So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. —Malachi 2:8
This is a good thing. The time we spend together is now the measure of our days, calculated in an extra cup of tea in the morning. Or a few moments on the porch, sharing the last few hours of autumn sun. This season of our life is a season of unexpected joy.
Martin Luther once said “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” I like this. It describes where we are, after almost 38 years together.
There is no moment of gladness greater than the one in which I step back into her arms. The smell of homemade broth simmering on the stove is a wonderful smell. I’m always glad to find clean socks and underwear in my drawer. But the joy is deeper than that, and it is the unique comfort of a place where we can be both safe and vulnerable.
When I first fell in love I remember how much I wanted to be where she was. Lovers linger, waiting for the one we love to pass by, and postponing their departure.
This is often true of engaged couple and newlyweds, of course. The bride in Song of Solomon wanders the streets, looking for lover. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” she asks the watchmen. And then:
When I found him whom my soul loves,
I held him, and would not let him go.
We start that way. We tell all our secrets and all our plans. But it is so easy to lose each other again, in a whirlwind of children and career responsibilities. We joke about matters of the heart, and dismiss each others fears and insecurities.
Too easily we learn to let go. And too soon. We have to get the kids to practice and the casserole to the church.
But maturing, married love should be about learning to linger again. And it is so much more than falling in love again, as nice as that might be. It’s rooted in a shared story and refreshed by a new commitment, often in the full shadow of our failures.
Young loves requires “leaning,” as the movie “While You Were Sleeping” conveys. “How did I lean when I leaned,” Lucy asks.
“It was a lot different from hugging,” Jack says. “Hugging’s very different. Hugging that involves arms and hands; and leaning is whole bodies moving in like this. Leaning involves wanting… and accepting.” (See video clip here.)
But lingering involves more than this. It’s wanting and accepting, certainly. But it is also giving and listening and delighting. It takes years to do it well.
In the end we learn more about grace; we treasure moments of renewed trust; we rest in the depths of a quiet and substantial love.
As it turns out, you don’t have to be young to delight in the wife of your youth.
In fact, you may have to be old.