"Love That Lasts" is based off the teachings of Rev. Adam Hamilton and his work "Love to Stay." This sermon uses his teachings as a framework, working my own stories into the mix. I'm grateful for Rev. Hamilton's work and hope you are as blessed as I am with this series.
A Love That Lasts May 27/28, 2016
Scripture: Colossians 3: 14-17, Matthew 22: 34-40
Reader’s Digest tells the story of a man and woman who celebrated 60 years of marriage with no secrets between them, except for one: The woman kept a shoebox in her closet and forbade her husband to ever open it. But while she was on her deathbed, and with her blessing, the husband opened the box and discovered a crocheted doll and $95,000 in cash. “My mother told me that the secret to a happy marriage was to never argue,” she explained. “Instead, I should keep quiet and crochet a doll.” Her husband was touched. Only one doll was in the box—that meant she’d been angry with him only once in 60 years. “But what about all this money?” he asked. “Oh,” she said, “that’s the money I made from selling the dolls.” 
If only the secret to relational success was to keep quiet and crochet dolls! For the past few weeks we’ve been talking marriage and relationships and building a love that lasts and, quite simply, the only secret is no secret at all- this is hard, messy work! And as helpful as strategies and tips can be, it all really boils down to one word: commitment. Building a love that lasts really is a choice we make. More than a feeling and more than a piece, marriage is really about dedicating myself to another person- and sticking by that commitment.
Like everything else, every marriage and relationship will experience different seasons. What has been so interesting about this series is that we have people all over the map when it comes to marriage. Some are just beginning their journey, some our figuring out how to keep going and others are remembering their own marriages and, I hope, preparing to pass down your years of wisdom to others. Every relationship is represented here.
The initial season of every relationship is a time of bliss. When you see your spouse, you get butterflies in your stomach and drop whatever you’re doing just to be with them. It’s the honeymoon stage where everything seems perfect. You write notes, leave little hints of your love all over the house, and make surprise dinner and movie plans. But those initial seasons are often interrupted by life, which introduces us to stressful seasons. These can begin to take a toll on the health of our relationships. Kids enter the picture, jobs get stressful, paying down our mortgage or taking a second job to pay off our student loans. We can’t escape these stressful times, and it’s just a smart idea to acknowledge that they’ll happen. But then there are stormy seasons. And stormy seasons have the potential to wear us down. These are the times when feel as if we’ve “lost our first love.” We don’t know how it happened, but over time we discover that we feel different about our spouse. We might even find ourselves saying things like, “I don’t I love him anymore” or “She’s like a complete stranger to me.” Jesus reminds us that losing our first love is a very real possibility. In Rev. 2: 4-5, he tells the church in Ephesus, “You’ve forsaken your first love. Repent and do the things you did at first.” That’s good advice. When we find ourselves in stormy seasons, it’s best to go back to the beginning and do the things we did when we first started.
There’s an old legend that pops up on Facebook every now and then that drives this point home. It’s a story about a couple on the verge of losing their marriage. The husband had allowed his heart to be stolen by another woman and one night told his wife he wanted a divorce. With hurt in her eyes, she asked softly, “Why?” but he avoided the question. Quietly he drafted a divorce agreement, stating that she could have the car, his house and 30% stake in his company. With tears she tore up the paper and the next morning provided her own draft. She wanted nothing, except for as much normalcy as possible for one month- just one month- because their son had exams. But she also had one final request: She also asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day, and requested that I now carry her out of our bedroom to the front door every morning for the month’s duration. I thought she was going crazy, but to make our last days together bearable, I accepted her odd request.
We were both pretty clumsy about it when I carried her out on the first day, but our son was joyfully clapping his hands behind us, singing, “Daddy is holding mommy in his arms!” His words triggered a sense of pain in me. I carried her from the bedroom to the living room, and then to the door. She closed her eyes and softly said, “Don’t tell our son about the divorce.” I nodded and put her down outside the door. We weren’t as clumsy on the second day. She leaned on my chest, and I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t really looked at this woman for a long time. She was not young anymore. There were fine wrinkles on her face, and her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her. On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by, and I suddenly realized that she was getting very thin.
One morning it hit me how she was burying so much pain and bitterness in her heart, and without really thinking about it, I reached out and touched her head. Our son came in at that moment and said, “Dad, it’s time to carry mom out!” To him, seeing his father carry his mother out had become an essential part of every morning. My wife gestured to our son to come closer, and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might start changing my mind. I carried her in my arms, and her hand naturally wrapped around my neck. I held her body tightly, just like on our wedding day
On the last day, when I held her in my arms, I could hardly move a step. I knew what I had to do. I drove to Jane’s place, walked upstairs and said, “I’m sorry, Jane, but I do not want to divorce my wife anymore”. It all became very clear to me. I had carried my wife into our home on our wedding day, and I am to hold her “until death do us apart”. I bought a bouquet of flowers for my wife on my way home, and when the salesgirl asked me what to write on the card, I smiled and said, “I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.”
I wish this story were true, because it’s just so powerful. And maybe it’s just too good to be true. But I guess it really doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not we hear what the story is trying to tell us. The story is trying to tell us to do love until you feel love. We’ve said that love is not a feeling, but an action. It’s a verb. In this story, as the man did loving acts, that emotional love that he lost started coming back. But in reality, he really didn’t lose it. He stopped trying. This is why Jesus doesn’t just tell us how to love, he shows us how to do it. John Wesley was once told by a mentor to “preach faith until you have it.” Sometimes we need to show love until we have it, until we know it in the depths of our beings again.
This story is also trying to tell us to hang on! Don’t give up in those stormy seasons because they don’t last forever. If you commit to working hard, things will get better! The best is yet to come. One way to do this is to go back to the mission of marriage. Remember, this is not primarily about meeting your needs, but acting as a partner or helper to another person. That’s why God has given you to someone else! Sometimes that means we carry our spouse in times of trouble. Sometimes we sacrifice our cravings and our needs to bless the other. This is your mission.
Finally, this story wants us to remember that every relationship is ultimately a gift from God. What this means is that you are not alone in the world. Whether it’s a marriage or a friendship, God has given you a precious gift. And when you recognize your spouse or friend as a gift from God, he or she is pretty hard to neglect or ignore. Instead, you’ll find gratitude taking over your heart. You can’t take for granted what you’re grateful for. We need to learn to say thank you. Over and over again. Those are some of the most important words we can pray and proclaim. Thank you! And if all else fails, we need to go back to the source of the gift and fall back in love with God. Loving God helps us love our neighbor, and as we love God, whose love never fails, we will find ourselves building a love that endures, a love that perseveres and a love that lasts. Amen.