By John Russell
To impress the point upon brides and grooms, I have often opened wedding ceremonies with a reminder that marriage is not a contract designed by the state but a covenant promise ordained by God, and therefore sacred. Love is not an emotion—it is an act of the will. No one “falls in love,” but chooses either to grow through sacrificial intent or fail to grow through selfish demands.
Fanning the Flame
I’m not suggesting romance and emotion are unimportant. On the contrary they are key elements to a conscious choice to grow love, and all of us need to be tender in action and clear in expression to our mates. Many wives and husbands are starving for attention and encouragement. Many couples need an infusion of the OKA method to deepen intimacy: speak Openly, speak Kindly, and speak Affectionately.
Romance is nurtured through words like those recorded in Solomon’s Song and watered through attentive action. As far as I know, no wife has ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes! And the simple and tender touch of a wife can still thrill a man and lead to greater respect and joy.
Finishing the Course
Marriage can be summarized as short periods of passion and intensity interspersed with long periods of toleration and boredom. While that seems sarcastic and pessimistic, it’s the fighting through and restoring of passion that makes it so exciting.
I visited an elderly couple years ago. The wife was trying to honor her husband’s wish to die at home. He was in a coma, breathing heavily, diapered, and extremely frail. After prayer she asked if I could help her move him to change the bedding. After doing so, I walked a few yards away and turned back. She fluffed his pillow, ran a hand across his unshaven face, and I could read her lips: “I love you, Billy. I love you.”
I was humbled, feeling almost intrusive in the presence of greater lovers. How I wish every married couple could share a love like that. “Love . . . as Christ loved the church and gave himself up” (Ephesians 5:25).
John Russell recently retired from a 40-year ministry with Lakeside Christian Church in Lakeside Park, Kentucky. John and his wife Susan have two adult children, Jay and Stacey.