A few weeks ago my husband and I attended the wedding of our church’s new worship leader. We sat outside in stark white folding chairs. The backdrop- a gorgeous old red brick building with looming arches and history seeping out of every nook and corner. The sun lightly grazed our cheeks as the breeze stirred up a soft fragrance of apple blossoms that lingered in the air above us.
The groom brushed tears from the corner of his eyes as he watched his bride begin her short ascent towards him. The bride spent the entire ceremony staring at him with such intense admiration and love that I waffled between searing the image in my mind and directing my gaze elsewhere to provide them some privacy.
Their love was so young and new and staring down at my husband’s strong hand folded around mine I suddenly felt like ours was old and worn. I pressed my hand tightly into his, relaying my question in the silent squeeze, “Were we ever like that?” I’m fairly certain we were, but to be honest, it’s hard to remember. Filtering through the years and the babies, different jobs and the moves that come with it, finding our way back to the beginning sometimes feels like being handed a faded old photograph of ourselves. I know it’s us, but I still stare at it, trying to make out the details.
Startling my thoughts and bringing me back, my husband gently leaned in and whispered, “This is new love. What we have now is old love. Old love, baby, that’s where it’s at.” He gave me a mischievous wink and kissed my cheek.
Old love is calloused hands and steady heart.
He was right of course. I mean new love is exhilarating and so full of promise. It starts out at the altar all shiny and bright, exchanging promises for a beautiful tomorrow, a story just begging to be written. It’s so fresh and thrilling it’s nearly intoxicating, with so many wonderful firsts still ahead. Just as new love should be.
But old love has its charms too. It may look a bit more weathered and worn on the outside but inside is where the treasure is. Like a favorite book that you’ve read so many times the words have trampled a well worn path into your soul.
New love promises, old love fulfills those promises.
Old love has one distinct advantage over new love and that is time. Over the last 16 years our love has had the opportunity to grow and develop and slowly transform into old love.
New love + adversity + time + commitment = old love.
Life will hand you ample opportunity to turn new love into old. The more difficult the situations you grow through, the more potential for old love growth, and some of our greatest opportunities for growth come during the longest, darkest seasons of our lives.
For us, one of those dark seasons came in the first few years of marriage. We suffered the loss of our first child through miscarriage, and the pain and disappointment of it left us overwhelmed. I walked around in a fog for weeks after, my heart holding nothing but emptiness. I constantly felt as though someone had just punched me in the gut, like I was still struggling to catch my breath. We struggled through those days, clinging to each other and our faith, fully realizing it was the only way we were going to find our way out.
But we did find our way out- time being one of our dearest friends. That is part of the beauty of old love. It holds it all together, not discriminating against the struggles. The pain of our loss bundled with the wonder and gratitude of welcoming three children into our arms and hearts afterwards added a layer of richness to our lives.
Old love carries our disappointments, pain, and failures together in the same tender hands that hold our memories, laughter and dreams. Amazingly, it’s in the compilation of them where we discover the deepest, strongest roots of love.
Old love grows hand in hand. It grows in the dark of night while rocking a newborn and in the early morning hours with coffee and Bible in hand. It grows in the sound of a child’s belly laugh and in shared tears at a burial site. It grows in quiet comfort and noisy chaos. It grows during late night trampoline jumps under a starry sky and bike rides for ice cream under the scorching sun. It grows while holding hands side by side and through meaningful gazes across a crowded room. It grows through any life experience, if we let it.
So let’s celebrate new love and new marriage commitments, recognizing that it’s the starting line to old love. Let’s encourage them along in their journey, reminding them as they embrace the messy, the hard and the beautiful, they will unearth what is sure to be one of the greatest treasures of all- old love.