April McGowan

All You Had To Do Was Stay

If you’re like me, the American dream was drilled into your head through television. That dream is slightly askew these days, but I think it’s still holding fast in our psyches. It goes something like this: I’m going to marry the person of my dreams. We’re going to live happily ever after (whatever happily means by your definition). We will be married forever and die at a ripe old age, painlessly, holding hands in our sleep. Marriage is all about love and romance and passion and having my needs met. Right?

It doesn’t include driving your spouse to the hospital at 2 AM because he can’t breathe, and then sleeping in the hospital parking lot in the car with your baby because you can’t trust yourself to drive home. It doesn’t include holding your spouse’s head while he or she vomits, or wiping up the floor because they’ve missed the toilet. It doesn’t include watching your spouse fade from the person they were because of chronic illness a good forty years ahead of schedule due to a genetic disease. It doesn’t include going into debt to pay for medications and specialists. Or watching them spend thirty plus hours of each week curled in a chair because their life-saving medication makes them feel awful.  Or surgery. Or accidents. Or any of those uncomfortable things that reminds us this life can be one trial after another.

But it should. I feel like petitioning every premarital counselor out there and asking them to change their quizzes. What will you do if you can’t take that trip you’ve always wanted to take? What will you do when your spouse becomes disabled (we all seem to at one point or another), or if your spouse gets cancer and loses a body part or goes bald? If they lose their minds to disease? What will you do if your loved one is suffering? When you need to bathe them or change them? Will you leave because you can’t bear to watch them suffer? Or because your needs aren’t being met and they’ve become a burden (whatever burden means by your definition)? I sure hope not.

This blog post honors those who stay.

The world says self, but God’s Word says sacrifice. God created marriage as a sacrificial covenant. It’s not just a safe place to have kids. It’s not just an expensive party where your friends and family come wish you well and and give you awesome presents (we got 12 clocks…is there a hidden meaning in that?). Or about tax write-offs (and thanks to the government, that’s about to end anyway!). Contrary to popular belief, it’s about loving that other person sacrificially. It’s about putting them and their needs before yours. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

So. If you have stayed when it was messy, painful, heartbreaking, perspective shifting, expensive, inconvenient, dream-killing, hard, sleepless, tiresome: thank you. You mean the world to your spouse who feels like a burden, who wishes they were different or circumstances were different. You are showing them and the world what it means to die to self. You are reflecting the sacrificial love of God to your spouse, your kids, your friends–even strangers. And in that, the sacrifice Jesus made for us all.

Thanks for staying.

 

29 Comments

  1. Debbie
    Jan 27, 2015

    Amen, and amen, April.

  2. goldenkeyesparsons
    Jan 27, 2015

    Much wisdom, April. My husband and I have been through much of what you describe, including cancer and heart attack and by-pass surgery. We will celebrate 52 years in March, and love each other more than ever. I’m so glad we both stayed.

    • April
      Jan 27, 2015

      52 years! You inspire me, Golden! Many blessings on your stay-power.

  3. Anne Baxter Campbell
    Jan 27, 2015

    Love it, April. I’m facing that–my husband has Parkinsons. But if the situation were reversed? I know from experience my hubby is the world’s best caregiver. How could I do anything less for him?
    Besides–I still love him. Differently, but I do love that man. He can still make me laugh!
    Hugs,
    Anne

    • April
      Jan 27, 2015

      That’s a great way to look at it, Anne. Would you want to be treated differently? What a great representative of sacrificial love. Hugs!

  4. Darlis
    Jan 27, 2015

    All You Had To Do Was Stay is an awesome blog…so true! Love your straight-forward honesty that life is not always what we hope or expect, but true love never quits, though it has to adjust.

    • April
      Jan 27, 2015

      So true. Near constant adjustment. Beautifully stated.

  5. Valerie Becker
    Jan 28, 2015

    I will just echo the “Amens”! 30 yrs for us this past Monday and some of those were difficult but made our marriage stronger in the long run. Thanks, April!

    • April
      Jan 28, 2015

      I love how the Father uses our experiences to strengthen us when we’re acting in submission to Him. You’re such an inspiration to me, Val

  6. Penny
    Jan 28, 2015

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words and that our sacrifice is pleasing to God even if it doesn’t make sense to the world. My husband and I have had the roughest 2 years of our marriage. I so needed to hear this. God bless you!

    • April
      Jan 28, 2015

      I’m so sorry you’re facing tough times. Praying for strength and peace for you. Many Blessings!

  7. Kendy Pearson
    Jan 28, 2015

    So many people need to read this, April. You really hit the nail on the head (not to sound cliché). Too many times people jump into marriage just because of feelings. I strongly support a marriage covenant concept. This sounds foreign to most of the western world. God blesses those who “stay” and their offspring.

    • April
      Jan 28, 2015

      Thanks,Kendy. I’ve seen so much of this lately. It’s so heartbreaking to those who are left behind. We (as a culture) really need to rethink what marriage and love and that covenant look like. Hugs and blessings.

  8. Beth Zulaski
    Jan 28, 2015

    I think you are absolutely right. It is exactly the conversation I had with my son when he was contemplated marrying his wife.

    • April
      Jan 28, 2015

      This is the life I hope we are mirroring for our kids. And I know you do with yours, Beth.

  9. martyomenko
    Jan 28, 2015

    I have to admit when I read the title, a hint of anger came up in me. It sounds so easy sometimes. It is hard though, when you are walking through the valley where no one understands. My husband has a severe mental illness. It is controlled with medication, but even then, it means I suffer daily. There are days when life is good. There are others when it is a living hell. Sometimes all we want to do is stay, but there are times that even in some of these situations, a spouse can make it impossible to stay safe.

    There are times when you have to go. I seek the Lord everyday on how I can serve my husband, my children, and seek His will, praying and hoping the day does not come when I may have to go. I pray the meds keep working. I pray that we are able to keep using therapy to keep him safe, happy and us able to safely live with him. I also pray that I am not permanently damaged from the bad days, but instead can use them to glorify God.

    • April
      Jan 28, 2015

      Oh, there’s nothing easy about staying–especially when you’re dealing with such hard things like mental illness. And staying safe is key. But that doesn’t mean you leave them or abandon them at heart-even if they need to be institutionalized. This life…can be so hard. I’m so very grateful to the Lord for carrying me through on those days. It’s a daily routine for me. But there are days of extraordinary care and strength and those I take note of so I remember, on the desperate ones, He’s here. He’s promised never to leave me or forsake me. On those days, when we’re too tired to hang on, He can carry us. I’ll be praying for you to feel His mighty strength in your life, Marty. Many, many blessings.

  10. Shelby
    Jan 29, 2015

    I stayed. Through fifteen years of progressive illness with me ending up being a 24/7 nurse more than a wife. I stayed until his death. And now I’m in a blessed second marriage where I will also stay whatever comes. It honors God. It honors these two men whom I have loved.

    Great post.

    • Kendy Pearson
      Jan 29, 2015

      Bravo for you! Living in obedience to God is so full of blessings. Some of them come to us in ways we never imagined.

    • April
      Jan 29, 2015

      His glory and our peace comes through submission to His word. Thanks for sharing that encouragement.

  11. fruitbearer
    Jan 29, 2015

    Wonderful post, April! A God-glorifying marriage is about self-denial, sacrifice, submission (to God and to one another) and service. You know that line in a traditional marriage vow, “in sickness and in health”…Eric and I were put to the test right away during our honeymoon and afterwards. God is good and gracious to sustain us and bless us through all the ups and downs.

    “When asked how they managed to stay together for sixty-five years, the wife replied, ‘We were born in a time where, if something was broken, you fixed it…you didn’t throw it away.'” (Unknown) Sadly, this mindset is no longer common in the new generation.

    • AMcGowan
      Feb 4, 2015

      It’s amazing the strength He provides when we continually give our trials back over to Him. What a blessing. Thanks for sharing, A.

  12. Andrea Johnson
    Jan 30, 2015

    On the days when I am exhausted and think I am alone, I pray “give me the strength to keep going” and then the next day is some way easier and I have gotten through to the next day. You have written this so beautifully, I am over-joyed that you are my daughter and such a blessing to those who know you. I love you. I think this is the sum of a good marriage, one doesn’t give up on a marriage or a loved one because they may be ill or difficult to live with as with mental illness because, God hasn’t given up on us. If a person is in danger and fears for their life or their child’s life, they must leave, but God guides the way through those dark times. On another note, I somehow knew you were “a keeper” my darling, from the beginning. Hugs.

    • AMcGowan
      Feb 4, 2015

      I agree. I’m so glad God is giving you your daily measure of strength, Mama. I love you so much. I’m so grateful you raised me to be a daughter of Him. Much love!!!

  13. Suzanne
    Feb 1, 2015

    Through good times and bad, I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg and am grateful we still love and care for each other, at 57 we we experience the tough times as we age and it is only by the grace of God, he is the one who gives us strength, patience and respect for each other. Luckily, as we age God has given us a good sense if humor. I feel sorry for people who thinks anything in life is only about them!

    • AMcGowan
      Feb 4, 2015

      Absolutely, Suzanne–me too. When our focus is US it shortens our perspectives and, I think, steals our joy and sense of purpose in life. And a good sense of humor is a must!! Many blessings on your marriage!

  14. Valerie Becker
    Feb 16, 2015

    Words to live by and share with our children. Thank you, April

  15. Andrea Johnson
    May 18, 2015

    Very good April. I agree, marriage counsel should include some of the real part of marriage. 🙂 Love, you, Mom

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