By Janelle Ross
Almost every morning he makes the coffee: grinds the beans, pours boiling water into the French press, and waits until just the right moment to drop the plunger. He picks a cup for me from the cupboard. If it’s clean, he chooses the brown one that says You are a Courageous Woman. I’ve never asked him why.
He pours the coffee and splashes in some cream, the real thing, full of fat and flavour. If I’m in the kitchen with him, I watch the white liquid swirl into the brown, and this comforting routine, established over time, is the start of most of my days.
Twenty-five years, he and me, and it’s not been the love story you might imagine. We weren’t childhood sweethearts or each other’s first loves. We’ve struggled through some lean years and a few barely-talking-to-each-other seasons. There was the time I almost left him, and the time he was a cat’s whisker away from walking out the door. That’s the truth, I’m afraid, and I’m too old and life is too short to pretend otherwise.
But here we are, a quarter of a century into this thing called marriage, and we continue to practice loving each other in this crazy classroom of life. Continue to write a story of falling and failing and trying again. Our story, truth be told, is less hearts-and-flowers than it is heart-aches and apologies. Maybe most loves are, if we’re honest.
Can I tell you about our first big fight? We were on a trip, driving though Edmonton or Calgary or some other big city that my country-made husband thought should “just have a bomb dropped on it.” Is that too violent? He also hunts, sorry.
Anyway, there we were. On a trip. In a city. Stopped at a gas station to fuel up the vehicle. As he was going in to pay, I asked him to get me a cup of coffee.
Me: Could you get me a cup of coffee while you’re in there?
Him: Well, we could share one.
Me: I don’t want sugar in my coffee. If you only get one, don’t put sugar in it.
He returns and hands me the cup. I take a sip and, yep, sugar.
Let’s just say the rest of the trip was initially very loud and then very, very quiet.
This is my story, friends. Your’s will be different. Maybe you are one of those who truly has not struggled a minute in your relationship. Bless you. But if you’ve had to practice this Love thing, as I have, I’ll wager we’ve learned some of the same things, like the importance of telling the truth and remembering the small things and being kind. But I know you know that.
Love, of course, is deciding to care, over and over and over. It’s our Great Coffee War of 1994 evolving into daily mugs of courage and morning coffee, made just the way you like it.
Maybe this is the great lesson of all our lives, if we’re doing it right. Maybe there is no grand pursuit of love, but rather a simple daily assignment to be kind and courteous and compassionate. Maybe LOVE is the only worthy subject and our homes, offices, towns, grocery stores… maybe these are the classrooms.
I forget this sometimes, though, because I get too tired or lazy or afraid. I say an underserved unkindness or I waste time being offended or I weigh pros and cons in relationships. Yucky time-wasting, love-denying stuff.
But goodness, God is patient with me. He sends me back to school, over and over, encouraging me to love, love, love. And those of you I’m learning alongside – my friends, my classmates – you are the best. I see you struggle and still love. I see you lose and still love. I see you offer grace and goodness in your homes and your communities and in all your circles of influence, and I acknowledge your love.
We’re in this together, you see. You’re learning and doing love in your way, and I’m doing it in mine. We’ll make our mistakes and be imperfect, maybe even fail a test or two. But with perseverance and practice and Jesus, I believe we can be the lovers this tired and beat-up world needs.
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39