It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
In the second reading for last weekend, St. Paul offers a beautiful description of all that love should be. This teaching is appropriate for all kinds of love – love between family members, love between friends, and love between spouses. It offers a blueprint of how to live in harmony with those important to us. The love described in this scripture passage is the ideal, yet it stands in stark contrast to the image of love that popular culture presents, especially for married couples.
It smacked of irony that the same day I heard this reading, I heard of two young couples who are considering divorce. They both have been married less than three years, and one couple has a small child. Marriage isn’t what they expected. They just aren’t in love with each other anymore.
I’m not close to these couples and I know that the only people who knows what goes on in a marriage are the two people involved. There are certainly reasons why some couples shouldn’t be married, terrible things that no one should have to endure. There are also some people who were not able to make that marriage commitment in the first place for whatever reason. My intention is not to condemn anyone. Nevertheless, I hear more and more people using the reason “we’re not in love anymore” as a reason for divorce. It makes me wonder what these people think that love is supposed to be. Is their idea of love St. Paul’s description or the world’s idea that love is fireworks and romance?
Anyone who has been married for a while knows that marriage is not all wine and roses. Two imperfect people joined in holy matrimony create an imperfect union. Romance often gets lost in the work of day to day living. Marriages have ups and downs and those downs can last for years. Rough spots can be trying to the soul and to the relationship. There are going to be times when the thought of being married to the same person for the next however many years is simply too much to bear. There will be times when walking away seems like the only reasonable solution.
The best advice I ever got when I was getting married came from a coworker. She had been married for eleven years at the time. She told me, “I can stay married, if only for today.” I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve repeated that advice to myself. That is what a good marriage is made of – one day at a time. It is getting up and choosing to live St. Paul’s version of love, even when the feeling is not there. It is choosing to be patient and kind and putting the other person first. It is praying for the strength to keep going. I wish that more people spoke that truth to young couples who are getting married.
Love is all those wonderful things that St. Paul talks about. Love, true love, is also hard. It takes a strong commitment and a willingness to get through the difficult times one day at a time. Then we can live the true vision of love that God wants for us.