It was December 2002, my Dad and I were sitting in the parking lot of a Zaxby’s. He had gone with me to pick out an engagement ring for my now wife, Brandon. We needed a break from the hunt and the overwhelming deluge of sparkles and price-tags.
Dad took the opportunity to talk about the privilege and responsibility of marriage. I don’t remember everything he said, but I do remember him telling me that he loved my mom more then than the day he married her. I am ashamed to say it, but I thought “nah, no way I will love Brandon more than I do now.” I had drunk deep the elixir that tells you love is young couples looking at each other starry eyed. That true love is puppy love…that it is the perpetual honeymoon love. You know, the same elixir that is peddled today with a new label. The stuff we fill our Facebook feeds with and watch on “The Bachelor.”
Six months later I began my marriage journey and it didn’t take me long to realize that my dad was right. Love deepens and grows as the marriage moves forward. The majority of marriage happens in the mundane, and it is in those ordinary day by day moments where love grows and matures. My vision of marriage began to change. The young hip couple on an extravagant date night was becoming less enchanting, and the aged couple sharing a burger, fries, and milkshake after weathering many a storm was becoming more beautiful. I was on the road to sobriety, being freed from the toxic elixir of shallow love that grips so many. The intoxication that keeps us on the never-ending search for novelty, which is like, to borrow an expression, “trying to jump out of a bottomless hole,” and gives us a disdain for perseverance.
In May of 2007, four and half years after my dad told me of his ever-increasing love for my mom, my mom’s battle with cancer began. After weathering many storms in their 31 years of marriage, the darkest cloud yet crossed the horizon and engulfed them. This was a season (8 years) of multiple surgeries, round after round of chemo, radiation, nights in the ER, weeks away from home, and a multiplication of miles on the road. Not exactly the stuff of reality romance television. Yet, it was during this time that their love deepened even more.
During this time, I watched my dad take care of my mom with unwavering commitment. He endured schedules in his late 50s and early 60s that would wilt youth. They spent time in Kansas, Oklahoma, Atlanta, Houston, and back to Atlanta. Spending three months in Houston, the majority of it just the two of them, my dad juggled work, doctor’s appointments, treatments, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and more. He never said, “I quit.” He did say, “I love…I love her.” I could go on, but it would only embarrass him. He would attribute it all to God’s grace and credit it to His glory.
You see, not only is today Father’s Day, but today would have been my parents 40th wedding anniversary.
Dad, I know today is especially difficult. God’s Word tells us that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Take heart, just as you were committed to mom, Christ is even more committed to you. He will never leave you or forsake you. “His grace has brought you safe thus far, and His grace will bring you safely home.” One day, He will wipe the last tear from your cheek and on that day faith will be sight, hope will be realized, and love will endure forevermore. Dad, I love you and I’m thankful for you. Thanks for that parking lot conversation and thanks for not only saying, but for also displaying.
Friends, we all long for this kind of love. The fullness of it is only found in Christ crucified and raised for you. Many don’t find glimpses of this love on earth, and if that is you, I am truly sorry. However, that love in its fullness is available to you. Christ, the King of kings, came and died for His enemies so that He could make us sons and daughters of glory. To refuse this love would be a tragedy.
Christian, when I was a kid I had a couple of friends whose parents were going through divorces. I remember asking my mom if that would ever happen to her and my dad. She looked at me with tenderness and assertiveness telling me, “no…never.” You see, I was witnessing the failing of love in the lives of my friends. I wanted to know if this was to be expected. I needed assurance. After my mom answered me, I can honestly say I never had a bit of anxiety about it again. I was secure in their love. Remember, marriage is a sign-post to the gospel. God never intended for any marriage to end in divorce because Christ will never divorce Himself from the Church. Brothers and sisters, you can sing “blessed assurance Jesus is mine” because you are His and He doesn’t let go. As my dad was committed to my mom through difficulty, even more so is Christ committed to you. Rest secure in Christ.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!