When we first got married over 26 years ago now, I took a couple of gift certificates to Dillards and bought a very expensive set of king size sheets. Over the years, it proved to be a good investment - those sheets lasted for-ever! And we never got tired of them, we both liked the colors and patterns. Eventually however, even expensive sheets from Dillards wear out. Still, when I could have thrown them out, I didn't. I kept them partly for nostalgia and partly because, well, they are still holding together inspite of everything. I sort of feel like they kept up their end of the bargain and now I need to keep up mine :)
It has occurred to me today that our marriage is somewhat like those old sheets. Still colorful in most areas but definitely marked with ink stains (I journal in bed) and even tears - the ruffled border is, alas, no longer attached in places.
In the same way, we can look back over the fabric of our marriage and see holes that were torn by the death of loved ones, stains that were created by financial difficulties, raveled edges that testify to the joys and perplexities of child-rearing, rents that testify to heated words and selfish actions. By the same token, we can also see patches where strangers were grafted into our lives for a time for better or for worse. (Thankfully, mostly for the better!)
If we just focused on the stains, the stresses, the losses, and the tears that have come our way, we could easily have given up on our marriage. It's so human to take one negative event and draw a lifetime of conclusions from it - and we've tried to do that from time to time, please don't think we haven't. Thankfully God is always encouraging us to look at the big picture, the overall trajectory of our lives, the blessings as well as the difficulties.
And so now you think you know where I'm going with this while I just hope I know where I'm going with all this :) Seriously.
I think I'm just saying that what we are tempted to do in marriage, we are also tempted to do with God. Something terrible happens and we tell God, "I'm outa here! Clearly, You don't love me anymore!" Frankly, I can understand that. I saw my own mother wrestle with deep sorrows and perplexing situations until ultimately it became a tussle with God; He won thankfully and she stayed the course - has long since been living at home with Him, free of any and all tussles. But still, at one point it was a battle.
I also think most Christians fear the awful gash in the fabric of our relationship with our divine Father. Maybe it's because we use each isolated life event as a thermometer indicating love (or lack thereof) and so we are vulnerable at each new bend in the road. Whenever a life altering event comes along or a bunch of petty negatives keeps coming one after the other, in wave after wave, the relationship thermometer looks busted, our hearts seem irreparably damaged, and we can easily conclude that God doesn't love us anymore. Just as we can so easily do in our marriages. One tough thing cancels out years of good things so to speak.
But what I'm learning from a Bible study on Malachi by Lisa Harper is that when, as she puts it, our Tara is trashed and our dog has died :), God tells us to look at the big picture, not to throw the overall fabric of our relationship with Him (and others) out because we hit a rough patch in life.
Honestly, I fully believe that some day each isolated rent, stain, and frayed border here on earth will become nostalgic markers in the overall tapestry of His rich, enduring, cradle-to-Heaven love. But until then, we need to keep our eyes on the big picture.
"I have loved you," says the Lord.
But you say, "How have You loved us?"