Sometimes I want to forget that summer. I want to forget the tangled strands of brunette and the stomach that knotted as the ferry lurched into the Tangier port, the place where bold turquoise cranes hid earth-toned buildings that stair-stepped the hill, where hefty ships hauled towers of metal cargo.

I want to forget the tears that dried before they could trickle into my mint tea in the market town that burned like an oven. I want to forget how I shushed him and called him simple when he tried to cool me down, talk me out of my fear.

I want to forget the girls at the Algeciras port and all their talk of butterflies in the stomach that told them for sure they were in love with their men. It wasn’t that I’d never had the fluttery feeling. I had felt it when a friend introduced Craig and me in the low light of the bowling alley six years earlier. When he walked in to meet my parents wearing a Vandy T-shirt and right away had my mom convinced that he was the one for me. When he whispered the carved words in the echoing chamber of the Lincoln Memorial.

When we sat on the steps of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at the circle, counting every American flag in view before I left for my year abroad in China. When he sent the “Esc with me” card during my stay in Thailand. When we spent Memorial Day at the park hiking and talking about family and future and stretching the day into evening listening to music on the floor of my room.

When he read Jim Elliot’s journals and talked the entire dinner about them right before my first trip to Spain. When he showed up in his dad’s brand new Corvette and drove me on dirt roads under the lemon-wedge moon squeezing out the last bit of summer. When he took me on the Ferris Wheel in the sweet corn capital of the world, and when he kissed me after. So many times, I had felt the butterflies.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh opened the two halves of the double-sunrise shell and described it this way, recalling the flitting innocence of fresh love: “Each side, like the wing of a butterfly, is marked with the same pattern; translucent white, except for three rosy rays that fan out from the golden hinge binding the two together…. For the first part of every relationship is pure…. It is pure, simple and unencumbered….a self-enclosed world.” I had felt the butterflies all those times before, and now I wanted them caged, with me always as proof of enduring love.

Three months from our wedding date, instead of the tickly, light and airy sensation in the stomach, I felt all the weight of those cargo ships at the port. I wanted to keep “the artist’s vision” without ever having to “discipline it into form.” I wanted “the flower of love before it has ripened to the firm but heavy fruit of responsibility.”

Soon, I found myself walking down the sidewalk with our team leader, Fouad. Tears kept flowing and I was on the verge of hyperventilating. I was embarrassed that my emotions had gushed out and created all this turbulence. He had known me seven years by then, even longer than Craig, and had seen me through my college years and several continents’ worth of ministry. And now, he was helping guide me through these uncharted waters.

As we walked and talked about my relationship with Craig, Fouad led me to one vital question. “Who do you trust?” he asked. Not “Who makes your veins go fiery?” or “Who makes you weak in the knees?” though Craig had indeed caused those symptoms in me before. I tilted my head. No hesitation. I trusted Craig. I brushed the tears from my face.

Craig’s name means “rock,” and it fits him well. There had never been a time in all my years of knowing him that I had been unsure of his feelings for me, or his intentions for us. He stood unshakeable and I liked that. I needed that.

Fouad and I continued to talk. He asked more questions. What does the Lord say? What does wise counsel say? All of it added up. Our leader was righting this wayward vessel. I had been expecting the impossible, believing the fable that love was equal to a continuous tingly sensation.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in all of her relationship experience (and failure), recognized that “…there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth…. Beautiful, fragile, fleeting, the sunrise shell; but not, for all that, illusory.”

The butterfly sensations of our young love were no illusion, but they were not a fit foundation for relationship either. While I already loved and trusted Craig, the heavy work of getting through my insecurities that summer only made me trust him all the more.

So often in these eight years of marriage, we’ve been able “to find the miracle of the sunrise repeated,” in witnessing God’s miraculous intervention in hopeless circumstance, in perfectly-timed shooting stars, in the raw emotion of natural childbirth, in catching each other’s eye in the teamwork of raising little ones, and as we follow our creative call in making music and working with words together.

And while the fluttery feelings are no prerequisite for enduring love, they are not absent either. In this changing, growing relationship, we can take time to renew the youth of our marriage “like a dip in the sea” and welcome the butterflies when they come.

{This week’s post is based on Chapter 4, “Double-Sunrise” in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. View all entries in the series here.}

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