I remember the feelings of joy and anticipation when I was ready to purchase an engagement ring for Ashley. I was a college student, and I was poor in a way that only college students can understand. I was broke, but I was in love, and love always finds a way!
Ashley understood my lack of resources and would have happily married me without an engagement ring, but I wanted to give one to her. I realized that this simple piece of jewelry wasn’t just a culturally enforced tradition perpetuated by greedy jewelers; it was an opportunity to express my love and commitment to my future bride in a way that would bring a huge smile to her face. I knew it would also create a tangible reminder of this season of our journey together. In addition to that, it would get me in the habit of self-sacrifice for the sake of my bride, which is a vital habit for any healthy marriage!
After doing some research on the cut and clarity of diamonds, I felt ready to go shopping. It wasn’t long before I was in the mall jewelry story holding the perfect ring. The only problem was that I didn’t have any money! Luckily, they had a layaway program where I could have ninety days to make payments on it, and when the last payment was made, I could come by the store and pick it up.
They say, “A diamond is forever.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but for a long time, I thought the payments would last forever!
Ninety days sounded like a lot of time to my young mind, but a few days in, I hadn’t made any money and I started calculating how much income I’d need to average per day to pay off the ring in time. I knew I needed to take quick action, so I started applying for jobs anywhere I could. The minimum wage I’d been making on campus as part of the landscaping crew wasn’t going to cut it, so I looked for server jobs or sales jobs or anything that might produce more income.
Though it’s not my nature to walk into a place and ask for a job, love had made me fearless! I boldly walked up to one potential employer after another with my résumé in hand, but over and over the answer was “NO”. I was discouraged but undaunted. I weighed my options and pulled out my phone to call up an old friend who managed an electronics store. I wasn’t any good with electronics. In fact, I barely knew how to operate my cell phone (and this was back before the phones were even smart).
I opted not to tell him that I was electronically illiterate and that I had just flunked a personality profile that kept me from getting the previous job (that’s right, you’re reading the blog of a guy who couldn’t even pass a personality profile test). I figured I could get past my technology deficiencies by working hard and leaning heavily on my people skills to make up the difference. I explained that I was highly motivated because I had a limited window of time to pay for a ring for a girl who was way out of my league and I wanted to seal the deal as fast as I could. My friend graciously agreed to give me a shot, and I was on the job the next day.
The learning curve at the new job was even steeper than I had anticipated, but my resolve had never been stronger. I studied harder than I’d studied for any class I’d ever taken in school. I wasn’t just working for a good grade; I was working for my future bride.
I was picturing the smile on her face when I put that ring on her finger. I was imagining her saying, “Yes!” and jumping into my arms. I was picturing the scene of telling our future children and grandchildren the story of how I’d proposed and what her response had been. I was working for much more than just a diamond. I was working for the opportunity to create a timeless moment, a moment that would lead to a lifelong journey with the one I loved.
After hundreds of hours, scores of cell phone sales, dozens of training manuals, and a lot of hard work, I finally had enough money to pay off the ring. On day eighty-eight of the ninety-day layaway, I proudly marched to the cashier of the jewelry store and made my final payment. I ransomed that beautiful little ring and held it in my hands like I’d just climbed on a podium to receive an Olympic gold medal!
It was my prized possession, and I couldn’t wait to give it away. That’s the beautiful irony of love. The only way we can truly keep it is to give it away. The moment I placed that ring on her finger and saw the look on her face, every minute of the work and worry seemed well worth the effort. When we truly love someone, the sacrifices we make feel much more like a privilege than an obligation.
This story is from my new book The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships. For additional tools to help you build a stronger marriage, check out my new book and also download our new “MarriageApp” on iTunes (a Facebook login is required to use the app).
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