I’m not a great husband. I’m not the worst, either. Just middling.
After 21 years of life together as husband and wife, you’d think that I’d have it figured out. But it’s this same old selfish me that is involved in this relationship, and I’ve got a lot of rough edges that have yet to be worn off.
WHAT MAKES ME REALIZE HOW FAR I HAVE TO GO IN THIS BEING A HUSBAND THING IS WATCHING MY DAD.
My parents have lived next door to us for almost two years now, and I’m learning how to be a husband by observing the living out of their covenant.
It isn’t a beautifully romantic thing. No elderly couple shuffling through the park, hand-in-hand.
It isn’t a jet-setting partnership. No globe-trotting activism by passion-driven missionaries.
It’s a simple 64-year-long marriage. It’s an exercise in fidelity.
BY FIDELITY I DON’T JUST MEAN NOT SLEEPING AROUND. I MEAN A LIFE-LONG FAITHFULNESS TO EACH OTHER. I MEAN COVENANT LOYALTY.
Whenever the Scriptures use the word Yahweh (generally rendered as LORD in all caps), it expresses not just the name that God revealed to Moses, it expresses the relationship between this God and his people. Yahweh is the God who remains faithful to his covenant with his people no matter how wayward they are, no matter how many tears they make him cry, no matter how many betrayals they stab him with. Yahweh is God-in-relationship.
I see that covenant fidelity in operation when I watch my 89-year-old father kneel down to put on my mother’s socks and strap on her ankle brace, kneeling until his knees can handle it no more.
I see that covenant fidelity in operation when my Dad calls me in the middle of the night to help get my Mom back into bed after he’s helped her to use the toilet and has simply run out of the strength to get her in bed again.
In her Nobel Prize-winning four-book set of novels about her character Kristin Lavransdattir, Sigrid Undset sets out the costs and the consequences of marriage. Proud Kristin is shaped, humbled, and deepened by her difficult marriage. In the final book, when Kristin has died, her wedding ring is removed from her finger. The ring had a simple cross cut into it and that cross has been permanently etched into her as a result of wearing it for so long.
MARRIAGE FORMS THE CROSS INTO OUR VERY BEING. AT LEAST, IT’S SUPPOSED TO.
I see that same formation of the cross into the life of my father as he cares for my stroke-disabled mother. His love is expressed less in flowers and sexual intimacy than it is in simply being there after 64 years of marriage, 25 of them requiring a commitment and service he never imagined would be required of him when he vowed “in sickness and in health; for better and for worse.”
WATCHING HIM, I’M DISCOVERING THAT THE “FOR WORSE” AND “IN SICKNESS” PARTS OF MARRIAGE ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE “FOR BETTER” AND “IN HEALTH” PARTS. THESE ARE THE PARTS OF MARRIAGE WHERE LOVED IS DEEPENED AND PROVED.
It’s in the unlovely parts of marriage that I see my Dad becoming a lovely person. These are the parts our culture nudges us to reject as keeping us from following our dreams. But these are the parts that are essential to learning real love.
[Image from Fine Art America.]