You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:10-12
This was a portion of the verses in my time with heavenly Dad this week and for some reason it stuck. In my imagination, the “going out” was when Archie went home with the joy of heavenly Dad and the angels welcoming him into peace. Even the hills sang in celebration and the applause of the trees echoed through out all of heaven, “Archie’s Home!”
Today is an anniversary. If Archie were still here, it would have been our 28th wedding anniversary, but our count stopped at 27. I have found that element of the last year to be, surprisingly, one of the most painful. When speaking to married folk and asking how long they’ve been married, my stomach twinges just a bit with the realization that a 50th anniversary is no longer achievable, or a 40th, not even a 30th, yet we were so close.
Relationships, particularly marriages, are hard. In my experience only, I found that it took work, commitment, forgiveness, selflessness-the practice of humility, sacrifice, kindness, generosity, and oh, we cannot forget about love. My issue is that often people get the butterfly feeling in their stomachs confused with the choice of a commitment made with heavenly Dad. When our “I do’s” were said, it’s was not between two individuals, it was a trinity (I had to learn that one in our first or second year, because I once did try to walk out). Two people committing to put God first, their spouse, and then themselves. Love was not a feeling, it is a choice made every moment of every day, on the good but especially the bad days. Sometimes it’s holding onto a memory, a promise from God, and a hope for the future, because the day had been filled with anger, hurt, and invisible wounds caused by callused actions or verbal harpoons.
Sometimes those days last for months or even years and the memory is so long ago you start forgetting the details. You wonder if the memory was real or a fantasy you created over time. The future seems dark. The flicker you’ve been focusing on for what seems to be an eternity, appears to have gone out, but you cannot put a finger on when you first noticed.
What then? Please know: you are not alone.
I was extremely blessed. Archie and I were having a horrible last year, Taylor can attest. No matter what, however, we both knew that in our hearts, neither of us really wanted to hurt the other. Since we could no longer communicate, we humbly sought a third party to hear the words from one and convey them to the other and point us back to the Father. That was definitely the best decision we ever made, but it took courage and humility to put the marriage before ourselves.
What would have happened if we would not have stepped away from our personal feelings of being “right”? What would have happened if one or both of us had walked away? Arch would have gone through his cancer alone, or leaning on Taylor, who was working forty hours and was a full time student. She would have found her dad after he had passed. She has shared many times how grateful she is that did not happen as she mentally does not know if she could handle that memory. What would our last memories have been?
Thankfully and by the grace of God, that did not happen.
This week, as I was driving home from work on Valentine’s Day, our Christian radio station was interviewing couples that passed marriage mile markers that I will never reach. I smiled as they shared their “newly wed” selfish stories. One woman took extra measures to get in the “last word” of an argument so the hubby tossed the dirty laundry out the window to try and startle her, as if to say,”take that as a last word!” His aim was slightly off and he nailed her, catching the side of her face, throwing her to the ground. Oooops! They laugh about it now and at their immaturity at the time. They still confess to struggling with selfishness even after all of these years later.
The tears were streaming. No one will hear our oh-so-selfish stories as we laugh about them to each other, and share what it took to take our eyes off of ourselves. Even all of these years later, these sweet couples recognized that their marriages were alive and needed to be fought for every single day, one choice and one word spoken (or NOT spoken) at a time.
Their marriages are alive… .
How many times have you heard people say,”Drugs killed my marriage.” “Alcohol killed my marriage.” “An affair killed my marriage.” “Pornography killed my marriage.” “Gambling killed my marriage.” “Nagging killed my marriage.” “Money problems killed my marriage.” ????
You cannot kill something that is not alive, can you?
When a baby bird hatches, what would happen if the mother just acknowledged,”Hm, a baby bird,” and then went on her way? How long would the baby bird live? The mother bird took a long time to get that baby bird to hatch: finding just the right Mr. Bird, laying the egg, keeping it warm, covering it with her own body to protect the fragile being from the elements. When it finally emerges she works hard to raise that delicate being. It emerges weak and helpless but grows stronger each day with the nourishment she provides, even pre-chewing it to make sure the food can be properly digested. When ready, she encourages that precious one to spread it’s wings and fly, soaring and becoming who and what it was intended to be.
Marriage is a lot like that fragile egg. It takes two parties to create the egg: taking time to date, figuring out who their “just right” Mr or Mrs would be, ultimately creating a fragile new entity: a family. It is weak at first, as each is really getting to know the other, figuring out what encourages/discourages. Each day with encouragement, patience, and understanding (making feelings or words easier to digest for the other) the goal of making the marriage stronger, is one step closer. If we both sacrifice ourselves (covering the marriage and protecting it from things that could cause harm, whether by our choosing or disruptive elements) the marriage can remain safe. If both keep heavenly Dad as their foundation (where they build their nest) they will have a secure base, even in torrential rain, wind, and snow, from which to help each other become who they were created to be (not who we want them to be) and soar to heights, together, they never dreamed possible.
If, when the egg is hatched/I do’s are said, we think the work is over and the nurturing stops, the baby bird/our marriage dies. It cannot survive without the sacrifice of another to provide, nurture and protect, especially if the tree is weak, the nest falls from gusts of wind.
Does any of this make sense? I know I am probably rambling, but with this radio broadcast came the realization: my marriage is no longer alive. I cannot provide, nurture or protect.
Many, many tears flowed…again.
I slide my wedding band from my left ring finger to my right. In it’s place I slip the result of that life: my mother’s ring. Taylor’s stone is front and center with Archie’s birthstone on one side and mine on the other. Even a death cannot change that fact.
February 19, 2017: Twenty-seven year anniversary plus one year anniversary of when I said said goodbye for the very last time to by best friend.
What I have learned is that by fighting for the life represented on my left ring finger, I have no regrets. I will continue to love my very best friend and wear the ring he gave to me, but acknowledge my marriage is no longer alive and there is nothing more I can fight for. What I do have is beautiful results that are timeless, and cannot be changed, even by death.
But this is just another step on my journey for home when I:
“will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:10-12