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Thirty one years. Today. I stood before him in a long white gown that cost more than my father wanted to spend, but he bought it for me anyway, because it was the one and he was ‘the one’ and my Dad would have bought me the moon if I said I wanted it.

I stood before him, this man I loved with all my being, both of us still more kids than adults, at 20 and 21. Kids who thought we knew what we were doing but the only thing we really knew was that we couldn’t live without the other. I stood before him amongst a crowd of friends and family and fragrant roses and I repeated the words my father-in-law said in a voice barely above a whisper, and before I knew what was happening we were husband and wife. And holy cow. There was no going back.

People thought it wouldn’t last. Oh, nobody was impolite enough to say it, but I know some friends thought we were nuts. Some adults shook their heads and probably regretted the amount they spent on crystal and silver and fine china for what would surely become another sad statistic, a failed marriage.

We’re still using that silver and china, though there’s not much of the crystal left. And sure, maybe the odds were stacked against us. Maybe the long nights of a resident doctor who couldn’t come home when his three-month old wouldn’t stop crying and his wife was about to lose her last nerve would have taken their toll.

Maybe the selfishness and petty arguments and all the things we said and did that we didn’t really mean, maybe those would have turned the tide at some point. Made it easy to walk out. Maybe raising two kids and being an island doctor where everybody knows your name and most of your business and when you’re young and stupid and a bit insecure and you feel like you might need to be in the in-crowd and all the parties and poor choices made . . .  maybe those would have over time eroded what was once a solid foundation. Maybe.

I’ll tell you, we had those moments. Everybody has those moments. Because marriage. Marriage is not easy. Not. Easy. If it is, if you’ve never had a single argument or thought one bad thing about your spouse or wanted to throw a plate across the table (we never did this, though I wanted to at times and he probably did too) well . . . if you’ve never had those moments, I won’t say you’re doing it wrong, but I might want to check your pulse.

Here’s what so many people don’t get. 

Love is more than just the gooshy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. Love is more than catching each other’s eye across a crowded room and sending silent messages that make you want to dissolve into laughter. Love is more than knowing when to say the words and when to stay silent. Love is more than all the emotions being together evokes.

Love is choosing to sacrifice yourself for that person.

Choosing them, their happiness and well-being above your own. And sure, you can work that out and call it being a team or a partnership or whatever worldly tag you want to tack on it, but it’s more than that. Love, true love, the kind that lasts, that’s something spiritual. That’s a gift from God. And the thing about gifts? We get to choose whether to accept them. We can take a gift and thank the giver and promptly stick the thing on the shelf and let it gather dust. Or we can unwrap it and choose to use it.

Marriage is a choice. Staying married is a choice.

You choose. You choose him on the day you say I do and you choose him every single day after that. You choose him when you trip over the pile of clothes on the bedroom floor in the middle of the night. You choose him when he drinks all the milk and leaves dirty dishes on the counter and you choose him over every stupid thing that drives you bonkers but it doesn’t really matter in the long run because . . . he is yours. You choose him. And he chooses you. Believe me, if I listed everything I do that probably drives him up the wall, this would be one long blog. Though I know I am not the easiest person in the world to live with at times, I also know he chooses me too, and I thank God for it.

After thirty one years of choosing to love one another, there are still days when I don’t think we’ve got anything figured out at all. But those days get fewer and far between as each year passes. Time together gets sweeter and more precious. We’ve seen other marriages fail. We’ve cried over them. Prayed over them and hoped to God that something might change, and I think that makes us more determined in our own choices. More determined to love anyway. To laugh more. To be more intentional in our relationship with one another. And we don’t have it all together. We probably never will because we’re just human. We will still fail. But we will continue to choose to forgive. Choose to forget. And always choose each other over all else.

How? I’ve been asked. How in the world do you still have this happy marriage after so many years? And there’s really only one answer to that.

Because of Jesus.

Because He gives us the strength. He gives us the love. He gives life and breath and everything we never knew we needed and I can tell you . . .without Him? Yeah. It’s hard enough with Him. But without that trust, that mutual faith and foundation we placed this relationship on from day 1? Maybe we would be that statistic, who knows. I hope not. But we chose Him. We choose Him. And through Him, we choose each other. Over and over and over again.

These words, I know you hear them at almost every wedding, but there’s a reason for that. It’s because they are true. Words to live by. Every day.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

And so we choose to do this thing. To keep doing it until our last breath together.

We choose love.

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