Kim graduated the year before I did and was working in Madison, Georgia. I must include, however, that she was younger than I am—she would want you to know. I was finishing school with a six-month diversion to sing at the 1982 World’s Fair. Kim wrote letters prolifically, and she kept all of them once we married.
Now, thirty-seven years later, I have the blessing of being reminded how we pursued each other and God as we explored a future. To be perfectly transparent, we were immature and had no idea what we were doing. As I have healed from my loss, I have read these letters from Kim written to me while we dated long-distance.
She was growing to love me as I was growing to love her. But in these letters, I am reading of her growing love and anticipation of our marriage. I am in awe of the gift of love. As I read the letters—and consider where we ended up—I was reminded of a few insights that I believe provide profound marital guidance in my rearview mirror.
The Bible calls for selfless commitment. The wise person practices commitment. This is much more difficult than a simple sentence. However, it’s as simple as this singular sentence. The night I asked Kim to marry me, she and I had a heart-to-heart on what that decision included. Commitment. For life. Decisive. In my rearview mirror, that commitment made all the difference.
“‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24
The Bible calls for unconditional love. The wise person practices love. Love has a number of faces and all are valid. However, for marital love you must tie every other love to unconditional, agape love. Selflessness. Loving the one loved without conditions. I love what a German theologian, H. W. J. Thiersch, says to explain the power marriage exerts over the emotional aspect of love:
“Marriage rescues love from the tyranny of strong but immature emotions; in marriage, we are not the helpless pawns of passing moods, rather we train love to be the willing servant of our union” H. W. J. Thiersch
Indeed, there is emotion in marriage. But marriage rescues your love from simple, emotional love. Unconditional love, born of marital commitment, is a gift. As I look in my rearview mirror, I do not regret my unconditional love for Kim. And I enjoyed the confidence of unconditional love from her.
The Bible calls for the fruit of love. The wise person fully builds an environment marked by the fruit of love. There is an environment that comes from unconditional love. However, it takes intentional building upon that foundation of love. Love gives birth to an atmosphere that defines the marriage.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love frames marriage with patience and kindness. Love resists envy, boasting, arrogance, and rudeness. It is selfless and is not irritable or resentful. It rejoices in truth and does not rejoice in misconduct. Love frames a marriage in bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things. Unconditional love provides the context for the bliss of the fruit of love. In my rearview mirror, I see clearly the fruit of love.
Three brief insights in my rearview mirror remind me why the Creator of marriage should be trusted to build marriages. Selfless commitment, unconditional love, and intentional building out the fruit of love stand as a monument to the beauty of marriage.
“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.“ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Note: The release of this entry, written over a year ago, is timely as I prepare for marriage nearly three years after my loss.