At five o’clock it begins to rain and he puts dinner on the table. I stare out the window amidst the clanking of forks, adjust my gaze—try to focus on these two growing boys shoveling food. The butter melts in the dish and they grab their things to go. He takes those boys to church and I gather dishes, wipe down the stove and table. When he returns he comes to me in the kitchen, scent of day-tired and rain clinging to his skin.
He lifts my hair and presses his lips against my neck, presses up against me and love is new and old all at once. I melt into him and he holds me gently, because he knows my heart is breaking, bruised by someone I love, stabbed through an old wound that flows fresh with blood.
His love is shelter and his arms a safe place because he loves me as Jesus loves the church and a cord of three strands is strong—wound tighter over the years.
Is it crazy to love this way? When I look around I don’t see this kind of love very often. And I know there was a time our love did not look like this. There was a time we lived this parallel life and shook off the passion. Some of my friends say that sharp longing of new love is bound to fade over time.
But does it have to?
In a study she conducted that compares the brain scans of newly in love couples to that of couples who had been married an average of 21 years—21 years but still claimed to be “madly” in love—Dr. Bianca Acevedo made some interesting discoveries.
The scans were remarkably similar in some parts—showing activity in dopamine-rich areas of the brain—this is part of the reward center, the areas associated with motivation. Showing that thoughts of the loved one ignite a deep satisfaction—fill a deep craving. (This is also the area that lights up on the scans of addicts when they take cocaine.) But, unlike those of the newly in love, the long-in-love brains show no activity in areas associated with anxiety and fear. Instead, they show activation in brain regions that are associated with maternal love, or bonding. This doesn’t mean people want to parent their partners—just that strong attachments are present…one might even say joy.
The excitement of new love and the security of old love all twined together, bound to each other in the shimmering ribbon of beauty.
We almost didn’t make it here. We almost let the storms of life carry us far away from each other. But how do I tell the one hurting in her marriage now that these storms—all these things that toss love about and douse its hot flame, wave after wave—how do I explain that these are the things that bind love ever-tighter…that make the bond even more sacred?
Because we have weathered these storms together—because he didn’t give up on me and because I didn’t give up on him—even when we wanted to…I know…I know my pain is safe with him. He is the love of Jesus, in his arms I find holy shelter. Because of this, the sting of pain is blunted. Because of this, these burdens—these stones that are thrown at me—their heaviness is broken in two.
I turn to him, my old-new love. And this is a choice. Because my natural inclination is to just take care of me—turn in on myself and nurse these wounds in solitude. When it might be easier to turn away, I make this choice—over and over again. And this is a small picture of faith—of my God-love too—this turning toward and not away.
Because Love is a shelter, an ever-present hope.