Almost nine months into marriage, I finally feel like I’m coming up for air. The months have swirled and surged, waves of adjustment rolling one after another, fighting the tide of learning to listen and placing my husband, Eric’s, needs in front of mine.

Fresh into a new year, the first one where we are fully together, I breathe out relief that we are now moving as one and I can better understand and react to his thoughts and actions, as he can to mine. This is a new dance, and my feet are catching on to the rhythm. 

Tonight, we’re in from a walk where stars hung clear and low, white, untouched snow carved a small pathway that gathered hip-deep, and in between tufts of breath beaded out into the air we discussed our differences in how we approached growing closer to God. Just before our walk, I booked a flight to Kansas City for a few days of meetings to discuss communication with the ministry I work with. I’d leave in a few weeks, and we talked about airport drop off and pick up, what I’d be discussing with the team, and how we’re turning pages of new chapters in our lives.

Taking Hold of His Presence
The walk wore out my body; the talk, my emotions. In the back of my head, I remember my flight, the first time we will be separated by states and apart that far. I hold his strong hand a little tighter, not just to stay warm, but to take hold of his presence and press in.

Now, we’re trying to warm up before we make dinner, cold limbs brushing our bodies. I notice the smooth marble feel of Eric’s skin, work my way up his shoulders and frame his face in my hands. His clear blue eyes peer back at mine, full of innocence that remind me of his pure heart that loves me like a little boy, and I lose it. This man has become my flesh, my soul.

It hits me with violence at the foot of our bed and I fall into him, chest heaving and words choked. I’m sobbing into Eric’s shirt and terrified to leave him for a few days for a work trip. I tend to use my overactive imagination and conjure up worst-case scenarios, and the thought of crashing in a plane or car wreck is wrecking me because I don’t want to be apart from this man. It’s crazy; I’ve lived three and a half decades on my own, and in the span of nine months, I’ve become dependent on another.  

Afraid of the Feelings
In an odd paradox, joy mingles with my sobs. I am thrilled to be in this exact moment with him, chilled bodies pressed against each other, solid wall of his shoulders holding my weight, the soothe of soft indigo paint on the walls, the thought that in a few minutes we’ll be in the kitchen cutting vegetables and prepping chicken for pasta. I’m grateful to God for this life, for time together, but I’m still holding back, wondering if it’s okay to be happy, to be this happy. 

I am afraid of feeling so much love, such happiness, such goodness of heart and life. And I am afraid to leave, don’t want to be separated from his strong arms and gentle spirit.

Love hurts, but in the best ways. Because while I am knocked over by this ferocity, the feeling of having something to live for, I taste a small example of the Love that saw something to die for and gave without hesitation.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  (1 John 4:16 NIV)

Seeing God’s Heart
I am acutely aware of how God loves as I cling to Eric’s shoulders, shudder in his arms over the immensity of a love that just keeps strengthening. His is a generous love that shares his whole self with no second thought. This is the heart of God with me, the magnitude of mercy and grace. And there it strikes: such a gentle way God shares his heart, to see the way he loves with so much force and intensity, how he loves his Son the same and allowed to separate because his love is loaded for his kids. I can only imagine the shutters God’s great heart must have made when he left his beloved Son strung on the cross.

Grace is the sting of love that refines, purifies, and draws me close. In marriage, I am made new, over and over in the upside-down world of sacrifice as my heart’s capacity for another stretches and makes room for more. New levels of love keep unlocking and I’m drawn deeper down the well, down the winding staircase that seems to bring a depth of feeling I didn’t know would continue to appear the more I went along. 

I lean into the feelings until my sobs subside, rest my chin at the nape of Eric’s neck, and breathe. In the aftermath of this affection, quiet words wrap around my spirit, another wonder of the never-stopping serenade:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”   (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV).

The words heave into me, and I give Eric one more small squeeze. This is the best burden, the pressure of love brushing against my heart.

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