I love you . . . forever.

Lovers are full of promises. We hear strains of Whitney Houston’s amazing voice singing:

Ieeyeeiii will aallways love youuuooouuu . . . will aallways love you.

Imagining a future without love is . . . unbearable. When can I see you again? Let’s have dinner soon! Can we take a walk on the beach, or see a movie sometime?

Lovers’ imaginations are remarkable, filled with plans—at times even schemes—that are carefully designed to snag and bag the one we hunt . . . or should I say, love. If I make friends with their sister . . . or hang around their favorite coffee shop, I’m bound to run into them. Or, what’s their favorite food: pizza or sushi? What music do they listen to? What hobbies do they enjoy—running, tennis, mountain climbing, golf, or (yikes!) bird watching? Once upon a time, we asked all these questions and more, and then made careful mental notes.

When you’re first dating, when the fire is running hot, love is endlessly determined to do its research, because requited love makes us feel so special, like such a prize—and that is intoxicating stuff! Oh to find that desirable someone—and then discover that they love you in return—is a powerful motivator. And it feels great! We’ll do whatever it takes: learn to savor those slivers of raw fish on cold rice, or go on a starvation diet because they like skinny girls, or sit for endless hours on a cold windswept beach because he likes you to watch him surf. Or, like a friend of mine did—she promised her beloved that she would learn to scuba dive . . . only to renege on that promise once she had the ring on her finger!

I say hooray for the explosion that started the engine of love running! Hooray for the ridiculously generous gift-giving and self-sacrificing that characterizes a new love. But love as a mere emotion is a punishing master. We weren’t meant to live forever under that whip.

We fall in love in stages. First is the explosive stage, the rose-colored-glasses stage, the love-is-blind stage. Next comes the eyes-wide-open stage, when reality begins to set in and you see the other person as human, as flawed and broken as you are. They talk with their mouths full, or pinch pennies, or forget your anniversary. You’d love a crazy over-the-top birthday splurge, but instead they bought you a new dishwasher. You discover you speak different languages when it comes to expressing love.

Have you ever heard of the seven stages of the married cold?

First year: “Sugar dumpling; I’m really worried about my baby girl. You’ve got a bad sniffle, and there’s no telling about these things with all the strep throat going around. I’m putting you in the hospital this afternoon for a general checkup, and a good rest.”

Second year: “Listen, darling, I don’t like the sound of that cough, and I’ve called Doc Miller to rush over here. Now, you go to bed like a good girl.”

Third year: “Maybe you’d better lie down, honey. Nothing like a little rest when you feel lousy. I’ll bring you something. Have we got any canned soup?”

Fourth year: “Now look, dear, be sensible. After you’ve fed the kids, and got the dishes done, and the floor finished, you’d better lie down.”

Fifth year: “Why don’t you take a couple of aspirin?”

Sixth year: “I wish you’d just gargle or something instead of sitting around barking like a seal all evening.”

Seventh year: “For Pete’s sake, stop sneezing! Are you trying to give me pneumonia?”

Which stage are you in?

Maybe you’re faithful and committed, but only technically. You may sleep in the same bed, manage the finances, you may even commit yourself to meeting the needs of your spouse, but the magic evaporated.

And now you have a choice, my friend. Some see only two choices: walk out (or drift away) and keep searching for that “perfect person” to love (or should I say, person who loves you), or continue in numbing and determined faithfulness. Is there another way through this?

Every love requires a diligent routine. What if you set aside one day a week and started asking the questions you used to ask, doing the things you used to do? Love is not an abstract concept. If you want to play guitar like a pro or write a novel like Hemmingway, you need to press on, and allow the initial thrill to die away, because there is a satisfaction and joy that is deeper and greater and more lasting. In the best relationships, love between mature Christian couples only grows deeper, and deep waters run still. . . and are far more enchanting.

Maybe it’s okay for that initial kind of crazy love to die . . . but let’s allow a different love to bloom instead. Love, as the Bible defines it, is seeing that other person through the eyes of Jesus, in all the beauty and potential that the future can hold for them. Signing up for that journey and staying the course can be hard at times, but the destination will be worth it!

This is our privilege, our basic assignment: to love as we would want to be loved ourselves, in the midst of the disappointment, tiredness, and work. That kind of love can grow stronger and richer only as we allow ourselves to be channels of love beyond our limited ability; it must be God’s love. This is the kind of love that stands in hard places.

And one day, if we live long enough, when we’ve studied and built, and worked and shared, we will love still. Even when we may think the horizon is darkening, we will love still. And one day, when we grow old and weak, we will love still.


Love bears all things,

Believes all things,

Hopes all things,

Endures all things,

Love never fails.