To some of us, they were Aunty Carol and Uncle Dave. She was small like a bird and sweet as honey. He was tall, practical, and kept a hundred stories tucked away in his pockets to share with the students assigned to him during the work period. They lived up the road from the girls dorm, and on some Saturday afternoons my friends and I would go to the big white house on the hill to visit Mr. and Mrs. Meservia.
Though he was of retirement age, Uncle Dave still worked as head of the maintenance department when I was in high school. He eased away some of our work time by giving us advice or telling us of his adventures while serving in the Canadian Navy, like the time he got to dine with the Queen of England’s mother.
Aunty’s health was bad, so she mostly stayed home. But she didn’t complain. She was always surrounded by a steady peace, like there was an anchor somewhere deep inside her, keeping her grounded. When you sat next to her, you could just feel love for Jesus oozing out.
During the time I was a student and when I later worked at the school, I heard Aunty Carol and Uncle Dave’s love story a couple of times, and it always made me smile.
…tiny, white haired, mostly-vegan, Jesus-loving Aunty Carol would tell us how she had quickly come back with, “Coffee? No, we’re going to the bar.”
They met before either of them were following the Lord, they’d tell us. Aunty and her friends were walking down the sidewalk one day. Uncle Dave and his buddies were walking from the other direction. Spying the cute girls coming toward them, Uncle Dave decided to jump on the opportunity and asked Aunty, “Hey, would you girls like to go and get some coffee?”
From her recliner, then, tiny, white haired, mostly-vegan, Jesus-loving Aunty Carol would tell us how she had quickly come back with, “Coffee? No, we’re going to the bar.”
Eventually they started dating and things got serious. One day Uncle Dave went to Aunty Carol’s house and walked into her room with a little bag in his hand. He stood by her bed, where she was sitting, and very pragmatically asked, “Do you think we could get along?”
Aunty said yes, she did think so.
Without another word, Uncle tossed the little bag that held an engagement ring onto her bed. And that was it.
Our eyes would get rounder than quarters when we heard how unromantically Uncle Dave had dared to propose. No treasure hunt? No original love song played on a ukulele while sitting underneath the stars? No getting down on one knee at a football game? He could have at least bent over to tie his shoe. I think we secretly hoped our future husbands would have a little more romantic sense than Uncle Dave.
Brennen, coolly said, “What if they made a show about people who actually stayed married?”
I used to be really into this show called Say Yes to the Dress, where women go to this fancy bridal shop in New York City and try to find their dream wedding dress. I know, I know, it sounds silly and fake and like twenty-five minutes of wasted time… and it is. A girl walks in with visions of finding an ivory lace ball gown. Then she does. The show could end there, but that would be too sensible. So the rest of the episode is spent milking the drama that ensues when the bride finds out the ball gown is $10,000 over her budget or her grandmother tells her she looks like a puff pastry and will disown her if she buys it.
My friend Diana and I were watching this wholesome content one day when her husband, Brennen, coolly said, “What if they made a show about people who actually stayed married?”
It’s no secret that in today’s society, generally, we lean heavily on the peripheral stuff of marriage preparation and not as much on the actual relationship. When it comes to proposals, there’s a growing expectation that there should be a choreographed flash mob dancing to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, the girl should be in front of hundreds of friends and family members (so she feels, you know, comfortable), and then someone needs to jump out of a plane with a big “Will you marry me?” sign. Oh, and it should all be videoed so it can go viral. Actual weddings only get worse. The favors, the flowers, the lace, the burlap. It can all become a suffocating vortex of details and production. You have to wonder if all the fuss is really a celebration of selfless love or just a showy production of roses and narcissism. Is it about you or the relationship?
Don’t get me wrong though. I love weddings (sort of). You’re celebrating a new lifetime commitment that you’ll only make once (hopefully), which is a pretty big deal. So why not express your joy in a lovely ceremony and beautiful materials, make it a day to remember? I think it’s a good thing. Let’s just hope though, that at the end of the day, when all the decor has been cleaned up, and your dress and his tuxedo are put away, you love the person you’re left with. The real human being who brushes his teeth, goes grocery shopping with you, and has to say, “I’m sorry” sometimes. Let’s hope you love every bit of him.
…raw love is intense and yet understated. It’s almost abrupt…
The other day I asked my friend Carmen about her husband’s proposal, which was quite boring by millennial standards. They were out snowshoeing one day in the Canadian wilderness when Chris went ahead and hid behind a boulder. When Carmen came around the corner, he was down on one knee (well, as much as you can be in snowshoes). And that’s when he popped the question. I asked Carmen if it was romantic enough for her. She said she honestly liked it. “When it comes to marriage, to me, the most important thing is Chris and that we are going to spend our lives together.”
There’s a dimension of love that makes us want to celebrate in a really big, in-your-face way sometimes, and that’s a good thing. But when you get to the heart of it, I think raw love is intense and yet understated. It’s almost abrupt, like finding your boyfriend hiding behind a boulder in the middle of the forest when you’re out on a walk. Or having an engagement ring tossed onto your bed out of the blue. It just is what it is, and it doesn’t need glamour or a dance routine to prove itself.
What Carmen said about Chris reminds me a little bit of Jesus’ relationship with two women. Mary was there when Jesus was preaching. She was there when He died, and she was first at the tomb on Sunday morning. She was fixated on Him. Sometimes her love could be called extravagant or showy, like the time she bought perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head. But when she did that, I don’t think she was really thinking about what she was doing. She was only thinking of what He had done for her. That purchase came from a place of intense gratitude for who Jesus was.
Mary had a sister though, Martha, who was really good at being productive. She was the kind of girl you would want to plan your wedding. When Jesus came around, she wanted everything to be just perfect. I think He appreciated her efforts, but probably wanted to tell her to pull out the Wheat Thins and leave it at that. He saw that she was investing herself in the mundane things, so He said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
If all Martha did was invest in the work she did for Jesus, what was she going to do when all that was left was Jesus?
Food could be made, but eventually it would be eaten or thrown away. Dishes could be dirtied, but they’d be washed and put away. Work could be done, but at some point, it would go away too. If all Martha did was invest in the work she did for Jesus, what was she going to do when all that was left was Jesus? What she did would eventually cease, but what He did for her and His love would never change.
I think we’re all a lot more like Martha than we realize. Sometimes it’s easy to get involved in ministry and work for Christ because it can cater to our selfishness and our desire to be needed. We can get addicted to the high that comes from being used by God. We can get a bigger thrill over what we’re doing for Jesus than looking at what His selfless love has done for us. But, according to the Bible, there’s going to come a point in time where ministry and evangelism won’t be necessary, at least not in the way they’re done now.
“‘No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:34, NIV).
According to the Bible, there’s going to be a wedding someday. I’m sure it’s going to be big and beautiful and extravagant and anything we’ve done here will look like trash by comparison. All the people who follow Jesus are prepping for that wedding right now—and we need to. But one day, the preparations will be over and so will the wedding. Oh, yes, heaven will still be glorious, filled with mansions and golden streets and whatnot, but even those things will be peripheral. For eternity, we’ll be left with a real Human being whose love is raw and intense and sometimes abrupt in the way it expresses itself, like when He hung naked on a cross. No glamour or flashing lights to attract us. Just Him.
Let’s hope we love every bit of Him.
Happy Valentine’s Day!