Sometimes people today take promises and vows lightly. Jerry and I married late in life, and partly because neither of us had ever been married, we both treasure the chance to have our own family. We were both independent and used to living as our lives as it suited us. He had his yurt that he had built himself on some land, and he lived with two rabbits. He was making a career change and doing graduate studies. I had Teddy, my border collie and at that point, lived in my peaceful condo on a beautiful lake. But God in His love and wisdom disrupted our ‘peaceful lives’ when He led us to meet and grow to love one another. In our younger years, we did what God called us to do as singles. I worked in China a few years and with international students here once I returned. Eventually I got my master’s in counseling. Around that same age, Jerry had served in Special Forces, using his very bright mind as a Farsi linguist. But we both desired to find someone to share this life with, and marriage remained a desire on both of our hearts.
Marriage is a wonderful classroom as Mike Fargo once told me before Jerry and I took the plunge and exchanged vows. We have enjoyed experiencing a powerful truth about marriage and what God loves to do through it. One really beautiful word in the Hebrew is Chesed or Hesed (I’ve seen it spelled both ways, which is kind of a transliteration from the Hebrew). God keeps His promises and covenants, and He enters into sacred covenants with the people He created at various times in the Bible. I won’t go into that here, but I’ve seen that the word has been translated in various ways–steadfast devotion, lovingkindness, enduring love, etc. The concept is demonstrated to us through various examples in the Bible. A picture of Christ and the Church–the Bridegroom and the Bride–is revealed through the covenant of marriage. Jerry and I, like most couples, have encountered lots of challenges since we said our vows and entered into a covenant before God with each other 5 years ago. The past year has been very tough in many ways, with loss of his father, both of our health challenges, and a global pandemic among many other things. However, I think of marriage as “The Beautiful Struggle.” We face ourselves. We grow. We persevere. Once I asked Jerry if he could continue to handle an ongoing challenge we were facing. I knew it was so hard on him, on both of us. “I’m not a quitter.” That’s steadfast devotion, a glimpse of God’s beautiful Hesed. Romance and marriage are portrayed by our culture in cheap ways–no real commitment or just a way to meet our own needs, among many other flimsy pictures. But God has something far more profound for us in marriage–a dying to ourselves as we live for Him, a letting go of our own selfish desires, and entering into His beauty and wonder as we become one. He wants us to know Him in deeper ways through this refining fire that we sometimes endure together. When we learn to show mutual respect for one another, and mutually submit/honor one another as joint heirs of the grace of God, marriage can be beautiful.
God’s Word has a lot of wisdom in how to grow as one. Ephesians 5, about love and respect and Christ’s example, can help so much as we apply the truth there. Also, Phil 2 teaches us to learn to follow Christ’s example of putting the interests of others in sacrificial ways. When we find ways to sacrificially love and serve each other by His empowerment and grace, that’s shaping us into His image. We endured some very deep tests this winter, and I saw the best of the man I married–he led us spiritually, he helped me through a very rough time with compassion and love. Rather than a battle of wills, we had reason to learn to lay down our lives for one another at various times in these five years, and God gave us grace and the power to do so. None of this covenant that we entered into is possible in our own strength. Only when God empowers us to live out this sacred covenant of marriage, which He does as one of the three cords that are not easily broken, can we thrive. He has woven His Presence into the fiber of our marriage in deeper ways over time. The cord is growing much stronger and holds securely. We continue on this beautiful struggle, more secure than ever in this covenant we share with each other and God.