Thirty years ago today, my husband and I promised our futures to each other. We vowed to love even when we didn’t feel like loving, serve even when we wanted nothing more than to ignore each other’s needs, and offer grace even when we believed that our spouse did not deserve it.
Of course, we had no idea what we were promising. If we had an inkling, there might have been a longer pause between the pastor’s question and our “I do!”
The day we make that covenant, few of us can imagine the challenges that we will encounter on the road ahead: the miscarriages, the financial insecurity, the intractable heath issues, the heartbreak of prodigal children, the seasons of hostility when love feels illusive.
None of us know what we’re getting into when we commit our lives to each other. NONE. OF. US. And yet we promise, in faith, to choose one another with each new morning.
Heroism is normally associated with those who risk their lives for others—like first responders, social activists who speak truth to power, or women who make tremendous sacrifices to care for their families.
Make no mistake: the incidental ways that we love one another are both heroic and miraculous.
All of us, married or single, are tempted to withhold love. To dismiss with a sigh, to pull away in the face of need, to protect our self-interests, to judge harshly. I’m embarrassed to admit that at times, Christopher and I have given in to those temptations. But the tenderness that I feel as I listen to Christopher inhaling and exhaling in his sleep (assuming he’s not snoring), a mere twelve inches away, has a tendency to bring conviction. Gradually, the moral high ground beneath my side of the bed slowly erodes until whatever offense I was nurturing shrinks to its proper size.
Over the years, we have learned that it’s when we are least lovable, that we most need each other’s love. The only antidote for our shame, anger, selfishness, ungraciousness, impatience, or rudeness is unconditional love. When we can reach across the divide and extend ourselves to each other, it is nothing less than a miracle. I am moved to tears that God has sustained us and allowed us the privilege of loving each other for 10,950 days. And counting.
Though others often ask for our secret, I’m not exactly sure why our marriage has been such a source of comfort and joy. I assure you, we are not exceptional people. (In fact, we’re impossibly opinionated, strong willed, and generally disagreeable.) We deeply respect each other and have prioritized supporting each other’s professional and creative endeavors. We confess our sins and forgive quickly and thoroughly. We refuse to blame. We try to be generous with our experiences and with our resources. We keep growing and perhaps above all else, cling to Jesus because he is the only safe port in the many storms of life.
I'll end with a quote from my favorite marriage book: Mike Mason’s, The Mystery of Marriage:
"It is not that the vows hold any guarantee that a couple shall always be in love, but rather that through God’s grace and strength, they may continue to love. For that is the peculiar meaning of Christian love: not a feeling, but an action, and not a human and limited action, but a supernatural and eternal one. Love is a deep, continuously growing, and ever-renewing activity of the will, superintended by the Holy Spirit. There is no question of its failing or ceasing or letting anyone down. A wedding, therefore, declares only and robustly that there is nothing romantic about love, nothing the least bit chancy or changeable. It is a gift from the Lord, whole and intact forever. A sure rock."
May the Lord give you everything you need to love—today and all of your tomorrows.
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Photo above by Derrill Bazzy.