I am in love at middle age. In honor of Lover’s Day, perhaps you’ll grant me the indulgence of praising my beloved. And allow me also to explain why I share my praise with you.
She enchanted me.
I knew three weeks before we started dating that I would marry her. How I knew this is a mystery of the Spirit. I can’t explain it. I’ve only experienced it a few times in my life. This New Testament, Spirit-given gift of “knowledge” (1 Corinthians 12:8) came clear as crystal as I parked my ‘78 Dodge Aspen in the lot of Perkins Restaurant. I told no one except God for years.
She was beautiful. But I was enchanted by something far deeper than her flesh (itself a miracle of the Spirit in a young male). There was something else, something I fumble with words to describe. Her love for Jesus was rare for her age — or any age in my experience. She radiated purity, being fun-loving yet not flirtatious. She possessed the powerful allure of shameless modesty. And she spoke with godly insight and wisdom. My words, though true, can’t fully capture it. I was enchanted with her spiritual beauty.
We married in 1988.
Enchantment Grows with Age
That was almost thirty years ago. Our marriage is now older than we were on that unseasonably hot day in May, when we vowed to God and each other fidelity till death.
The passing years have brought educational degrees, kingdom work, seasons of deep spiritual wrestling, five precious children, countless joys, and storms of many kinds. And they have taken most of my hair, our wrinkle-less skin, our faster metabolisms, and our over-confidence. Our love is no longer young.
But it still feels young. No, that’s not quite accurate. Our love feels youthful, yet mature. Comparing our newlywed love to our middle-aged love is sort of like comparing one’s 15-year-old self to one’s 30-year-old self. Both are beautiful in their time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and may exude a youthful joie de vivre. But the former lacks the life experience essential for the maturity of the latter. The 30-year-old looks back with nostalgic fondness on the 15-year-old he once was, but would not trade hard-earned wisdom for teenage naiveté.
Our love still courses with youthful joy, but now it’s infused with the complex richness of experience. It is seasoned with tears and laughter, provision and perseverance, and the humility that only comes with failure and being confronted with one’s limitations and weaknesses and utter need for God. It is a love laced with grace — a shared belief that we do not deserve the other and that God has been immeasurably merciful to us. It is a richer love.
I am, in fact, more in love with her now than thirty years ago. “Every little thing she does is [still] magic.” That old, yet youthful crush-rush surges through me at the most ordinary times: when she’s cutting vegetables in the kitchen, reading in the living room, walking toward the house from the garage, when my phone rings and her name appears. We exchange glances like dating couples and frequent kisses like newlyweds, prompting gags and eye-rolls from our kids.
She is still very beautiful. But as in the beginning, it’s her soul that holds me spellbound. All the spiritual qualities of the remarkable young woman I fell in love with remain, but they have grown stronger and deeper and radiate out of her with a loveliness I can’t capture and she can’t see.
Yes, she still enchants me. More than ever.
What It Has to Do with You
So, why am I telling this to you?
First, in a world where deceitful charm and vain beauty are cultural goddesses, a woman who fears the Lord is to be publicly praised (Proverbs 31:30), especially by her husband (Proverbs 31:28). My wife will not prefer this public praise; she’s too humble. But I know she will not withhold from me the joy of singing her praise, something that actually completes my joy.
Second, if you are newly married or hope to be married someday, you know of too many marriages that have broken on the reefs of human sin. And you are inundated with stories that distort and pervert love. Pop culture celebrates the infatuated highs of new love, and says very little of the deep, mature richness of middle-aged love. So, I want to encourage you with a word of hope: the best married love is ahead of you — though you likely won’t know it for a while. You will push through some steep mountains, deep valleys, and miry bogs to get there. You will wonder if it will happen; you will doubt. But if you trust God, stay true to your vows, and press on, you’ll discover that the relational reward of steadfast, persevering love is worth every struggle. Allow the wine to age.
Third, if you have had your heart broken and your love shipwrecked on the reef, your love story is not over — not if you are part of Christ’s bride. Your truest love story will have a wildly happy ending. The best marriages in this age are dim, defective reflections of the love Christ has for you (Ephesians 5:22–32). But they are reflections. The better the marriage, the greater glimpse we get of what’s coming for us all: a steadily growing, deeper, richer, stronger love for all eternity.
I am still wonderfully enchanted with my earthly beloved after many Valentine’s Days. And what’s more wonderful still is that it’s just a small taste of the Great Enchantment, the Deep Intoxication, the divine head-over-heels love we will all someday know with our true Beloved.