For Michelle: The lady who has truly taught me this truth, that love is a choice worth making.
High school. It seems just like yesterday, although it was a few chapters ago. Along with middle school, it is what seems to be the hardest part of our lives (at least until college and meeting the work-force face to face...). So we thought.
I had it pretty easy, though. Going to a high school with a total of twenty or so students has its ups and downs--mostly ups. You become a sort of family, one that knows all secrets (because no one truly knows how to keep one), you are there to pick each other up when you fall (even if you tripped on accident because you are what seems to be the clumsiest person on earth), you aren't quite as afraid to ask a question in class (because you know everyone else is thinking the same thing), and you are willing to be the catcher of tears no matter what the cause (even if you are just over tired because you didn't start your five page essay until eleven 'o clock the night before).
It is my hope that everyone has at least one person they can turn to at this stage of adolescents. I know I was truly blessed to have a woman that I could turn to no matter what. It didn't matter to her the time of day, she would set aside the load she was working on (she could very well have been grading one of my essays) in order to be that catcher of tears for me. I remember having relationship "issues" or difficulty understanding troubles at home and knowing that I could trust her with them, regardless of the silliness that they seem to be now. I knew how much she cared, because if I was hurting, she felt it too... this was evident because the tears running down my face were mirrored by her.
I can remember the week that everyone seemed to be breaking up with everyone else (this was not too unlike any other week in school-- it was just one that was particularly memorable). She had seen enough heart ache and shared tears with more than one of us. This was when she made the decision to address the upperclassmen, during our shared Bible class, with the truth of what it is to truly love another person.
Her story began with a teenage boy that she had known longer than she hadn't.
She herself was in high school at the time and had been off and on with a boy she didn't see herself marrying, but dating was the thing to do so she did. She had off and on crushes all through middle and high school, but what girl doesn't?
I don't quite remember when she said it began, but she decided she was interested in a soccer goalie. He was quiet, unlike herself, and this intrigued her. She did some sneaking around to see if she could find out if the attraction was mutual. Turns out it wasn't. In fact, he found her somewhat annoying (if I remember correctly). She couldn't figure out why, but was determined to capture his attention (this may be added for dramatic affect ;) ). When he didn't become captivated immediately, she decided that if he didn't want anything romantic, they could at least be friends.
Their friendship grew and began to blossom into what was an unforgettable relationship. She graduated high school a year before him, and she had been accepted to a school in Ohio. They weren't sure what would happen to their relationship over the summer and the next year, but they held on to it. Other couples broke up over these types of summers, but they decided that they didn't want to-- so began a long-distance relationship. One that lasted when other people's did not. This is one of the first examples of them purposefully making the choice to love one another.
Following his graduation, he was also accepted to the college in Ohio and he decided to join her. Both were happy there and they did not plan on returning to Maine. She again graduated before him, and began a teaching career while she waited for him to finish his remaining education.
On a side note, I remember attending both her surprise bridal shower and the one that she knew about (I didn't know as an eight year old why she was embarrassed about the new underwear she opened, instead I admired the pretty patterns that they had on them). I remember the happiness that was evident on both of their faces when they repeated the words that the pastor spoke in front of their friends and family. I knew then that this was the type of love I wanted some day...And I knew that the decision they had made, one to love each other, was one that was going to keep being made by the two of them, regardless of the difficult challenges this world threw at them.
Not too long after he completed his time at Cedarville (the Ohio college), they returned to Maine. Apparently God's plans were different than their own. She got a job working at her Alma Mater and they were quickly reunited with the small town that they fell in love in.
She finished her story by explaining to us that Love is a choice. One that she made, but one that should could not make without continually turning to God as the foundation of her relationship with her husband. A relationship that has inspired me to choose to love my own family daily, even if patience is running low, or the baby is screaming for hours and we don't know how to fix the problem.
Not only has this woman shown me what true love looks like, but is one of the first people I turn to when I need advice, and one that I will continue to turn to with my thoughts and questions. She is beautiful, both inside and out (I only hope to look that good if I make it to five children).
Not too many months ago, she found out the news that her husband had cancer. Her world was shaken, but her faith stood strong. It is here that she proved that love is more than a fleeting emotion. How is it that her strong, hardworking husband could be so sick so suddenly? He is the father of five wonderful children (not many men are strong enough to take on the challenge of even one child, but he enjoyed every minute), and he supported her in many ways, even when he thought she was silly. I remember her telling me that he would help her memorize lines for dramatic performances... the night before she would perform the dramatic piece, but he would make sure that she was confident with them.
She has truly lived out 1 Corinthians 13
"... if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails....13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love..."
Three months ago, I had a baby of my own. When we returned to the doctor's office for her one week check-up, Zak was in the hospital. I decided that we needed to visit so that Zak and Michelle could meet our little bundle, and I am so glad that we did. Michelle was able to snuggle the baby and she jokingly asked Zak if they could keep her. He responded with a quick "no" and shook his head slightly. We all laughed, because we knew that they didn't intend on having five children, let alone a sixth :p. This visit was the last time that I saw Zak on this side of Heaven...
Some of us think that loving another person for life is just too difficult. Some of us believe that loving someone new will make us happy. Some decide that falling out of love will be just as easy as falling into it... But I know one who decided that she would love the goalie she fell in love with in high school...even after death has due them apart. She made those daily choices to love, even if she didn't feel like it some mornings. She was glued to his side every time he had to stay in the hospital, snuggling with him in the hospital bed.
Some choices in life are easy to make. Love is not one of them, but it is by far the most rewarding.
From Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.