I’ve been reading this incredibly rich book called “Love at Last Sight,” by Kerry and Chris Shook. I’m not sure how kosher this is, but I really want to share a big chuck of Day 6 in this book. A few of my own thought are also below:
…in the same way many close relationships appear warm and inviting: a bride and groom gazing at each other in candlelight, a new parent holding a cuddly, doe-eyed baby, or friends sharing hot coffee and laughter. It’s easy to see why these emotional moments seem like they’re enough to support a lifelong relationship. But the reality is that most of life is spent doing common, everyday stuff. Sure, great moments happen, but real life is lived in the midst of dirty dishes, overdue bills and broken water heaters.
Good feelings aren’t reliable enough to sustain any relationship. Here’s the truth: our commitment to each other is the scaffolding that our key relationships are built on. Romance, shared dreams, laughter, memories and deep conversations are the plaster and paint we use to decorate our relationships, but without commitment everything else will disintegrate with the little earthquakes that come into everyday life.
Whenever I meet an elderly couple that has been married for fifty or sixty years, I have to ask them, “How did you do it? You must have weathered lots of tough times together over these years – job changes, disappointments, health problems, parenting challenges, empty-nest readjustments and times when money was scarce. But you are here. You beat the odds. What is your secret?”
The remarkable thing is that almost every couple responds in the exact same way. They’re quick to agree that, yes, life was very hard at times. Then they usually go on to share stories that make my eyes brim with tears as they tell of the heartbreak of losing a child, going to war, or struggling through an economic crash or natural disaster. This information is shared stoically, but they are always mindful of the original question and quickly move from the past to the present. Why are they still together?
Because they gave their word.
When the said “Till death do us part,” there was integrity in their promise. They’ve been held together by the strength of their commitment.
I’m used to the response now, but the first few times I was surprised. I had always assumed the answer would be “love.” After all, if you can just work up enough love feelings, your marriage can handle anything, right? No, I was dead wrong. The one thing these life long partnerships had in common was commitment.
Today’s culture tells us that all we need is love. But in the end, love wasn’t even enough to keep the Beatles together. Its ironic that a band that sang such great love songs ultimately had no love for each other. That’s because love is more than a song, a dream or a feeling.
The commitments we make are like magnets: they pull us toward each other. In friendship, commitment means being there for someone even when its not convenient. In family relationships its being by someone’s side even after years of dealing with a disappointing father or a brother stuck in addiction. In marriage, commitment means divorce isn’t an option.
When you know you are stuck with someone for life, you’ll do whatever it takes to resolve an argument. Of course, it takes two to make and keep a commitment, and if you’ve gone through the pain and alienation from a family member or a divorce, rest assured that God hurts with you and wants to heal your heart. However, there is no chance of love at last sight in any relationship unless you begin with commitment.
The chapter continues on to talk about the same importance of commitment when it comes to staying engage in the lives of our kids, even when it is not easy. Even when they let us down. And I have to say that I love this thinking. I’ll admit I don’t always feel “in love” with my family, but when love is more than feelings — when a big component of love is commitment it brings so much more depth to my relationships.
As a mom of teenagers and someone who works with teens, I wonder how I teach this to my children and other young people close to me. The culture teaches them that relationships are all about the emotional highs that we get from our friends and significant others, but long term relationships will not survive on emotional highs. Friends, boyfriends and girlfriends will let you down.
When it comes to choosing the one person we will spend the rest of our lives with we have to be willing to accept that over time those “warm fuzzy feelings” will go away (or at least they won’t be there every moment of everyday!) And what you are left with is the character of the person to whom you have committed the rest of your life. And they are left with you. Two imperfect people who will need the commitment of their word to build a deep and rich relationship that will last the rest of their lives.
I love a quote that the Shooks share a bit further on in the chapter:
“I suddenly realized that, just like building a marriage, raising a family is messy. Of course! It involves imperfect people! That’s when I began to celebrate the glorious mess of our family.”