When we were engaged, I remember pausing to ask the Lord if this was really the man for me. I knew I was in love with him and couldn’t imagine walking away, but I also didn’t want to neglect to ask the hard question. I wanted to be sure that the Lord was fully behind our marriage coming to fruition.
As I sat with the Lord and nervously asked my question, I felt like the Lord gave me a picture. In this picture, there was a closed door, and I felt the Lord tell me that on the other side of the door were my options for a husband. Okay, I thought, and mentally turned the handle and peered inside. The room was all white and empty, except for one person. It was him and only him. Relief swept through me. I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, Alison, this is my son and I am giving him to you to love.
And I knew in that moment that I had said no to other possibilities for a spouse a long time ago. That this was the man I would spend my life loving. That there were no longer other options. That Jesus was giving me one of his favorite sons to love as my own.
I think holidays always have such expectations wrapped up in them, whether we realize it or not. The comparison game is a strong one. Does this Christmas compare to the ones of our childhood? How does this measure up to what we imagined this day to be like in our heads? Does this look like the holidays of Instagram and the parties of Pinterest?
As much as I deeply appreciate of the origins of Valentine’s Day, it can be hard to turn off the comparison that can come with a day like today. When I was single, it was sometimes a fight to be content and look for the ways I was experiencing love, instead of all the ways I wasn’t. It was looking to the ways the Lord was caring for me and showering me with grace, instead of looking at my lack of a boyfriend or a husband. It was saying thank you for the men and women who were my family and showing me how loved I was, instead of spending my energy on what I was missing.
Even now, as I am loved by a good man, enjoying the grace of a husband and family, those expectations try to creep in and tempt me with the offer of a comparison when there is no bouquet in hand or romantic sonnet being recited or whatever it is that is being sold as “romance.”
But here’s the truth: when I look for grace and gratitude, I will find them. And our love is much more mundane and ordinary and simple than it can feel like it should be when I am comparing and contrasting.
But when I think back to that picture from the Lord, that white room with only my wonderful husband inside, I find that there is no room for comparison.
There is only room for gratitude.
There is only room for what is true and good.
There is only room to say thank you for our love that has a place in the mundane, ordinary simplicity of our life.
There is only room for grace.
I love these words from Lisa-Jo Baker in her essay, In Defense of Totally Ordinary Love Stories, from the pages of The Heart of Marriage:
Keep your magazines and movie endings and mad dashes through airports–just give me an ordinary love. One that I can touch and hold and snort out loud with; that I can fight and fume and cry with; that I can trust and hope and dream with; that I can warm my feet up against under the covers at midnight.
As I read her words, I’m reminded of the truth that all is grace. Regardless of relationship status or what we do or don’t have, I have earned none of this. I have done nothing to deserve any of these good gifts. All good gifts come from the Lord.
This Valentine’s Day, I’m saying thank you for the grace.
The grace Jesus gave me in my marriage.
The grace Jesus gave me in giving me his son to love, and to be loved by in return, for as long as we both shall live.
The grace of hot coffee and a stack of pancakes made by my husband.
The grace of a hand to hold.
The grace of reading our books next to each other.
The grace of cozy nights and mugs of steaming tea.
The grace of separately reading lots of Amazon reviews to find the warmest socks for the other person.
The grace of dates to the library and coffee shop and walks in our neighborhood.
The grace of figuring out bills and taxes together.
The grace of family dance parties and ridiculous moves.
The grace of pillow talk and cold feet and thick blankets.
The grace of a friend that laughs with me.
The grace of that glance across the bedtime story, over our daughter’s head.
The grace of him doing the dishes and folding the laundry.
The grace of kind words and forgiveness being offered.
The grace of inside jokes and silliness.
The grace of forehead kisses and being held close when I’m crying.
The grace of being seen and known and loved.
The grace of a shared life.
And yes, the grace of Brie cheese as my surprise Valentine’s gift today.
I truly enjoyed spending time in the pages of The Heart of Marriage. This books compiles short essays and stories from some wonderful writers, sharing the messiness and the redemption to be found in marriage. I loved the span of what was shared, ranging from romantic sappiness to the gritty, hard realities that are all part of this tremendous grace of being married. On hard days, marriage can feel like a lonely place to be. But I loved the sweet reminder that this book offers in reminding us that we are not alone. If we are married, we find ourselves in the same club of hard days and good days and all the mundane moments in between. We find ourselves recipients of the same grace from the Lord, as we wade into the pain and beauty to be found from being married to another human. A sweet and encouraging read.
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