Love that is as strong as death. For years I read this verse and listened to the Misty Edwards song “You Won’t Relent” and simply felt caught up in the poeticism. It was beautiful. The strength of the words were clear. Someone was marked in love in the same way that people are marked for death in movies.
It’s unwavering. It’s clear. But what did it mean?
Surely love is strong in its own right. When two people are joined in the most passionate form of love, they join God in the act of creating new life! What a joy! What great depths of joy. But death? Love can last long past death but to compare the consuming nature of love to death is surely wrong. I was so puzzled by the connection between love and death… until my husband and I stood before family and friends and, as the Book of Common Prayers reads, “plighted our troth” to each other and were join in marriage.
In one sense, Bailey Curtin died. She signed papers relinquishing her name and taking another. In a very more real sense, Bailey began a constant journey of relinquishing Bailey, her life, dreams, and plans, to create a new life with Drew.
As we moved off across an ocean, we realized that God was directing something very different than our plans, something grander. I would have never chosen to start off life with only a handful of couple friends but God surrounded us with single friends and Drew looked at me one day and said, “Guess what, this is who we’ve been given, let’s make friends!”
I was horrified. Married couples came over for dinner, made pleasant conversation, sipped wine, and maybe considered playing a game of cards before offering to help clean. Single people did none of that. They brought beer and often liquor. They started drinking and asked if they could crash on the couch or steal the guest room.
I watch Bailey’s dreams shattered. The china teacups that were so lovingly given to me at my bridal shower sit on the shelf collecting dust, but beautifully displayed. I had dreams of tea with friends on the back porch before going off to Pinterest projects. This is not what God planned. The china is a beautiful reminder of the dreams I had, dreams of hosting and making things beautiful. Dreams that I still believe will be realized in a different time.
I don’t know what form that will take. It may be tea with another woman from church. It might be tea parties on the floor with my daughters someday. It might be finally teaching my sister to enjoy a cup of tea when she visits this summer.
Whatever form that takes someday, today, Bailey’s hopes and dreams and plans that she had when she received the teacups are dead. They have been sacrificed to something greater. A great love. The kind of love that recognizes the ministry of Bailey’s Irish Cream in coffee because single friends, particularly of the military profession, respect a girl who can hold her liquor. That was never a dream Bailey had but those late night talks have been a blessing. The kind of blessing that causes unbelieving friends to say, “Would it be okay if I went to church this week?”
This death Bailey has brought about something much greater, a new life. A unity in flesh and heart with my husband that can only be brought about by sacrificing our personal ambitions. That is the compelling love that causes us to put teacups and close proximity to family aside to say, “Let’s go on an adventure.”
My life is not what I envisioned, but it is good.
“I am realizing how frequently we are invited to dive into the unknown. To make a flying leap toward light and life and love. How frightening it always is. And how necessary. And also how well cared for we always are, even if we are never, at least not exactly, safe.” – Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky
This type of sacrificial love is a struggle. While I can tell cute little tales about the highlights, I often can only express it in echoing the words of Christ in Gethsemene:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ESV)
Lent is a good time to be reminded that this journey is not new. There is one who gave up their life for me when I scorned them. Despite wretched rejection, Christ laid down His life willingly for His bride, the Church. What choice am I left with than to beautifully paint this picture with my husband.
“I do” are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard
Is a good place to begin
‘Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it’s an easy price
For the life that we have found
Andrew Peterson, “Dancing in the Minefields”
Thank you Jesus for giving me an example of self-sacrifice. For the beauty of trusting that God’s dreams for me are greater than my dreams. For carrying the burden with me when the trusting is hard.