Happy Valentine’s Day!
You know, it was exactly 44 years ago that Letty and I gave each other something on this day. We were college students at USC. We just knew each other as friends at that time, but I was getting very interested in her. So, I gave her a little “Ziggy” (the cartoon character) Valentine’s Day card. Letty did not give me a Valentine’s Day card, but she gave me a card for a different reason. On February 11th, she celebrated her first year as a follower of Jesus. So, I gave her a “born again” birthday gift; a book called “Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard. She was touched by this gift and wrote me a wonderful thank you note. I kept that card, and the hundreds of notes and cards that were exchanged over the past four decades.
The following month we went on our first date (actually, it was a discipleship follow-up – at a French restaurant; but that’s another story for later!). In September of that year, we committed ourselves to be boyfriend and girlfriend. And four years later, we were married (celebrating #40 this July). Since, that Valentine’s Day in 1978 our love has grown deeper and deeper. It has truly been, and continues to be, a love for the ages!
I find that “love for the ages” is becoming increasingly rare. Relationships today seem to be more temporary and they increasingly frail. I hear stories of marriages falling apart after just a few years. I also hear stories of people who have been married a long time, but their love has grown cold. I’m reminded of the sad song by Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore,” if you would like to hear it, click here) about a relationship that is disintegrating.
I believe Jesus talked about this in his prediction of the Last Days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). This not only applies to people’s love for God, but also their love for one another.
So, how can you nurture a love that lasts for the ages?
I would like to share five principles that have guided Letty and me (as well as countless others whom we have counseled over the years) to have a lasting and growing love for each other. I believe these principles apply to anyrelationship that is important to you; not just marriages. I call them the 5 C’s because they all start with the letter C (yeah, I’m an old-school preacher man!)
1. Commitment: Though commitment is expressed in the wedding vows, the type of commitment in a love for the ages is one that is “ever-deepening.” It’s not a matter of just meeting a commitment (like “to be faithful to each other”), but allowing the commitment to evolve and deepen. Letty and I started with a simple commitment (“divorce is never an option!”), then grew (“pursuing oneness together”) and deepened (“I will sacrifice whatever it takes for your well-being”).
2. Communication: Very early in our courtship, Letty and I read a wonderful book called, “The Secret of Staying in Love” by John Powell (click here), a Catholic priest. This wise priest hit the head on the nail on what nurtures a love that will last: It’s not about fancy date nights or keeping the flames of romance stoked (though those are good). The secret is: Communication. Powell impressed upon us deeply the importance of proactively keeping the communication lines open, no matter what. In our courtship, we talked often and we even wrote to each other in a common journal. When we got married, we set apart an hour each evening to turn off the TV and talk with each other. The level of conversation varied from coordinating calendars to sharing what happened during the day to working through problems or challenges to expressing our hopes and dreams for the future.
3. Caring: This is more about doing those little everyday things than those occasional large gestures. It’s about making coffee for her as she’s getting ready for her day. It’s about giving him that foot rub in the evening at the end of his day. It’s also knowing what really communicates love and caring for the other. The book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman (click here), really helped us to understand how each of us like to receive love and caring. Letty’s love language is spending quality time together. Mine is receiving words of affirmation. A little ongoing care in the right place goes a long way.
4. Counseling: Before we got married, our pastor (Brad Durley) who officiated our wedding told us to regularly see a marriage counselor every 5-7 years. “We see our doctor once a year for a physical check-up. Why not see someone who can give you a relationship check-up?” Now, this was in the early 1980’s where people only saw therapists as a “last tactic of desperation.” But Brad shared that counseling is a proactive move. Our first therapist was Bob, who gave us some great assessment tools (personality tests) that helped us understand each other. Our next therapist, Peter, literally saved our marriage. Letty and I hit a hard issue and, as hard as we tried, we couldn’t get on the same page. As a result, we lost trust and couldn’t communicate with each other. Peter met with us individually and then as a couple. We learned about our insecurities, fears and unspoken expectations (those hidden issues underneath “the issue”) that constantly short-circuited our ability to understand the other. This was huge! As well, Peter helped us write a “Relationship Vision” where we listed about 10 things we committed to pursue together as a couple. Having a trained third “eye” on our relationship has been invaluable in allowing our love to grow without unnecessary obstacles in the way.
5. Christ: I hear about people who want to be “equally yoked” with a Christ-follower as spouse before marriage, but once they get married the task of building their lives on Christ, the Cornerstone, becomes more of a hobby than a priority. Before we met each other, Letty and I prayed for a life-partner who would “love Jesus as much or more than I do.” Pastor Brad Durley, in his wedding message to us, told us that we need to help each other in our spiritual journey with Christ. And the only way to do that is to be constantly growing in our faith, both individually and as a couple. There is much more to say about this, but let me just share that our ever-deepening love for each other would not be possible without an ever-deepening love and pursuit of God.
So, whether you are married or in a serious relationship or waiting for the love of your life to appear, I pray that you and I would be transformed into people who love like Jesus does: unconditionally, openly, humbly and with deep intention. A love that lasts for the ages is one that requires serious investment – but it is well worth it!
Which of the 5 C’s resonate in your heart the most?
What has helped your love for your significant other to grow?
What steps can you take in nurturing a “love for the ages”?
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6 thoughts on “A Love for the Ages”
I love the “love for the ages” phrase! Love sure is sacred. A gift – to be treasured and to be given away. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Thanks! I agree – love is a sacred gift. And I resonate with how it is both something to be received (and treasured), but it’s not complete until we can give it away. Thanks for sharing!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Doug!
I remember your young love for Letty and how precious it was. I saw her love for you because I went to her wedding shower and got to know her better there. Of course, I was at your wedding and I remember it well because there were some parts of it that I had never seen at a wedding before. One very important one was the pledge stated by the pastor and shared between the two of you and the congregation. We promised to uphold you and your marriage, always encouraging you to stay with each other and show love to each other. Your part of the pledge was to ask us for help and/or prayer for any situation you were faced with in your marriage. I hope you have evidence of my compliance and that of others who attended. Your adult lives have not been easy but God has been faithful and your marriage is an inspiration to others. Letty is as beautiful as ever…Doug not so much…but even so, your marriage is gloriously beautiful. Happy Valentine’s Day! Mary
Thank you, Mary! We have indeed been blessed by your support and prayers throughout our journey. I attribute our success and growth in our marriage to the Lord (of course) and to people like you, who have been there for us throughout the long haul. So grateful for you!
Wise words, Doug!
Darlene and I celebrated our 40th a few years back (with the help of Nathan and his amazing culinary and hosting skills) and it was wonderful. Praying yours will be just as blessed.
By the way, what happened to all that beautiful hair of yours? Oh well. At least Letty’s looks even better in the second photo.
Darlene and I miss you guys!!!
Hi Larry! Congratulations to you and Darlene on your 40th wedding anniversary! Yeah, I know about the hair (in the first photo, I had a perm – I actually had enough hair to put into curlers!) And of course, Letty, only gets better through the years. When one of her kindergarten students saw me picking her up from school, she said to Letty, “Mrs. Lee, is that your dad?” LOL! Blessings to you guys! One of these days, we will connect with you guys in one of our trips to the great Northwest