When I was pregnant with my first child, I read a blog where a woman gifted her husband a year of dates. That was brilliant, I thought. Especially since my husband and I were about to have a baby. I would have a fool-proof way to ensure we had a date night at least once a month and keep the spark in our marriage despite having a newborn. So I pre-planned a bunch of creative dates for the first year of our baby girl’s life. I felt so good about myself. We would nail post-kid romance.
Well, I was wrong. We didn’t perfectly execute even a single one of those dates. I cried a lot, getting babysitters stressed me out, and leaving my newborn was infinitely harder than I imagined. As each date passed us by on the calendar and we did something less exciting instead, I felt defeated and discouraged.
We did have dates that first year, they just looked a lot different than I planned. They were at home after the baby was down with wine and cheese from the grocery store and no TV. They were cheap dinners at the food court in the mall because all our “eating out” money for the month was spent on diapers. They were walks around the lake while the baby slept in the stroller. Having a baby redefined romance, and slowly my feelings of resentment and discouragement over the failed dates were replaced with something much more steadfast and enduring. I learned to choose love even in the absence of so-called romance.
In fact, romance took on a whole new meaning altogether. It started to look less like what I saw in movies and more like enduring, sustaining love. It became more about choosing each other in the everyday moments of life than about ensuring we had weekly grandiose date nights. Now, romance looks like choosing grace instead of anger at 3 a.m. while the baby is screaming. Romance is staying awake for a difficult and emotionally honest conversation even though bed seems way more comfortable.
Before our kids were born, I had unintentionally made date night ultimate. But only Jesus can and should be. Date nights do not sustain our marriages. Jesus does. When my husband and I found ourselves holding hands through silent tears after failing to hear a heartbeat on an ultrasound and sitting on the couch in a counselor’s office, we didn’t need the memory of a good date. We needed the grace, love, and faithfulness of Jesus to be on the forefront of our minds and anchored in our hearts.
My guess is I’m not alone when I say that more than any other life change, having kids has revealed the worst and best in me and my marriage. If our desire as parents is to have a marriage that not only endures, but that also reflects the faithful love and redeeming grace of Jesus to our kids, then we need more than date night. Jesus must be central. Jesus must be first.
Of course, plan dates. They’re good. They remind us that we’re friends, and they give us the opportunity to look each other in the eyes without a baby crying or a toddler throwing food. But the best kind of love for each other; the kind of love that is whole and steady no matter the chaos, the kind of love God commands us to impress upon our kids, will flow not from date night but from loving him with our whole selves – heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-9/Mark 12:30).
Allison Burgett is a Mother of one and soon to be mother of two. She is also the Kids Ministry Curriculum Assistant at Flatirons Church