What is love?
By A. Ray Lee
February fourteen reminds us it is time again to recognize the special one we love with flowers, cards, candies, and various other ways of saying they are dear to us. These thoughtful intentions are good investments in love relationships. But as important as they are, they require little investment of time and effort. Too often the sentiment expressed in those traditional acts may fade with the roses. Their sweetness can disappear when the candies are eaten. The implied promise may be broken when the valentine’s cards are discarded. Genuine love must run deeper.
It takes more than this seasonal recognition with its traditional acts to cement a love that will stand the tests of time and endure “until death do us part.” Through the years of ministry, I have officiated at more marriages than I can remember. Many of them continue to thrive. Even though a few have not lasted until the ink of my signature on the marriage certificate had dried, most are still going strong.
For years I received an annual card signed “from two satisfied customers” long after their ceremony. Recently l ran into a couple whom I had not seen in years in a restaurant as they were enjoying a meal with an adult daughter who needed special care. When they had finished they stopped by my table to introduce the daughter to me noting I was the one who had officiated at their wedding over fifty years ago. Their smiles told me everything I wanted to know about their relationship.
These and other marriages have lasted because of a love that was cemented by a strong commitment to their vows and to each other. Years ago a pop singer made famous a romantic song with lyrics that seemed sufficient for happiness and endurance as she sang “love will keep us together.”
While doing pre-marriage counseling I have stressed that if the exuberance of romantic love is encouraged to mature it leads to an enduring bond of commitment that seals the relationship enabling them to fulfill the vow to love “in sickness and health—until death dost us part.” Shakespeare expressed a great truth in one of his sonnets when he wrote, “Love is not love which alters when it alterations find.” (Sonnet 116)
There are many things in life that may test the depth of the commitment one has for a spouse. In my case, it was dealing with a long-term sickness that slowly destroyed Effie’s mind and ravished her body before finally taking her life. That is when the vow “in sickness and health’’ was put to the test.
The day after our marriage we had seen a doctor to deal with her nagging respiratory problem which altered our plans for two days putting us on a tight schedule. In a light moment, she reminded me I had vowed to love her “in sickness and in health.” Through the years each of us had used the phrase when we wanted attention for minor ailments.
In the final years we shared together, I came to understand the gravity of the vow I had made over fifty-five years before. As I cared for her I knew she would have done the same for me if our roles had been reversed. We had made a commitment to each other and that commitment sustained me until the end.
The words spoken by Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi are often used in a marriage ceremony as an example of a life-long commitment. Read them in Ruth 1:16,17.