Love Only Grows
“You’re going where? To see who exactly?” Those were my mother’s words when I told her I was flying to Pennsylvania to see a man named Tommy I had met on Facebook a few weeks prior. “Well, who is this guy? What do you know about him?” my father asked, as I’m certain he simultaneously called his FBI friends to order a comprehensive background check on this man I’d met on the Internet.
My mom and dad, the two people I trust most in this world, were simply asking the questions any parent would ask their eldest daughter as she informed them she had met someone online and was going to visit him, sight unseen, to see if there was a relationship worth pursuing. While apprehensive at first, they were supportive and open-minded in the end. “You’re an adult, Katie. We raised you right. We trust you. Just…please call us every day you are there. Every hour, actually. Not texts. Call us. Just so we know you’re alive, okay?”
A few weeks later, moments before my flight was to take off to Pennsylvania, I texted my mom to tell her I was nervous, asking her to pray for me. Her response brought tears to my eyes: “I pray for you and your future spouse every day, Katie, and I will be praying for you and Tommy to discern this relationship and hope you put God at the center.”
Even though our relationship was unconventional and a perpetual exercise in the unknown, my mom and dad were remarkably supportive of Tommy and me. They knew the distance was difficult for us. They understood the challenge we faced in discerning who was going to eventually move. They accepted my crazy travel schedule and the weekends away from home. When Tommy did move down to Louisiana, they welcomed him with open arms and embraced him into the family. My mom loved his sense of humor. My dad finally had a fishing buddy that wasn’t afraid to get in the boat. My sister had someone with whom to match wits. He became part of our family right away. Tommy tells me that when he asked my father for my hand in marriage and told him how he planned on proposing to me, my dad laughingly said, “Son, you’re going to make every other guy alive look bad, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re the best one for her.”
This guy I met on Facebook was everything my parents had prayed for me to find someday, and more. He was what they wanted for me and they couldn’t wait to see us begin our married life together. For the two people who have the best marriage I know of to give us their blessing, and support us throughout our preparations for and in these first few months of marriage, has been a remarkable gift. To know that their support and love flows from their own lived experience of a healthy, holy marriage makes it all the better.
My whole life I have admired my parents. Their unwavering faith, uncompromising work ethic, and undeniable joy and playfulness are the very heart of our family. I always knew one thing without question: my mom and dad loved each other, and everything in their lives flowed from and through their relationship. It was never a question of if my folks were in love. It was merely a matter of how much they loved each other and what new way they would find to show that love each day. Whether it was the weekly flowers my dad had delivered to mom’s office, or the sticky notes my mom would leave for my dad on his briefcase, there were constant reminders to my sister and me that our parents cared deeply for each other and allowed that love to radiate into every aspect of our home.
It wasn’t uncommon to see them holding hands or to hear dad tell mom she was beautiful. They’d often go out to dinner, just the two of them, leaving us home with a babysitter, rented movies, and pizza. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to be with us; it was just immensely important that they be together on their own as well. A few years ago, they decided to go on a week-long trip in my mom’s convertible, running the roads from Louisiana to North Carolina like a couple of newlyweds. The pictures from that vacation – and their stories of getting lost in middle-of-nowhere-Georgia – were proof that their love had only deepened over the years. In the days leading up to our wedding, as we would all talk through the little details, my dad would tease me, saying, “I’m sure your wedding dress is beautiful, Katie, but your mom looks great in what she’ll be wearing!” Even after all these years, my dad still thinks my mom is stunningly gorgeous and will tell anyone who will listen.
This month marks 32 years of marriage for my folks. That’s 32 years of working together, praying with and for each other and supporting each other in good times and bad. 32 years of setting goals, making sacrifices, and learning the lessons of life. 32 years of growing more and more in love each day and witnessing to that love. 32 years of being a steady example of how to serve another and root a relationship in Christ.
For someone that’s only twelve weeks into marriage, that seems like an eternity…
Our twelve weeks of newlywed bliss (and our fair share of struggles) seem to pale in comparison to the numerous years of marriage of all the couples we’ve been blessed to know. Between our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, coworkers, friends, and mentors, there are hundreds of years of married life that we’ve seen, admired, and hope to emulate. The common thread running through each marriage we’ve been blessed to observe is simple: love only grows. Love doesn’t shrink in the face of sacrifice or dwindle day by day. Love changes. It shifts. It morphs when confronted with challenges and struggles, and it deepens in moments of success and joy. In the end, the love in marriage seems to grow and expand when a couple stands together and tackles life in the name of the Lord. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s because of various struggles, and in the process of daily sacrifice, that love grows the most.
And what is it that grows between a couple over twelve weeks, twelve months, or even 32 years and beyond? St. Paul tells us that love is patient. Love is not only happy-go-lucky feel-good moments. It is patient, which means there are moments when calm, rational, deep breaths and level-headedness are needed in the midst of the annoying habits of another person. Love is kind. Love is not merely nice. Niceness is bland and simple. It’s what we expect of children on playgrounds. But kindness – kindness is being gentle and compassionate, even when you don’t feel like it. Love is not jealous. Love is not competitive or spiteful. It is supportive, the ever-present cheerleader in the face of daily jobs. Love isn’t rude nor does it seek to cut down. It isn’t this brooding, angry, spiteful thing. It is the enduring action by which a couple can forgive quickly and hope in a better tomorrow. Love is the unending, unfailing, never finished, constantly expanding glue between the newlyweds and the seasoned veterans. Love will move mountains, love will give meaning, and love will grow day by day within the couple that never forgets what it truly is: the very foundation of all that is said and done.
As we continue to count each day of our marriage, our prayer is that we will continue to experience for ourselves what we have witnessed in the lives of the couples we know: that love will only grow between us as we grow together in virtue, strengthening and deepening day by day with our Lord.