Happy Valentine’s Day! What a special time of the year this is, and how lovely to spend a day reflecting on the importance of loving relationships in our lives. We spend a lot of life thinking about love - we have something deep inside that yearns to know real love. All of the best relationships point to this something deeper, and all of our hearts long to be known and loved completely.
Eli and I have a small closet in our bedroom that holds a random assortment of things that just don’t fit anywhere else. There are our winter boots, which don’t get a lot of action in Texas, some boxes of old photos and videos from years past, and an odd assortment of other things that I can’t seem to imagine throwing away. Included in this last category is a small, blue rectangular box that contain my some of my greatest treasures in life, namely letters and notes that Eli has written to me throughout the years. Occasionally, I will break out that box and peruse through the contents, loving the wonderful memories that are contained within - sweet notes that he wrote to me after the births of our daughters, a long missive that he wrote on the plane ride home after a three week trip overseas, birthday cards and valentines, and so many others.
Most precious to me are an entire semester’s worth of letters that Eli wrote to me while we were in college. We met on the swim team at our school in California, and then transferred to Sam Houston State university during our junior year. But for the fall semester of that school year, he was still in California while I was already in Texas. This is before the internet was around, and it was also when long distance phone calls cost a small fortune. We made those calls, but they were very late at night when the rates went down, and so few and far between. I remember looking forward to and loving every one of those calls, but can remember so little of what we actually said or discussed.
In the meantime, several times a week, we exchanged letters through the mail. I am saddened that many of us have lost this special means of communicating. Email and text messages and video chats are convenient and expedient, but long letters are infinitely better. Now we have become accustomed to writing short messages, always in a hurry, straight to the point, and frequently abbreviated. Then, we took our time to really talk and process through things. Thank goodness past generations preserved so many letters - we are certainly all enriched by reading correspondence from eras past. I am thinking of lively correspondence between statesmen like Benjamin Franklin and so many from his era, which give us a snapshot of such a fascinating time in history. Or lovers pondering the depths of their feelings like Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or even friends talking shop like CS Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. This is not even to mention the immense importance of the divinely inspired letters that became much of the New Testament, which is beyond reckoning. Letter writing is such an important means for thoughts and ideas to be explored and broadened, and for important conversations to be preserved for the benefit of posterity.
In the letters from Eli, I can read and remember simple, everyday things like what he was studying or thinking about from his school classes, or the way he was looking forward to getting a dog when he got home to Texas. I can recall how his faith in Jesus, which was so new at the time, was growing and strengthening, and how that encouraged my own faith journey at the time. I can look back to see things he was learning and studying as his devotional life was developing, and the beginnings of an awakening to his call into ministry. But most precious are the declarations of love that he made to me, and the promises of our life together when he returned. I can remember vividly the feelings stirred in my heart when I read those words, and cherish them still.
How wonderful it is to be loved and to have hope for the future! I hear songs that were popular at that time (all considered oldies now) and can vividly remember how every one of them made me think of this amazing red-headed man that had captured my heart. If the song happened to be about marriage and family, it made my heart almost burst with longing for that to happen in our relationship. I am sure that I annoyed every new friend I made in Huntsville with all of the talk I did about this Eli character who was coming in just a few months. He was so often in my thoughts, and the dreams I had for our future together impacted every decision I made.
Now I can look back on those letters with a heart filled with love and gratitude. He made good on every one of his promises, and then some. He pledged his love and life to me in front of God, our family, and so many friends. We have built and lived a wonderful together, based on deep love and respect for one another and the gifts that God has given to each of us. We have watched our precious daughters grow into beautiful young women with families of their own, and now have the thrill of watching the next generation in all of their wide-eyed wonder. We have had thirty incredible years of marriage together, and, Lord willing, will have many more before eternity.
As wonderful as my husband is, and as beautiful as our life together has been, it still is just a small taste of the reality of walking with God. The Bible teaches that the Church is the Bride of Christ; we are His beloved and He is our bridegroom. Admittedly, this comparison is more difficult for men to go with than it is for women, but it is such an important truth for all of us to grasp. In God’s great plan, the very basis of society is a picture of God’s design and dream for His prize creation. Marriage and family represent something deep and spiritual and true. The coming together of husband and wife, and the begetting of children beautifully represent the close relationship that God has with His people, and the fruitfulness that results from that union. The bond and covenant of marriage represent the unending bond between God and His Church.
In our own homes, our sinful natures frequently spoil the metaphor. We are too often selfish and unkind to one another; we too often spoil Eden again and again with our headstrong ways. So we spend our lives working to overcome our own selfishness in our relationships, and having grace with our spouse as they attempt to do the same - even this becomes a picture of Christ’s constant forgiveness to each of us. But the best seasons and moments of every marriage and family are a glimpse and a reminder of what eternity holds. The safety and stability, the ability to really be ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin, and the knowledge of being known and loved and chosen are all part of what marriage represents.
As followers of Christ, we are His bride, and are the object of HIs thoughts, cares, and concerns. God created us to have endless fellowship with Him, and He chose us because He loves us with a perfect and unselfish love. He sees all that is beautiful, rare, praiseworthy, and lovely within each of us, and draws that out, helping us to become who He created us to be.
He is the bridegroom, whose vows and promises to us are true and trustworthy. His thoughts and intentions are for our highest good, and to give us a hope and future. He is always true, always faithful, and always steadfast. God did not need any of us: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have enjoyed perfect and fulfilling fellowship forever…but God chose us to be part of that fellowship, and His love for us will never fail.
How wonderful it is to be loved and to have a hope for the future! I remember how my heart rejoiced every time a letter from Eli was in my university mailbox. I cannot forget what beautiful anticipation his words stirred in my heart, yet my anticipation could never have matched the deep fulfillment that knowing and loving my husband actually is. In a much greater way, “now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” God’s love and grace are limitless. We cannot fathom what joy and wonder await us when eternity begins, when sin and sorrow and pain are no more.
Take heart today that you are known and loved and chosen. The One who loves you, whose peace and presence are so real to you even now, is preparing a place for you, that you may be with Him where He is forever. Let this love of God be so often in your thoughts, and let the dreams He has for your future together impact every decision made. This is certainly a love to celebrate!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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