Fluffy snow covered the sidewalk when I opened the garage door to leave for work. The garbage bin sat peacefully under the streetlight on the curb, waiting to be replaced by the recycle bin. I grabbed the shovel while my husband dressed kids inside the house, exchanged the bins, and jumped in the still cold minivan. 35 years into life, I find myself stopped in the snow, breathless at the evolution of love in time.

I have a propensity for falling in love with people quickly, for carrying friends and strangers on my heart for months and years, for longing to sustain many more relationships than time will reasonably allow. My heart aches for eternity, when the conversations and encounters need not be limited by the hours in the day. And it is the relationships where love looks so unromantically ordinary that are swirling around in my head with the snow.

My favourite book on marriage, Richard Gailliardetz’s A Daring Promise, suggests that what is particularly prophetic about Christian marriage is that it is a daring promise to a future we cannot know. A radical commitment to choose togetherness when life takes us to unexpected places.

I want so deeply the gifts and joys of a lifetime of loving. The older I get, the more aware I become of just how many dangers and challenges lie along the way. Some are offered by chance and circumstance and more lie inside imperfect people bruised by the world.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that my marriage’s bad times have been matched with good ones that keep us pulling together. And increasingly, I am aware that a kind of daring promise can exist in other kinds of relationships too: between parents and children, among long-term friends, with mentors and guides, and for strangers whose life experiences bring about intense and unexpected intimacy.

My younger self had a lot of ideas about love, and narrower definitions. In the last several days alone, the evolutions of love have been more varied than I could have imagined even a few years ago:
I hugged a friend who lost a baby.
We celebrated a child who did not begin life in our family, but whose presence is now a permanent joy.
Friends of over twenty years cried with Marc and I through another stage of our grieving.
My daughter left a scribbled note on my bedroom floor when she should have been sleeping.
My sister sent a sign from heaven and I cried with the effort of trying to receive it instead of resent it.
I sent my baby to daycare and got to care for a friend’s four kids and my big three on a day off school.
A neighbour came over just for a hug.

Why is it such a miracle to find myself shoveling quickly and switching the bins with such affection for Marc when once I would have given myself a point and deducted one for him? What is grace if it is not this gentle growth, an evolution of love inside of me and in spite of me? Who is this God who authored love in such a miraculous multiplicity of forms, who imagined the snow and the light in the darkness, casting a shadow off the garbage bin?

Love is not a fixed and immediate reality.  It evolves and holds ever new and deeper meaning. Love expands to make room I did not know I had. The evolution of my understanding of love and all the places God offers it to me is pure gift.

Over time, love offers constancy, forgiveness, shared history, space for growing. I want to spend my life finding people to love and be loved by, and to keep choosing love when it would be easier to walk way. Each encounter with love can build up and strengthen my capacity for choosing love again.

What if love is patient and grows patience, is kind and expands my capacity for kindness, is gentle and opens my eyes to those who need gentleness? What grace, if love can crowd out arrogance and pride, jealousy and selfishness, despair and evil? The snow will keep falling. Spring will melt it away, and winter will bring it back again, giving me another chance to choose between resentment and generosity.

Every so often, the garage door opens and I notice what love is doing in me. It is the evolution I was made for.

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