By David Faust, Senior Minister
East 91st Street Christian Church
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On my Wedding Day in 1975, my bride gave me strict instructions, about the wedding cake.
"At the reception," Candy insisted, "don't try to stuff a big piece of cake into my mouth the way some grooms do!"
I complied with request, but only after teasing her for a moment by thrusting an enormous piece of cake in her direction. (We still have a picture of that moment in our wedding photo album, and after nearly 25 years, the look on Candy's face still says, "Don't you dare!")
A few weeks ago, Candy and I visited my friend (and columnist for The Lookout) Russ Blowers.
At the Sunrise Assisted Living Community, we talked while he fed his wife, Marian, who suffers in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease.
Spoonful by spoonful, Russ gently thrust the food toward this dear woman he married 53 years ago. Her nourishment that day was not a cup of punch and a piece of wedding cake. As I recall, it was a pureed ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of water.
Marian didn't speak.
As her husband fed her, though, there was no mistaking the trust and admiration in her eyes.
Candy squeezed my hand as we chatted with Russ and beheld this couple's tender mealtime ritual.
What does it take to build a marriage like Russ and Marian's?
I haven't asked their secret, but I know Russ wouldn't claim some special powers unavailable to the rest of us. These two built a strong marriage on simple things.
Prayer and perseverance. Devotion and self-discipline. Trusting God to provide. Overlooking weaknesses and underscoring strengths.
A healthy marriage doesn't come from drinking a magic potion. It happens when a man and a woman commit themselves to be patient and kind, and refuse to be envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. It happens when they decide not to keep track of each other's wrongs, and instead find joy by looking often at their blessing. That kind of love, the Bible says, "always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres" (I Corinthians 13:7)
That's what Candy and I observed that day with Russ and Marian - a love that still protects, trust, hopes and perseveres even when one partner can't even say "I love you" anymore.
Newlywed love sparkles with anticipation. Surrounded by festive decorations and smiling friends, the new bride and groom feast on wedding cake and dream about the future.
But there's another kind of love, seasoned by the years, that's even sweeter in its own way. It's the love of a man and woman who said "in sickness and in health," and meant it -
a love that survives scary surgeries and financial downturns, job changes and difficult moves, and monotonous periods when nothing seems to change at all.
It's the mature love of two people who have laughed and cried together, held hands in church, and shared their lives at a level newlyweds know nothing about.
And when the time comes, it's the kind of love that gently spoons pureed ham and cheese into the quivering lips of a cherished partner.
The world could use a whole lot more of that kind of love - the kind that comes not by chance, but by choice.
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