The Habit of “I Love You”

At 1:45 in the morning, I was in between dream state and wakefulness when Edric came in to the room and got into bed beside me. “I love you,” he whispered like he almost always does every night since we got married. I whispered back, “I love you, too.” And he took my hand and held it for a while.

Ever since I can remember, these have been his closing words right before he goes to bed, no matter what his day is like.  It could be a great day, a stressful one, or a day when we’ve had an argument and he doesn’t feel like saying “I love you.” But he says it nonetheless because he wants it to be the last thing I remember before I sleep.

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I remember the day we first met. We were sitting on a bench outdoors. It was during a Psychology 101 class. Our teacher brought us all outside while we presented our projects. Under the shade of a tree, Edric sat at one end of a blue bench and I sat at the other. The gravitational pull must have been pretty strong and we sort of got lost in our own little world, striking up a random conversation about God and faith. A curiosity bloomed. I found him honest and unpretentious. He told me later on that he was “mysteriously fascinated.” (I like that description.)

From then on, we seemed to run into each other more often. Edric actually timed his encounters with me and I would strategically place myself in areas where he could find me. But he had to look. I wasn’t going to dangle myself and make it too easy. It sounds like a game, eh? Well, I would like to quote what Edric once said to singles. “Guys like the chase, the challenge of pursuit, but they need to at least see a tail or some part of the deer that makes them hopeful.”

So I gave him a measure of hope. After all, I was interested in getting to know him, too. During our encounters, I was friendly and engaged, and he picked up on this. That was the “tail.”

We shared similar values, family cultures, and interests. But our personalities were quite different. Yet, we connected in the most important ways, especially spiritually. By my Junior year, we were a couple. If I could’ve done it over again, I wouldn’t have dated in college because Edric and I struggled with our physical relationship. I would’ve waited till after college, when we are at the marrying age. But God has since redeemed all of this.

In 2001, two years after graduating from college, Edric asked me to marry him. This was after we had broken up for 6 months to discern about marriage. I was 24 and he was 25.

I had prayed that Edric would be the one I walked down the aisle to. That time of separation purified our motives and gave us clarity about marriage. We received the blessing of his parents and my own, and four months after he proposed to me, we got married. No, we were not pregnant! We wanted a short engagement. After all, we were absolutely sure that God had called us to marriage so why wait any longer than necessary?

On July 22, I stood in front of Edric, said my vows and heard his, and we declared our commitment to one another. It was beyond incredible. But that version of I love you pronounced before God, family and friends had no real experience. It knew little of real commitment or unconditional acceptance.

The test came after the honeymoon, during the first years. It was then that Edric and I really began to understand that love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person for their highest good, which often requires sacrifice. We were two very selfish, prideful people in need of a good spanking from the Lord. He taught us what it really means to love one another. And over time, our love has endured through life’s seasons, by God’s grace.

Edric has loved me unconditionally, flaws and all. And each night that he says I love you means more to me than the day he put a ring on my finger. Why? Because this love has mileage! It has gone the distance and weathered the crazy ups and downs of marriage. It has been thrown into the “furnace” of experience and survived!

If you have been a follower of this blog, you know that I have written entries about our romance. We are big cheeseballs. Yet, at the end of the day, our relationship cannot be anchored on romance. It is a commitment we have made before God, to one another. Declaring “I love you” even when we don’t feel like it reaffirms this.

It’s a practice that has made a big difference in our relationship – a reminder that marriage is the habit of choosing to love your spouse, for better or for worse, and living out that choice the next day, and the next, for the rest of your life.

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18

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The Habit of “I Love You”