I was eighteen, it was February, and we were all headed on a road trip that weekend to a mutual friend’s house. I’ve wondered what God thought of that day, if perhaps He was rubbing His hands together with glee. The stage was set, everything immaculately timed.

In my memory, the young man was wearing a white T-shirt and khaki shorts. His hair was longer then, curly. Upon request, he prayed for our safe travel before we left. We all left for Oklahoma City and I climbed in behind the passenger’s seat of his car. I confess the thought may have flitted through my mind that his car was a little girly. That was before I knew he paid for it and maintained it himself, and before I’d ride around in it for the next five years, happy as a clam to be in his passenger’s seat.

That day, February 5, 1999, was the day I met the love of my life. If God would’ve tapped me on the shoulder—Hey, that guy over there? Yeah. That one. You two are going to have four kids, live in Africa. He’s the kind of best friend and man you couldn’t even imagine yourself having.

Like I said. I wonder if God just sat back and soaked in the love story He’d cooked up.

This week I’ve been cuddling up at night to an episode of PBS’ Victoria—and I just got to the part where Victoria and Albert begin to fall for each other. Forgive the sap factor…but I couldn’t help but savoring the story, thinking, You two are destined to be one of the greatest told-and-retold love stories of all time. Didn’t I read that after Albert died, she continued to set out his clothes every day?

But I thought about this—of the stuff of true-life love stories. I had to admit that the world at large has never likely known its greatest love stories. Most of love is, as Peter Gabriel sings, long and boring. Most of the real love stories aren’t lit by candles, but by devotion after that diagnosis, or despite her insecurity or his overbearing nature.

True love stories are largely unsung, and led far more by sacrifice that led to delight than by personal happiness alone. They triumphed: yes, due to a little intentional romance. But also because two people conquered their selfishness in order to love in a way that might even seem ludicrous to the rest of the world. Paul Miller writes, Nothing is easier to start; nothing is harder to finish than [faithful, persevering] love. He explains that we can have a love-hate relationship with love; we want intimacy, but become overwhelmed with the work of love.

Miller goes on with wise words about true love stories, which he gains from the book of Ruth in his excellent work, A Loving Life.

Modern myth…says, ‘Love is a feeling. If the feeling is gone, then love is gone.’ Hollywood has no resources to endure in love when the feeling is gone.

….Because our culture makes feeling happy the goal, when our feelings are negative, when we experience the cost of love, we think that something has gone wrong, that we’re not being true to ourselves.

….Once we discover that the other person is deeply flawed, we often pull back, thinking everything is wrong. A bad marriage is one where neither spouse does the hard work of love. But as soon as one spouse begins to do hesed [faithful, enduring love], the bad marriage disappears.

I don’t really know if this Valentine’s Day finds you smack in the middle of one of your most lean, pressing seasons of marriage, or if you’re just grateful to be doing life alongside the person you can’t imagine life without. Either way, I’m praying right now that God grants you the stuff for the hard work of love.

Is it possible yours is the next great love story?

 

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