When I married my best friend and the love of my life 44 years ago, I made a covenant with God before witnesses and to him that I would walk with him "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health as long as we both shall live." Those words cover a lot of territory and we have had a wonderful journey together. Four children, eight going on ten grandchildren, home educating for 21 years, walking through the loss of our parents and a cherished grandson and the daily ups and downs of every day living have all been a part of our covenant relationship. Of course, none of this would have been possible without Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Three months before we married, we committed our lives to Him. Now we have added another adventure in faith to our time together.
Last week, my dear husband had to undergo open heart surgery to repair a valve. It is certainly not an easy procedure, but going into it, we knew our surgeon was a Christian who took time to pray with us. Our children were there to support us at the hospital and our church family had bathed us in prayer. Any surgery is daunting, but our times are in God's Hands.
After three days in intensive care, my husband was moved to a private room where he rested and walked with assistance to begin the healing process. During one of his walks down the hospital corridor, he turned to me and said, "I guess this is the "worse" part of the marriage vows." However, when you love someone in Christ, even the hard times offer an opportunity to draw upon God's grace.
Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul expressed the picture of marriage here as the example of Christ and the church.
In his letter to the Ephesians 5:31-32, we read: "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife. And the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." Earlier in this chapter in Ephesians, Paul writes this about the ministry of Christ to His bride the church in verses 26-27 of chapter 5: "...26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." What a picture of sacrifice, love and devotion we see in these verses. Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice not only to save us from our sins which condemned us but He also now works in us to cleanse, keep and sanctify us that we might be holy. There is no room for selfishness in this picture is there? Christ gave it all that we might live. No holds barred, no hesitation, no self-seeking, no demanding of rights but a simple relinquishment of Himself that He would save us from eternal damnation. This puts marriage and the covenant we make with one another on this earth in a whole new light doesn't it?
I gladly put aside my wants, needs and agenda to help my husband, and I know that he has and would do the same for me. It is not a burden. It is what true love is - a life long commitment. When two people become one flesh in Christ, there is no assurance they won't face loss, hardship or hurts. Yet, they are assured that Christ is with them every step of the way, and He gives the grace to see them through the difficult days.
Unfortunately today, many see marriage as disposable and walk away from their vows before they ever really know the depth of true love in Christ. He is the One who makes marriage meaningful when it really counts "for better, for worse". None of us can escape the ravages of growing older in a fallen world where heart disease, Alzheimer's or other afflictions attack our imperfect bodies, but we can know a taste of heaven when we keep covenant with God and the bride or bridegroom He has chosen for us. May our lives and our marriages reflect the glory of the Lord in all that we do. Selah!