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Today I have asked one of my best friends to share her thoughts on marriage and “being in love” based on a conversation we had this fall when we went camping. Yes, we went camping. Yes, it was just the two of us. And yes, I laid awake all night holding onto my pellet gun and an unsheathed knife. We were not alone.
Outside of our camping fails, Lisa is one of my wisest friends. I love the way she thinks and the logic in her love. That’s why I’m so happy she is sharing the inside of her brain with us today. I also deeply admire her relationship with Chase, their partnership and mostly that they created one of the coolest kids in the world. If you follow me on Instagram you will see about 50% of my pictures are of their son, Bear. Yeah, his name is Bear.
Case in point.
Enough of me. On with the mind of Lisa Marie! (No, her middle name is not Marie, but I can’t not call her that.)
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As we walked through the cold air, cutting through the woods along a wintery lake, I recounted a conversation I had been disturbed by. Joy listened intently.
“She asked me if I was still in love with Chase. It was a loaded question; I knew she was feeling that she wasn’t in love with her husband anymore.”
I thought about the phrase “in love” and wondered at its meaning and the frequency of its use in our culture. Joy asked me how I responded to my friend.
“I told her bluntly what I thought. I told her a feeling of being in love seemed irrelevant to me and that my commitment to Chase was not based on his performances, but rather on a larger calling from God about the point of marriage.”
Joy and I mused back and forth on the topic of the phrase. In the days and weeks that followed I thought about the weighty words. I thought about my own marriage. I thought through any truths about marriage that could transcend personal experience or cultural norms. There has to be something true I can go back to in a season where I don’t feel in love anymore.
I married Chase when I was young. It wasn’t a teenage pregnancy inspired shotgun wedding. It’s just that neither of us had a career, a place of our own or much of a savings account. We went off our parents’ cell phone plans together.
I love Chase. Why?
He is excited about life in a way that makes people around him happy. He possesses a stubborn self-assurance about any given topic in a way that makes him interesting to talk to. He has a gentle spirit and he’s an amazing father. When my marriage is at its best, laughing hard and having good conversation characterize it. When my marriage is at its worst, it is marked by isolated feelings and intense frustration and painful sadness.
I tried to imagine what it would mean to me if I were not in love with Chase anymore. What would happen to my marriage? Would I stay married out of a sense of duty or because of some religious obligation? I followed a rabbit trail of thoughts that ended in the root question: what does “in love” actually mean? The phrase seems to eliminate the need for a choice in the matter, as if being “in love” is a location that one might come and go from. It’s as if we have no control over our locale, or more accurately, our feelings.
If I reframed my thinking about marriage, could this ever-popular phrase take its appropriate place in the life and times of my marriage? And, could I go on in my marriage with something more substantial than my changing feelings as the basis for the choices I make in my relationship with Chase?
Marriage is a sacred endeavor. It is sacred because it’s the prop that God chose to remind us of His faithful love to His people*. Living in a day-to-day loving and respectful marriage with Chase is living out a little piece of the Gospel story. Sometimes it’s easy because the stars align and the right music plays and I am in love with Chase. On those days we should have a reality show about our lives that makes everyone think we live in a romantic comedy…
But many times, we are in the everydayness of life together and it feels ordinary. God’s design for marriage is that it would be a little piece of the story about the way God loves us. He knows me to the depths of my heart and still loves me anyway. I can love Chase when he has not done anything to warrant that love. I can be respectful of him unconditionally.
When I consider my relationship in light of the purpose that God created it for, my enjoyment and feelings of being in love that wax and wane seem unashamedly irrelevant to the longevity of my commitment. My marriage is the most important relationship that God is using in my life to make me more like Jesus. It’s not a relationship that is meant to serve me, make me happy, give me babies to love, etc.
Culture tells us something different.
Culture is telling us that our marriage relationships are just another thing we can consume. We can try them out, cross our fingers and hope they work. If not, we trade them in for something better when they don’t suit us anymore. Thankfully, God’s love for us isn’t so fickle. Seeing my marriage in this way makes it a serious calling.
I’m living out the mystery of the loveliest story ever told.
*The idea of marriage as a prop came from a sermon of Mike Erre’s I listened to recently. Listen HERE.
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How do you feel about this concept as a single person, yet to experience marriage?
What can you do with the “out of love” feelings as a married person?
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.