While growing up I thought once I was in my forties (or old, as I considered it) that I’d have life all figured out. Okay, quit chuckling at me, that’s not nice. Anyway… as I was saying…life all figured out. Easy sailing on smooth seas. (Seriously?…Stop laughing!)
God’s word doesn’t promise smooth sailing, through. It does promise He will never leave us nor forsake us. I’ve begun to wonder if that verse has a double meaning. In His not leaving us, He’s also not leaving us to our own devices, or leaving us unchanged. Rather, once we accept Jesus as our savior, we are being made over.
We’re like trees standing in a grove, growing, waiting, watching the seasons pass, one to the next. The summer, the fall, the winter… But rather suddenly and often without warning, trials come. We are cut down. Our limbs trimmed with each challenge, each hardship, each prayer for mercy until our bark is stripped and we are laid bare and tossed away seemingly forgotten in a stack. It’s tempting to despair in that wood pile. There seems no point. If we are walking alone in our faith, it can be devastating. But never fear, the Father is busy not leaving us to our own. He’s making us over, chipping away at us, for our own good and His ultimate Glory, making us into something useful. We have to be careful though, because the temptation to focus on the shavings pooling around our feet instead of the Master Carpenter is great.
Some of us (me included) will race to the store for wood glue and desperately try to stick those useless shavings back on, or put them in a box to save for later. In our memories, those shavings can become so important we forget that the Lord isn’t interested in them, but He’s got a better plan in mind. It’s not until we brush the shavings off and step away, looking at ourselves through His eyes we are able to see a new, useful creation. The old has been chipped away.
Are you stuck in winter? Are you being chipped away at? Do not fear, nor despair–spring is coming. It’s nearly here.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
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.
On Monday January 5th, Maxine Marsolini and Jeannie St. John Taylor interviewed me for their radio program, The River. If you missed the live broadcast you can listen to it below. We chatted about MACY, healing fiction, marriage, forgiveness, challenges and hope. I had a wonderful time. Thanks to Maxine and Jeannie for being such wonderful hosts!