Earlier this week, I posted a picture on Facebook of John and me with this caption: “Walking on the path where we fell in love 50 years ago.” Among the comments that I received were words such as these: “love, romantic, special, cute, and wonderful.” I appreciated all of the comments, and I love my friends and family members who made them. John and I do have a wonderful marriage. What has made it so is the topic of today’s post.
Last week, while browsing through the gift shop of a Swedish restaurant in Wisconsin, I saw a cup with this inscription—“Not only am I perfect, I’m Danish, too!” I could not resist buying it. “Don’t you have one for Norwegians?” John asked the sales clerk. A few minutes later, she found a cup which read “Not only am I perfect, I’m Norwegian, too!”
As I was writing this post, John appeared at the doorway of my office with his new cup in his hand and said, “There’s nothing like a cup of hot chocolate that’s been made to perfection.”We both laughed, because we both know that neither of us is perfect. A wonderful marriage does not mean a perfect marriage.
How shall I define our wonderful marriage? I have two images in my mind: the elasticity of a womb and the strength of a rope.
A wonderful marriage is as expandable as the womb of a woman with a child. The uterus of a woman is small, but it stretches, and stretches, and stretches, and keeps on stretching. So in a marriage, much stretching needs to takes place—lots of stretching.
“Wonderful” is the elasticity of a love bond that stretches beyond the limitations of genetics, aging, education, beyond the challenges of child rearing, and beyond the uncertainty of moves and vocational changes. “Wonderful” is a love bond supple enough to encompass “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and for better or worse.”
For me, some days have been better, and some days have been worse. Two things that made my days worse were bitterness and regret. Learning how to let go of bitterness (related to my hurts) and being willing to let go of regrets (due to my failures) have made my days indescribably better.
A wonderful marriage is as strong as a triple-braided rope. This imagery of a rope is used in the book of Ecclesiastes. Referring to the strength of three persons living in unity, King Solomon says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT).
As John and I have walked, hand in hand, down the pathway of life, we have not walked alone. He whose strong hand holds all things together has held us together—in a circle of love. In that bond of love, Jesus has taught us to cooperate instead of compete; he’s taught us to stoop down and to look up. Stooping down means I notice where my spouse needs help, instead of how my spouse has failed. Looking up means I choose to honor and express gratitude, instead of to envy or compare myself with him or her.
What has been birthed in us through fifty years of stretching and walking is a new creation—a new identity. At times, the process has been challenging and painful. But it’s beautiful. And it is wonderful. Our identity as a couple is strong. It’s unique. It’s special. It’s precious. Our focus is not so self-centered, anymore. It’s centered on who we are and what we can do together—in Jesus.
What we can do together is much more than what we can do separately—still, it’s within the context of having separate identities—nothing of our true selves has been lost. I wish I could explain it better, but this is the best that I can do—for today. It’s a mystery. That’s perhaps why the Apostle Paul compares marriage to the union of Christ with the Church. That, too, is a mystery—and wonderful—wonderful beyond the stretch of my imagination. Perhaps that will be the topic of another post.