Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When faith and hope meet love...

He was waiting with a red rose as we reached baggage claim. She walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. As I passed, I heard him telling her how many hours they had been apart. How many hours.

If my on-the-spot math skills serve, it was around 10 days since last they had been together. But if the reunion was any evidence, it had been unbearable to be separated. I do not know any more of their story -- but I had concocted an entire history for them before my bags arrived.  

And maybe it was the romantic in me -- we were just returning from a sweet weekend away ourselves -- but I found myself hoping that my version was accurate. This was not a young couple. This was a couple that probably had children, grandchildren and maybe even some greats. Perhaps they were newlyweds but I have to tell you that I hope they were not. I hope that they were that happy to see each other after a lifetime of marriage. I pray that 10 days apart felt like an eternity because they had spent years and years side by side and preferred it that way.

In a world where the divorce rate continues to climb; and the trend toward not marrying at all does the same, my heart aches for love. We have become such a society of convenience that we do not want anything that requires too much effort. Our food is microwavable; our books are downloadable with a moment's notice; and our marriages can be dismantled in less time than it took to walk down the aisle.

As I raise two sons and two daughters, I want more for them. I want them to be loved in a way that counts the minutes they are apart -- and I want them to love that way in return.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a NIV)
 Our college campus minister, Ken Watkins, quoted these verses when Wade and I married almost 23 years ago. As he read them, he immediately turned to Wade and I and said, “Anyone who has attempted to be patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not irritable or resentful knows how very difficult these words are to follow.”
I remember dreamily looking into the eyes of my groom and wondering how hard it could be.

And because Ken knew us, he added that he knew this marriage would be blending idealism (me) and realism (my groom). So he encouraged us that our vows were not just ritualistic promises.
And then this dear minister turned to us and asked first Wade and then me:
“Carol, do you commit yourself to Wade, to be his wife, to seek God’s grace and strength in order to love him as he needs to be loved?
Do you accept him as he is and desire that he will grow as a person becoming all that God made him to be?
Do you pledge to forgive him when he fails to live up to your expectations of him?
Do you covenant to care for Wade in times of sadness and sickness and to celebrate with him in times of joy as long as you both shall live?”
And ya’ll, I didn’t even hesitate. I didn’t even pause. I practically shouted, “I do!”

See, young me had no idea of the storms that would blow through our lives together. Young me had no idea what our future held. And so I stood, smiling dreamily and didn't hesitate.
But not-so-young me can confess to you that the truth is I don't always live them. I don’t always live my vows. As a matter of fact, I would wager a guess that I more often dwell on how I think I should be loved than I dwell on loving my man the way he needs to be loved.
And as for forgiving him when he fails to live up to my expectations? I fear I have seasons where instead of exercising forgiveness, I exercise stretching the bar of my expectations higher and higher out of his reach.
I get a little cocky over the vow regarding allowing him to grow to be all God desires him to be. I mean, after all, I married an aerospace engineer at that altar. Surely I get points for loving him through a decision to go to medical school followed by four years of school, five years of residency and one year of fellowship? Right?
Vow number four though knocks me flat. Do I covenant (pledge, promise, agree) to care for Wade through times of sadness, sickness and celebrate in times of joy? My Dad was diagnosed with cancer a few months into our marriage. Wade stood with me, held me, drove me back and forth to Mississippi for two years during the battle. He lived this vow.
But when our triplets were born prematurely, and our two sons subsequently were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, I fear I often forgot the “care for Wade” part of the vow. Oh, I am not saying I get it wrong all the time….but I am admitting that I get it wrong a good bit of the time. I get so consumed with all the day-in and day-out things that must be done in caring for them, that I lose sight of anything beyond that. For years, Wade was fearful of the tomorrows for our boys but because I was swamped in the todays I didn’t share those fears. But worse than not sharing, I was angry that he was dwelling in them. Angry.
But I can do better. I am still loved by the one I stared so dreamily at across the altar those few years ago. And I can love him better. 
See the demise of marriage in our society is not because this group or that group have undermined it. No, far from it. The demise of marriage in our society is because when the winds blow, when the storms come (and your storms may look vastly different than mine, but they will come.), we far too often pack our bags and look for a more sunny shore.
This weekend, Hawaii had some unusual rain. The first time the rain showers hit us, we packed our reading materials and towels and headed for the room. But guess what? The sun was back out by the time we were off the elevator. So the next day, when the rain fell, we waited it out. We stuck to our little sun chairs under the big umbrella and didn't let a little rain phase us in the least.

Oh my friends, that's a simple picture of what our marriages should look like but can you wrap your mind around it? Do not run when the rains come -- buckle down and wait it out. The rewards of weathering the storms together is far greater than you ever imagined. 
The reward is a lifetime of counting the hours you are apart and celebrating every reunion in a way that speaks to you both! The reward is having a husband willing to feel the sand between his toes -- something he hates -- because it is my favorite thing. The reward is knowing that when I reach the end of my ability to cope with the trial, he is praying for me to be sustained, to endure and to cope. And the reward is knowing that together our tomorrow seems brighter no matter the season, the trial or the storm.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13 NIV)


andre pizon said...

exciting. I'm glad you came back, do not be so long absent. knowing of his great mission. Hugs and andre chloƩ

andre pizon said...

exciting. I'm glad you came back, do not be so long absent. knowing of his great mission. Hugs and andre chloƩ