A Love Worth Celebrating

Last year on our anniversary I wrote about how our celebration was not magical, and how that was okay with me.

This year, it was perfect.

I didn’t suffer a terrible cold (like last year), and I felt beautiful. I put on a dress I’ve had since we were dating (that’s 15+ years ago) and yes, the midriff section was a bit bulgy but for the most part it still fit and that felt great. Our candlelit dinner was lovely, followed by a romantic walk around our neighborhood. Although my feet blistered from the high heels, the gentle evening breeze and euphoric marital bliss carried me. We finished the magical evening by watching A Theory of Everything—the beautiful love story behind a man with a magnificent mind, Stephen Hawking—which perfectly captured my reflections on love after fourteen years of marriage.

I always carry a bit of discomfort around holidays reserved only for some. Perhaps it’s the social justice part of me, but I hesitate to celebrate something unless EVERYONE gets to celebrate it. This is why I love birthdays because everyone gets one, but I can’t stand Valentine’s Day, an exclusive holiday for those who are paired up.

I struggle to celebrate my marriage when my GLBT loved ones have yet to find full affirmation within society and church. I am also entering a season of life where several friends are facing brutal separation and divorces. I want to bear their pains as much as I want to celebrate my joy. How do I lean fully into both the grace that sustains my marriage and the same grace that mends the gaping wounds of the brokenhearted?

Here is what I am learning about love—that it is all at once fragile and resilient. In the movie, the beautiful and fierce Jane married Stephen Hawking despite his devastating diagnosis of a motor neuron disease, caring for him and their three children with tenacity. Due to the challenges of his disability and the need for round the clock nursing care, they both end up falling in love with other persons taking on those roles in their unique family situation. Their marriage ended but the couple remained amiable with one another.

It was not a fairy tale ending, but it was a love story nevertheless.

Parker Palmer says,

“Wholeness does not mean perfection: It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”

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I would go further to say, our life and our love require brokenness to grow into substantive depth. The love that I share with my husband is meaningful only because of its fragility. The possibility of losing it is what gives it value. C.S. Lewis says, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” To love is to hold something close, knowing it cannot be forced to stay against its will. Our commitment was never to love each other perfectly—it was always a decision to embrace our brokenness together.

Likewise, the brokenness of a disease that eventually wore down the Hawkings’ marriage does not diminish the strength of the brave love they shared, testified through many years of physical and emotional toil. Love is this dynamic thing that does not always run its expected course, but remains beautiful in having demanded that we offer it with tender vulnerability.

The only thing I am certain of is that nothing is for certain. I am unsure of many things but I am sure of our human frailty. God knows my own marriage is a love that has built its resilience upon forgiving a multitude of fumbling errors: careless words, selfish desires, and awkward fights. For many reasons beyond our control or understanding, we have been given grace in this precious gift of marriage.

But there is grace also in love that has been shattered, in love that once was but is no more. There is grace in love that can only exist in longing; unfulfilled by geography, civil laws, or unreturned affection. There is grace in love redirected, like the single mother’s love for her child, or the widower who pours into a project. There is grace in love reunited, an unexpected healing of a breached relationship. There is grace for love faded into a precious memory.

Last year, I looked for perfection and found brokenness. This year, I am embracing brokenness on the path to wholeness. Thankfully, this journey is open to all; the only prerequisite is in being human—fragile and resilient. Today, my husband and I celebrate fourteen years of love. Tomorrow, I celebrate love with you, and you, and you.

Everyone loves, and because love wins, everyone wins. I can celebrate that.

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