It seems very appropriate that I learned one of life’s greatest lessons while sitting in a classroom.
I was in college at the time, meeting with a bunch of other twenty-something-year-old kids for our church group. There was no church building available, so we met in a classroom at the law school. Being young, we naturally knew everything that there was to know about life. So when our church leader—a man in his late forties—walked in to teach us about marriage, we all yawned and sunk further down in our chairs.
The church leader was a humble man. He had grown up a farmer, with no major education to speak of. He was quiet and a little socially awkward. It was hard to imagine him dating at all, let alone giving us any valid advice on the subject. This man is old, I thought. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be dating in today’s world.
He started out slowly, cautiously.
“When I was first married,” he began, “my wife and I didn’t make very much money. It was clear that we needed another source of income. A friend talked to me about stocks and investments. It seemed like a really great way to make some extra money. But I was nervous. There was also a big risk of losing money. Still, the benefits seemed to outweigh the risks, so I decided to try it out. I started out investing with very small sums. And I made some money.”
“But the thing about investing is, if you don’t take risks you don’t make much,” he continued nervously, fumbling with his tie as he spoke. “In order to really make a worthwhile investment, you have to be willing to put down a good sum. This is hard to do. The potential risk of losing that money is scary when you’ve worked so hard to earn it. However, I realized that my small investments weren’t amounting to much. So I decided to put faith in my friend and let him advise me on some larger amounts. And after that, I began to make real money. Don’t get me wrong. I lost money a few times too—A LOT of money. And it was very frustrating when that happened—devastating even. When that happened, it made me question whether I wanted to ever invest again. But in the end, I kept doing it. I also kept reading and learning about good investments so that I could make better ones in the future. In the long run, it’s been a great thing for my wife and family. It has given us the financial means to do a lot of things that we would never have been able to otherwise.”
What does any of this have to do with marriage? I sighed as I glanced up at the slow-ticking clock.
And then came the kicker, the thing that made this whole lecture worth it:
“Life is all about making investments. When you put in very little, you can only expect to get very little in return. Making big investments, on the other hand, is scary, but can reap huge rewards. Dating, for instance, requires big risks if it is to amount to anything. You have to go out there and really give your whole heart. And that is scary, because you stand to lose a lot if it goes sour. But what you can get out of it is truly worth the risk. The love that is shared in a good marriage, where both people are constantly making deposits and giving everything they have, is the greatest return you will ever receive on an investment.”
These words took up residence in my brain that day, and have lived with me ever since. With every relationship I entered into afterward, this advice was there. When I was tempted to hold back part of my heart, it came leaping out at me. This advice is what drove me to first utter the scariest three-word phrase—I love you—to the man who is now my husband. And this advice is the one that surfaces again whenever I give an exasperated sigh after a day chasing and changing, feeding and cleaning up after my beautiful son.
From the day that sweet, humble man spoke to us, I have striven to invest every ounce of love I have in my relationships. Sure, I’ve had some losses. My husband wasn’t the first man I dated after hearing this lesson. I had my heart broken more than once. But the returns I have received from my beautiful marriage have made my losses seem trivial and all of my investments seem meager.
Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but it is enveloped in more love than I ever imagined existing back when I was a student sitting in that classroom-turned-church. Our love is warm and full and sweet. And it is this way because of what we both give. Yes, putting our hearts out there also puts us in danger of deeper hurts when we have bad days. But these risks are totally worth the rewards that come a majority of the time.
If you want to be rich with love, you must first be willing to take a risk and give every bit that you have. Risk it all. I promise, you will one day be glad you did.