What true love looks like. And what it doesn’t.

No one will ever convince me Solomon wrote the “Song” attributed to him in the Old Testament.

No one with hundreds of wives and a gymnasiumful of ready-made girlfriends can focus on one woman the way the writer of that poetic rhapsody did.  (If you love the Song of Solomon, good. I’m only saying there is no way it’s from the pen and heart of this Israeli king.)

True love is not about being enamored by the sheen in her hair or the gleam in her brown eyes.  It’s far deeper than that.

I’ve been in revival this week in Elberta, Alabama, a sweet little community near the coastal resort town of Gulf Shores.  One morning, host pastor Mike Keech and I met for breakfast at a quaint breakfast cafe called Grits ‘n Gravy. I’d brought along my sketch pad, so during the hour we were there, I drew all the diners, a dozen or more, as well as Patrick the owner and Megan the counter lady.  They were all memorable, but none more than an older couple sitting in a booth.

The man had a long white beard. I walked over and said, “Folks, I’m a cartoonist and I draw people. And sir, you are just crying to be drawn.”  “Oh?” he said. “Yes sir. You look like a character and I do love to draw characters.”

“I’m not a character,” he said solemnly.

His wife said with a smile, “He is most definitely a character.”

I sketched them both.

When I asked if they were married, the man said, “Four years now. This is the second time around for us both.”

His name was Welton and hers Wilma. He said, “I’m 91 years old and the oldest employee in the Lowe’s system. I still put in 40 hours a week at the Foley Lowe’s store.”

He looked at his bride and said, “The first time I asked her out, while we were eating, I said to myself, if I’m going to feed her, I might as well keep her.”

She laughed out loud, clearly adoring this old gentleman. Smart lady. No doubt she’s heard all his lines a hundred times, but she still laughs at them.

Wilma said, “I didn’t know his age when he asked me out or I probably wouldn’t have gone. And think of the fun I would have missed.”

Welton said, “I have iron in my blood and she has a magnetic personality.”

Then, he added thoughtfully, “We were just two ships passing in the night.”

I said, “And what kind of ship were you, sir? A cargo ship? A cruise ship?”

He didn’t miss a beat. “A love boat.”

She roared with laughter.

It was impossible not to like these people.

The next day, a friend in Gulf Shores said, “I saw you wrote on Facebook about my friend Welton.”

He went on to say, “I don’t know his last name. But if you ever have a question about anything in Lowe’s, Welton is the man to ask. And he won’t just tell you. He’ll stop what he’s doing and take you there. He’s a little slower now than he used to be, but he’s still pretty spry.”

Let’s see you match this, Solomon.

I’m also a tad angry at King David.

The story of David’s love match with Abigail–how they met, were attracted to one another, the way her husband met his death, and David’s sending for her and making her his bride–could furnish the plot for a modern Nicholas Sparks novel. But there is a downside to it.

After David marries this lovely, brainy, wise woman, she disappears from the Old Testament storyline, absorbed into David’s household, to be ignored with the other wives and sent for only when he needed her.

That’s no marriage. And no way to treat a wife.

If asked to describe your love for your spouse, you do not launch into a story of how you first met, of what attracted you to each other, of the sparks that were ignited when you first touched. That’s not love. That’s a hundred things, probably, among them electricity, chemistry, superficial attraction, hormones.

But it ain’t love.

Talk to me about how you and she hung in there through the bad times, the lean years, the stressful years when you were forced out of a job and didn’t know where you would live or how you would eat. The  two of you forged a great relationship and dug deeper into your souls and forever bonded.

Talk to me of that kind of love.

Do not speak of how enraptured you were by the color of her eyes and the perfection of her neck.

Tell of the times you wept together and with no more strength for arguing and debating over whatever you were going through, you each decided you would love one another “in spite of” the differences and the history.

You hung in there. You persevered.

That’s love.

“Love suffereth long and is kind.”

Someone told me this week marriage is a three-ring circus. “First,” he said, “there is the engagement ring. Then comes the wedding ring. And that is followed by the suffering.”

And the greatest of these may well be the last.


5 thoughts on “What true love looks like. And what it doesn’t.

  1. Thank you for “What True Love Looks Like”. One of your best articles!!
    I thought about all Herman and I went through, yet we came out victorious because we had each other. I will always miss him.

  2. Pastor Joe,
    How does a person deal with being lonely in a marriage when the husband ignores her and does not want to be around and he is in the ministry. She feels like there is something going on but is scared to ask because of what he might tell her. She often feels suicidal. Please give me some advice to give her. God bless you.

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