The other day I was actively listening in a conversation with a woman who referred to a happily married couple as, “… so deeply in love, they never fought…” As I was offering support at the time, I tucked the comment away in the back of my mind.
Valentine’s Day is all about happy, romantic, perfect love, right?
Dave and I celebrated thirty-two years of marriage yesterday, February 14, 2015, “Valentine’s Day.” This past New Year’s Eve, we celebrated thirty-four years of being together. Thirty-four years is a pretty long time. We are both in our mid-fifties – I have officially spent more of my life with Dave, than without him. I know my life with him, and can’t imagine it without him.
Not because we have had a peaceful, perfect, never fought kind of life, but because we are so intertwined; it is actually quite the opposite. We have been to hell and back several times – often pulling the other along behind us, and at times pushing each other up front.
More often than not, we have regained our directional compass and attempted to shield each other from the flames.
We have fought our way through our share of tough times. Always in love, always friends, and always holding onto our faith in God and each other, we have walked through dark and painful years, loving each other fiercely, and fighting each other passionately. We have momentarily questioned if we had what it takes to make it through to the other side of the chasm of pain and find lasting joy in each other again. We wavered in our faith that God was enough; that our love was enough.
When we first met, I was a young, single, mom, in the middle of a divorce. He was just one of those truly kind guys that represented the Law of the Prophets he had been raised with, even though he wasn’t embracing his Christian heritage at that time.
He was moved with compassion for my daughter and me. He helped us when we needed it, and I feel madly in love. (He will also say, “there was something about your dark hair, big brown eyes, big smile and your personality that made me fall in love with you.”)
I thought he was a god, my knight in shining armor come to save me from a loveless life. For the first seven years we were married, we never fought. I adored him and did everyone in my power to make him happy. We were best friends and he took care of me and our children with everything he had.
During those first seven years we became Christians, in an extremely legalistic cult, and life began to change. There was no shortage of people to point out what the bible said about submission for wives, and spiritual leadership for men. Simply put – I was not submissive enough, and he was too respectful and kind. We started to feel the strain on our marriage as I struggled to become someone and something I was not, and my knight in shining armor wasn’t living up to the Patriarchal mold that was expected.
Then we lost our son – not only did we face the loss of a child, but the traumatic death of a child. Anyone with knowledge of traumatic loss would understand the statistics for divorce surrounding the death of a child are extremely high. Add in a spiritually abusive cult, lack of support, PTSD, repressed grief, feelings of shame, guilt, and performance based spirituality…
It was a recipe for disaster in all of our relationships.
Yet, here we are thirty-four years later, more deeply in love than we have ever been, not in spite of the dark and broken times, but because of them. Holding hands in victory over the darkness. The scriptures are filled with the sufferings of Christ as the means to make us more like Him. Human relationships are the very place where we are the most challenged to be conformed to His image. They are also the place we witness the unconditional love of Christ in a tangible human; in the places of touch, speak, smell, feel, be.
Relationships are where grace takes form, not just as a theological concept, but as a spiritual reality. God became flesh and dwelt among us to reveal the reality of grace. Marriage is the place we express unmerited favor towards a human as God daily expresses it towards us. Marriage is where we attach, and work out our own rejection, past wounds, and human frailties, by reflecting on who we are in the mirror of the one who owns half of our soul.
And before God who owns it all.
Yesterday Dave and talked about the many sufferings we have endured together and if we regretted having experienced them. Though both of us acknowledge we wish that our children had not been hurt by our difficulties, we embrace the work of grace that God has performed in our lives and our marriage as a result. We no longer fight, we love more, we understand forgiveness.
We can say like Paul,
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Phil.3:8
Light always shines the most brightly in the darkness. We have witnessed the light of God in each other as we struggled through dark caverns; we have affirmed the light as we joined hands to navigate the tunnels. We have carried each other when the journey was too much for either of us to bear.The dark times are just a fading glimmer in comparison to the knowledge of Christ we have gained. Our marriage is a testimony of strength, enduring love, and the power of Christ. We come alongside others who are struggling not because we can say that we have always had a wonderful marriage, or had it all together, but because we can say, We feel your pain, we’ve been where you are. Don’t let go.”
Wounded healers wearing Valentine colors.
St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who disobeyed Roman law to marry couples in secret. Rome liked to have single soldiers or polygamists at that time believing they made better soldiers if they were not worried about a young wife at home. St. Valentine was eventually executed in a horrific three-part torture and execution.
Love that is forged in the fires of life becomes unbreakable iron. Two separate hearts can be attached together by string, or wood, or simple metal strapping and it will hold together as long as it is not tested – as long as it is not put under too much pressure; but intensity, burning, searing, crushing, breaking – fuses us.
We are one.
We are a chord of three strands.
We have discovered the depths of God’s love manifested in our lives.
Everything good in my life is because God gave me a soul mate to reflect His ways, to stand with me and be conformed, to love with my whole being.
“… for better for worse, for richer for poorer, till death we do part.”