Kitties, linens, fresh bread, babies… potting soil… Wanna guess what all these have in common? Here’s a hint: they share this trait with love, maturity, and a woman on a good day.
In the title book of the “Love Comes Softly” series by Janette Oak, Marty’s friend Sarah is telling how she came to love the man that she had married out of necessity. They were each widowed with two kids and in need of one another. Marty was surprised to learn that her friend’s marriage had not been founded on love, but Sarah explains how they came to love each other in time. “Sometimes love isn’t fireworks,” she says. “Sometimes love just comes softly.”
Recently, I reflected on how softly my own marriage love came to me, as compared to the “love, or something like it,” that I had felt for other friends and boyfriends along the way. As I was re-reading some poems that I wrote many years ago, about a boyfriend long ago, one line stood in stark contrast to the relationship that I now enjoy. I had written about the emotions that “we both were feeling hard.” Too often, we try to “make it work,” thinking that if we just try harder, the relationship will work. I wish I had then recognized the descriptor “hard” as a red flag, but my naïveté had blinded me. By the time my marriage love came around, I was nearly blinded to it by the cynicism that had developed during all the wrong relationships. My marriage love did not hit me on the face or make me fall over myself overnight. It happened slowly, quietly, softly.
I turned 26 this month, and I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable with being on this side of 25. They say that with age comes wisdom, but with it also come with wrinkles and arthritis, and I’m not ok with that. Not that I’m there yet, but this birthday marks the first about which I’m really not excited. The next time someone asks me my age, I fully expect an uncomfortable pause before I make up an excuse not to tell.
And yet I’m thankful that somewhere along the way, perhaps with the assistance of a softly-come marriage love, I’ve matured into a more stable, more loving and happier person. When I look back at the person I was when writing those poems that are now old, I feel like I don’t even know her. During that time, I was so “prone to wonder… prone to leave the God I love.” Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Instead of heeding this wisdom, I was hurtling through life, making too much noise to listen to the quiet of my inner heart or God’s voice. I learned a lot of hard lessons the hard way, but I guess God-love, like marriage love, comes softly as well. With time and stillness, God removed many of the rough edges from my life, leaving me—and my journey—a little softer. Yes, I would say that maturity which comes softly is better than learning things the hard way.
You might easily imagine that a woman who avoids hard relationships, giving romance the time to come softly; who stays near to God with a still, quiet spirit; who learns life’s lessons by the teaching of the Holy Spirit rather than by running into life’s brick walls; will in general be a soft woman. And I think women should be soft – inside and out. I wish walking and speaking softly were as easy as moisturizing and using a good conditioner. These come with softness of the heart and yield an “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (I Peter 3:4).