After the Storm: A Better Love Story

Tonight as I wrapped Christmas presents for our family, I watched Serendipity, a movie in which two characters, John and Sarah, meet one Christmas, separate and then spend the majority of the movie looking for each other whilst being engaged to be married to other people.  They chase fate and destiny in order to overcome their circumstances and find their reputed “one true love.”

I love this movie, especially its soundtrack, and I found myself a little weepy eyed here and there.  It’s a lovely, romantic story, one that makes a case for Providence working everything out just so. Love in the Time of Cholera with her number in it is wrapped in gold foil and given as a groom’s gift, the $5 bill with his phone number on it is exchanged for change on a bill at the very same restaurant they dined in, engagements are ended, weddings are called off, and then, the glove floats through the wintry air and lands. Happily ever after.

But I know a better story.

It is about love chosen, over and over, in spite of temptations, in spite of moments of selfishness and pride, in spite of career changes and lifestyle shifts and dreams put on hold.  It is mercy given when judgment might have been due.  It is understanding and forgiveness and grace in the face of remorse and mistake.

Brandon and I are only a decade into this love story, and yet we have weathered several storms, some stronger than others, some that shook us down to our very foundation, some that left us helpless in each other’s arms and others that caused us to ask each other, “Do you want me to leave?”  Incredible highs.  Nearly disastrous lows.

And yet.  Tonight, I wrap Christmas presents to Lydia, Elvis, and Henry from “Dad and Mom,” not because some magical force swept us together over a decade ago and has held us there since.  Not because we are surviving each other for our children’s sake, holding on and playing the part of husband and wife until some age in the distant future when maybe they’d understand.  Tonight, I wrap these gifts and inscribe them with “From Mom and Dad” because somewhere inside us we choose to love instead of judge.  We choose honesty and vulnerability instead of pride and secrecy.  We choose to lay down ourselves and look to each other’s needs and interests.  We choose to support each other in our weaknesses and encourage each other in our strengths.

This Christmas, I am humbled to be the recipient of such love.  It is the kind of gift that survives against all odds, rare and true and pure and beautiful.

I don’t mean to brag about this at all in a “we made it and you might not have” sort of way. But grant me this moment to celebrate: we’ve made it so far!  So far, we’ve made it.

Marriage is not easy, and there are plenty that fail, some because they should have never happened in the first place and others because it’s just plain hard.  There’s no doubt that forces within and removed from us will continue to rain down their threats in the years to come, and I pray to God that when they do, we are each able to conjure up enough faith and grace to forgive and continue to love each other with a “one another” kind of love.

It’s in the power of that kind of love that all things can be redeemed and renewed and thus shine with a glorious light unlike any we might produce through our own impulses and pursuits.  With each storm, the places where breaks have formed are welded with the heat of a refiner’s fire, and that bond is stronger than the base metal itself, forever changed, stronger and tougher than ever before.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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