from the ashes.
Last week during dinner, one of the boys asked what commitment meant. The first thing that popped out of my mouth was, “marriage”. Or in other words, making a promise and sticking to it. We then looked up dictionary.com to see what they had to say. It was interesting to note that, “to commit” is to:
- Give in trust
- Consign for preservation or custody
- Pledge oneself
- Do, perform
- Place in a mental institution
- Deliver for treatment
- Send into battle.
I was happy to see that the dictionary agreed with me; commitment is just like marriage (give or take the mental institution). I went on to explain to the boys, that the difference between marriage and commitment is that, rather than committing to an act, or a season, marriage is a commitment for life. They were suitably scared.
On the hottest day in 2016, two of our young friends were married and read vows they’d prepared themselves. I’ll be honest and say I was a tad concerned when they read…
“…I promise to love you in the good times and twice as much in the bad, stand with you when life is easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple and when it is an effort…”
I thought promising to love each other twice as much in the bad times was a tough and somewhat naive declaration. But their proclamation challenged me to consider the question, “What is love?” It had me re-reading the renowned passage in 1 Corinthians 13:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
Just like the dictionary, the bible defines love through actions. It seems therefore, to love is to act. But to act, or not to act, is a choice. Choosing to behave a certain way, to do certain things, think certain thoughts. Choosing another person/group/thing before self. Not for gain, not for advantage, and not for anything in return. But purely for the benefit of the object of one’s love—unconditionally.So, saying, “I promise to love you in the good times and twice as much in the bad,” is what marriage (and parenthood, Mother of Boys) is all about. It requires making the commitment to keep choosing the other despite the circumstances; good, bad, ugly or otherwise.
Spoiler Alert: VERY unromantic thoughts ahead
After 15 years I have come to the conclusion that love is not romantic (and no, it didn’t take me 15 years to work that out). Romance is romantic. But it is not a requirement for love. Nor does it define love (although, there’s definitely room for romance in marriage). Lust is not love. Lust is craving (although there is also room for a bit of craving in marriage as well).
If Jesus was able to command his followers to love, it has to be a conscious act and an achievable outcome. Therefore, I have to admit that our young friends who were married with these vows had a better understanding of love starting out in their marriage than I did. Love is saying, “I choose you before me”. Marriage is saying, “I commit to choosing you for the rest of my life, regardless of the circumstances, the situation, or the outcomes”.
I would propose that love is not about feelings or emotions at all. It’s about grit and hanging in there, overlooking the faults in the other, as you accept grace as they overlook yours (1 Peter 4:8). It’s accepting the liberating truth that the other is not responsible for your happiness, fulfilment, or identity.
In my experience marriage is a journey of learning humbling truths, undergoing abrasive refining and basically, growing up. Ideally it’s a place of shared encouragement; not envy, not self-seeking, not recording wrongs. Marriage requires both parties choosing to commit to the long haul; persevering, protecting and never failing.
However, just because I figured it out, doesn’t make it any easier.
- Would you agree?
- Do you have a different definition or additional qualifications, for love?