“Are you guys going to get a divorce?” my little girl asked one day. The question took me by surprise because Hubby and I weren’t fighting, there was no particular stress between us. Struggling to understand where the question came from, I hesitantly said, “No. Why?” The question stemmed from things she was hearing in school. Friends, classmates were experiencing rifts in the family, a breakdown of communication, love, joy, safety in the one area of life where there can’t be a breakdown. Not without major complications and ramifications.
“No, “ I plowed on in my answer. “Daddy and I made a promise when we got married. We made the promise to each other and to God that we would stay together. And we intend to keep that promise. God will help us.”
Today, we’re celebrating that promise made 19 years ago. But my heart is heavy for a friend who wrote to me late last night saying, “I need something, not someone, to believe in.” She’s whirling in a divorce vortex currently and is seeking the life-buoy that really saves.
She’s right that one person can’t be the one we place our hopes and dreams in; although, that is the romantic vision of our world. In the first flushes of romance and burgeoning love, we are quick to pin our hopes and dreams on that other person. But as the glow fades and we’re left with the ring-around-the-collar, and the stains, and the habits that grate, and the quirks that we’re pretty sure we’ll never understand, and the ways he/she does that that annoy and astound, disappointment grows.
So you either stop getting annoyed and your lower your expectations, or you go seeking the next best thing.
Or you look at the promise. You look at the “in sickness and in health” and the “for richer or poorer” and the “to death do us part” and you remember that this is a pledge you made before family and friends and at the feet of God.
Nineteen years ago, I donned the white gown I’d been planning for months. Last minute changes to the veil came to fruition. My girlfriends were there laughing beside me and spirits soared. But one thing… actually two things… we had agreed to before our wedding. 1. There would be no forced kissing. I hate (even to this day) the tradition of hitting a glass with a fork or knife just to make the bride and groom kiss. There would be none of that at MY wedding. And 2. No reading of Ephesians 5: 21-33.
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Nope. I didn’t want this at our wedding.
Silly, naïve me.
Ironically, this has become the backbone of our relationship.
That girl walking down the aisle 19 years ago really hadn’t a clue what this kind of love really looked like. Truth be told, I didn’t understand a God who would send His son to die. How do you do that? How do you love so deeply you are willing to sacrifice a part of yourself? How?
And so consequently, how do you submit? How do you take the screaming parts of yourself, the needy parts, the parts that disagree, rebel, and cringe, how do you take them and then do the opposite of what they are screaming? How do you place the needs of someone else first?
You pray. Not just the “it’s the end of the day and I’m falling asleep so I better shoot something up to heaven” kind of prayer. But the “I’m at my wits end and I’m feeling waves crashing over me and I need to fall on my knees and weep like I’ll never smile again” kind of prayer. Where you lay it all before Jesus.
There were times over the past 19 years where Hubby and I stood near each other, each hurting in really deep and profound ways, hurting so deeply that we couldn’t even reach out to each other. There were no words for the pain. Just ache.
There were times we were tempted to blame, to point fingers, and even to run and hide.
But Hubby told me, in the middle of these deeply painful times, that he was praying for me.
And that was the spark of light and hope I needed. Because I was being lifted to the throne of God, and God was on His throne. He must listen.
And He reached down… He the perfect model of love and sacrifice and submission… and sang over my soul. The singing heals, the weeping washes away the pain… because He weeps with us. And He says over and over in a hundred different ways, “I love you.”
And if He can love me, broken and cracked and flawed, then maybe I can look at Hubby, at the ring-around-the-collar and the OCD about certain things, and love that too. And Hubby can love me despite the dirt on the floor and the pile of dishes in the sink and the bad mood and the way I do that that drives him nuts.
This is a kind of love that also rejoices… in all things.
A few Saturdays ago, I woke up in a foul mood. It just felt like it was going to be a lousy day. But Hubby came into the kitchen where I was making pancakes and with a few wise cracks and silly antics had me laughing. I turned to my little girl and told her, “When you go to find a husband, somewhere long down the road, look for a man who makes you laugh. Because life is hard and you’re going to need someone beside you to make you laugh through it.”
And you’re going to need that something-not-someone in which to believe. When God is in the center of a strong marriage, in the center of a single life, then there is the perfect example of grace and mercy and forgiveness, of submission and healing, and above all love.
At our wedding, I did allow this reading: 1 Corinthians 13
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
No. The something-not-someone to believe in is the God who is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful or proud or rude, but the God who never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and who endures through every circumstance. He was in the beginning and He is the end. And He is in the middle of it all. Forever. And ever. Amen.