When I got married, I made a lot of promises... Pretty sure I haven't kept all of them...:) The love, honor, and obey part tends to slip from my mind... a lot! Over the years, we've had very few arguments. However, I still regret the time when I got mad at Phil (I was very pregnant at the time and not the best of people) and decided, after stewing about things until 1 in the morning (not a good idea when your hormones are bungee jumping around on the inside), to rearrange his sock and underwear drawers... Why I decided to switch everything around, I have no clue. At the time, it made perfect sense. (A lot of things made perfect sense to me during pregnancy that don't make any sense to me now at all...) Phil was pretty patient with me during those days; so patient that I once told him he could make a living chauffeuring pregnant, temperamental ladies around. To my surprise, he told me there wasn't enough money in the world to pay him to do that!
We both thought that after David was born things would be better. But like many new parents, we discovered they only got worse. David was sick a lot. I was on a year-long leave of absence and money was incredibly tight. By the end of that year, we had gone deeply into debt. Phil's knee went out on him twice during that year and as a mechanic, he had to be able to get around on his feet. The second time the doctor drained fluid from his knee, Phil passed out in the doctor's office and was extremely weak for the next 24 to 48 hours. My extended family was going through a crisis. Phil's father died. It was just a really tough time.
Underneath the strain of it all, what kept us together was not our love for each other but rather our commitment to and willingness to hear from our Lord and Savior. When I couldn't get through to Phil and he couldn't get through to me, somehow, God got through to us both. During that time, we used to look at each other and say, "We'll never divorce but one of us may wind up on the obituary page!" WE'd laugh but there was a grain of truth in that! As Christians, we had made a commitment before God to stay married until death do us part. And when you've both gone for a week without a decent night's sleep due to a sick child and you dread going to the mailbox because all it contains are medical bills that you can't pay, there are those fleeting moments when murder doesn't look like such a bad option!
Seriously, one thing that really helped during those tough times was the knowledge that we had sought God's will in the matter of marriage. Back during our courtship days, I was listening to Dr.Charles Stanley on the radio. Before we even had our first date, I heard Dr. Stanley say that a Christian should say "yes" to God's will even before he knew what it was. So when Phil and I had our first date and we decided to end it in prayer, I voiced this prayer: "Lord, whatever Your will is for this relationship, whether we are just to be friends or whether You intend something deeper, I say yes to Your will ahead of time." That evening, I had no idea that Phil struggled with commitment. Later he told me that prayer freed him up to move forward in the relationship.
Then, after we became engaged, I felt threatened by a young lady whom we saw from time to time, a friend of both Phil and his sister. About that time, I heard Dr. Stanley say that when you are dating, you should pray, "May God bring the very best into my loved one's life, even if that very best is someone else." I struggled to pray that prayer. I still remember hopping in and out of bed one night like a grasshopper- probably 6 or 7 times - in order to fall to my knees to pray that prayer for Phil. But each time, after I voiced that prayer and returned to bed, I would feel a gigantic tug-of-war going on in my mind - sometimes so intense I thought my head would split! Because of that internal conflict, I knew the words had come from my mouth but not my heart. So out of bed I would hop again and down on my knees I'd go... Finally, I prayed the prayer one more time saying, "I want the very best for Phil, even if that means you have someone else for him to marry. If its your will for us to break up, it will break my heart but I trust You to pick up the pieces and put them back together again." At that point, I had peace and was able to sleep. I never struggled with jealousy again over the other young lady and our marriage went forward as planned.
Obviously, back then I could never even imagine a time when I could ever even be tempted to walk out on Phil or on our marriage. But sure enough, that dark day did come. And when that unlikely day came four years later, the first thing that happened was that I began to think I had made a mistake. (And I'm sure Phil was tempted to think the same thing). But as that thought started to take root in my mind, God counteracted that with memories of all the various ways He had led us together, how He had protected our relationship, and how we had sought His will. That was enough to scotch the thought that maybe we had made a mistake, maybe we had married the wrong person.
Today, about the only thing I can tell any young person who is contemplating marriage is to pray those prayers and make sure that both of you are walking with the Lord as you consider committing to each other. It may seem like a tough thing to do - to pray that if you aren't the best for your loved one, He will lead you to break up. But we're just human. WE get it into our heads that we can't live without someone. And then when things get bad, it's just as easy to get it into our heads that we can't live with that same someone.
God alone knows who is the right one for us and as a loving Father, He will not give His children away to the wrong person. Knowing that your Heavenly Abba hand-picked your spouse helps when the dark days come.
Next week we will go away to celebrate our 25th anniversary! Sola Dei Gloria!