By Diane Gardner
...serve one another humbly in love.
It was the basket. Not the Colombian roses or the diamond necklace or the theater tickets John bought me back when he sought me as his wife. No, a cheap plastic basket of laundry taught me what real love is. It was shortly after we wed, when I was dying.
Four months after we married, I entered the hospital. My body had simply stopped absorbing any food or nutrition. Not one ounce. I was literally wasting away. For weeks, my new husband stayed with me in the hospital as doctors searched for the cause and performed two surgeries to remove the portion of my system that Crohn's disease had destroyed.
But something my husband did during my recovery spoke to me of real love more than anything else. He did the laundry. Oh, not just normal laundry. When recovering from this kind of surgery, well, let's just say one's body doesn't always get timely signals for certain things. And some of the laundry was, frankly, unpleasant. I was well enough to handle the worst of it, and new bride enough to be embarrassed to ask my husband to. One evening, I woke up from resting, desperate to drop in a small load of no-longer-sexy underwear, when my husband walked into the room with the laundry — freshly washed and folded. I looked at him with tears in my eyes.
And I realized... that was love. Real, lasting love. Love that proves, through action, that it's willing to get down in the ugliest, most embarrassing parts of life with you. Love that accepts your most humiliating moments and carries you through them.
Through the tears, my eyes opened. I realized that sometimes love isn't expressed by flowers and jewelry, or even "I love you." The most powerful love is revealed through humble sacrifice. That's the love God wants us to show.
I decided I'd pay attention to the little things that spoke love, not just the big ones. You see, I saw that:
When John sent me out of state for three months so I could be with my dying father... that was love.
When he changed jobs so we could move closer to my mom... that was love.
When he took on a second job so I could pursue my dream of writing and editing... that was love.
When he fixes the computer I always break; when he insists our eggs be fixed the way I want more often than the way he prefers; when he calls me every day before he drives home... that all is love.
And it makes all the difference to recognize how my husband expresses love, rather than only noticing the flowers and candy. I've found a deeper, stronger romance. And God calls me to love sacrificially, as well. You see, I discovered that getting down in the dirty laundry together... well, that is love — love that makes marriages last.