Recently we were asked by a young couple here to take them through premarital counseling. After we picked ourselves up off the floor from laughing we realized they didn’t have many choices. We were it. It is a young colleague of Mark’s at the University who proposed to a young, believing Chinese lady. She was denied a visa to the U.S. to meet his parents in person so the young man proposed and they set the date for this August. The family will meet her when they come out here for the festivities.
They are a lovely couple. We’ve had a great time meeting with them and sharing laughter. Since we can’t speak to their unique cross-cultural situation, we stuck to the basics of marriage that crosses all borders and left the other stuff to those that have gone before them in that cultural arena. It is humbling to realize since coming here to China that many of our colleagues and friends are the age of our own boys. They see us as surrogate parents, mentors and yes, counselors. Really. I know, right? I still am 25 in my mind but of course every day when I make it up to the 5th floor I thank Jesus we don’t live on the 6th floor. Every Friday morning I try to recall what fool thing I did at music night just hours ago that could make my body so sore. Meh. Getting older is humbling.
When you first fall in love you don’t think your heart can ever be fuller. It can and it will, but you first need a reality check. We talked about how in the beginning of life together it’s the little things that annoy you. How to put the toilet paper roll on, how to properly use the toothpaste tube, how to do the laundry without ruining your wife’s favorite blouse, and of course, how to sleep in the same bed equitably. Some things horrify you and other things make you scratch your head, look to heaven and say, “Really?!”
After the kids come, if they do, they are the little things that annoy you (did I really just say that?!). No, I mean, all of the responsibility and love you feel for them make new realities of your annoyances. But also the big things in life start to matter a bit more. Money. Discipline. A United Front. The early things now don’t seem so big and the big things seem insurmountable. You think your heart could not be more full or more fragile. It can and it will.
We have dear friends who walked with us as we made decisions early in our marriage that led us to leave country and family and friends and go to a new place. A place far away. We didn’t think our hearts could experience such pain. They could and they did. Now these friends are making that same decision, later in life, to leave their children, parents and friends to go to a new place, far away. And I’m up early this morning thinking about them as they sell all of their material possessions, start the process of all the goodbyes, and get on a plane soon. I know exactly what they are feeling. You think your heart can’t break any more. But it can and it will. You think the price seems a bit high and maybe you’ve made a mistake. You wonder if the ache will ever go away. It can and it will. But not by itself. Never by itself.
God will put new people in your life who will fill it with purpose, joy and laughter. The cycle continues. The hellos, the goodbyes, the moments of “Really?!” You think your emotions can’t handle all the ups and downs of life. How can the heart continue to beat? It can and it will.
So for the young lovers, just starting this life adventure together and to our dear friends who are starting a new adventure together at this stage in life, remember. The heart can and it will…continue beating, breaking, rejoicing, recoiling, renewing and rebuilding. The human heart can endure and triumph over a lot. But not alone. Never alone. Remember that. He can and He will.
Dedicated to Brandon & Mika, and Joel & Stephanie. We love you!