This Adventure Called Marriage

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  And, in between, the ordinary days that make up “life.”  That’s the adventure of marriage that I have shared with this man beside me for the last thirty years.

And I am thankful!

The beauty has not been in the perfection, for it has been a blending of two sinners, saved by grace, but sinners indeed.  The beauty has been in the commitment despite the imperfections.  The joy when life and relationship have been relatively easy and smooth but also the joy of reconciliation when selfishness of one or the other or both has disrupted the flow and caused the two to forget the “feeling” of love.

We live in an age when people “quit” everything when it gets hard, when it no longer satisfies them, or when the next “new thing” catches the eye and causes the heart to race in a different direction.  Sadly, marriage has been a victim of that same mentality.   Hurt feelings, “self awareness,” “outgrowing” each other, “boredom,” or just plain lust has led to the mantra, “the thrill is gone and so must I.”  My heart grieves for those who are there not of their own choice or have been the one in a marriage trying to put it back together, trying to selflessly show mercy and grace to another who has already checked out and moved on.   Yet, I have also witnessed two again made one; marriages restored and made beautiful through the fire.

And, over thirty years, I have been honored to walk this road with one who took his vows before God seriously, one not willing to “quit” when times were difficult or emotions were raw.

I am thankful!

Thirty years ago today, I married the man who surprised me with the offer of a first date, who chose to live and work for a summer in a city that he wouldn’t have chosen just to continue his pursuit, who laid out his heart’s desire under a starry night and asked if one day I might join him, who slipped a ring on my finger some months later and asked me to walk by his side for the rest of our lives wherever God, who brought us together, would lead us.

Thirty years ago today, we stood in the presence of the Lord and made vows that we would be joyfully bound to and which would hold us fast in the years ahead.  And we walked down that aisle to the adventure of commitment!  You see, he promised to love me regardless of feelings or circumstances and I entrusted my heart to this man.   We pledged to fight for our marriage instead of against the other.  We determined to never use the word “divorce” as a weapon or even in joking because we had seen and have seen that word become a spark which has ignited a massive fire of destruction.  He gave his word to protect my heart and to guard our marriage.

I am thankful!

Together we have enjoyed sweet times of refreshment in the big adventure moments and in the steady pace of daily life and learned to enjoy each other’s presence even when no words are spoken.  We have shared laughter and wiped away tears.   We have had the romantic moments and the ordinary.  Through sickness and health, richer and poorer, we have soared on mountaintops and weathered storms.  He has stroked my head and held my hand in some fierce battles of fear when illness came and when my emotions ran deep.  He has drawn me up close and asked for forgiveness when he has wounded me with actions or words.  We have come together and been restored after other times when both of us dug in our heels stubbornly and the “feelings” of love were negligible, sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter at each of our own childishness.  Repentance before the Lord and the one offended is the path to healing an individual and forging a deeper bond in marriage.

I am thankful!

Blessed with three children we both love fiercely, we have battled through differences of opinion in “how” we should raise them in different circumstances all the while showing a united front.  The times we have tried to each do it our own way have never proven positive and we have had to return and restore that unity, coming together before the One who is more than able!  And we have come together before the throne of grace to ask God’s grace over these children, now grown, entrusted to us for a time and yet always, in a sense, part of who we are.

I am thankful!

Our hearts have been knit together over time watching God, who called us both by name and made us His, continue to complete the good work He began in us as individuals and as two made one.

And that is it – time!  It didn’t happen overnight.  Both of us have had moments where faithfulness and commitment had to take the lead so feelings could follow.   Each of us has, at times, had moments of such great discouragement that the one had to hold the other up.

If we were to measure a marriage and determine its course by the emotions of a single moment, it might not appear to be healthy or even worth fighting for because in some moments, the depth of discouragement can be great.  Indeed, those single moments have devoured many.   When you drop those instances in shallow bucket of a few months or years, they can seem to fill it with tears and raw emotions; but when you drop those same instances into a deep bucket of time, unless one chooses to draw them out of the depths, gaze upon them, and fondle them to stoke the fires of disappointment, hurt, and frustration, they do not stand out in bitterness but rather blend in to shape and flavor the whole with a soul satisfying thankfulness.

It is those moments, when put into the hands of our Redeemer and left at the cross, that can actually cause the foundation of a relationship to strengthen over time instead of crumbling under our feet.

I am thankful!

Our bucket is deep and I look forward, by God’s grace, to it getting deeper.  He has brought us thus far and I rejoice and am glad.  But I also rest in the surety that while we are still growing individually and as one in Christ, with teachable spirits and forgiving hearts, together we will continue to fill that bucket with increasingly grace-filled moments that nurture and strengthen not just ourselves but those that God weaves into our lives as well.

Thirty years.  Yes, I am thankful!

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“It is Finished” Begins at Christmas


So many things threaten to “undo” our peace.

Sometimes it is sin committed against us, sometimes our own sin unconfessed; sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down; sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm. And sometimes it’s obedience in a long direction.  But though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our souls cringe. And sometimes it is loving unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference; yet we do not compromise our words or actions to appease and “make nice” but firmly speak truth out of a great love for them and for our Savior.  And a tremble can be felt.

We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work.  The enemy can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, insert sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.

But He cannot destroy us.

We can have rest.

“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”and not let the lies penetrate our soul.  Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary.

Sin does not have to separate any further.   No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, light shining in this generation, and we have been given the power to overcome.   When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right.  We can admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ”and we can live as one changed.  For the difference is not in us; it’s in our Savior.

We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying it down and reminding the watching ones that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year.  And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.”  We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)

And so, there are times we will have a settledness in our souls and times when restlessness will haunt us; but, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe on a silent night, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!”  The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”

And it all began on that no so silent night!

We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world.  This is Christmas!  The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!

Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of hope we find even in our weariness:  “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

And Emmanuel has come.  It is finished!