“…go together like a horse and carriage.”
Well, it wasn’t before the automobile was invented, but it was a long time ago that Caleb and I were married, at 23 and 20 years old. Right away we found that families of origin create expectations…the roles of husband and wife, of father and mother. What couple hasn’t analyzed this and said, “Our marriage will be better than our parents’”? (Due to early euphoria, I even promised to never repeat a meal!). For better or worse, a new marriage creates a unique entity which never existed before, made from two becoming one. In our case, ten years later, our oneness became stronger with the addition of Christ. John 14:20: “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
By far, this shared identity in Christ has been our strongest bond.
One challenge of a marriage relationship comes from the obvious: We’re different! Tomayto and tomahto, opinionated and no opinion at all, sweets vs. fiber, extrovert vs. introvert, always hot and always cold (accentuated when the dual electric blanket wires got crossed!).
But we learned to form a partnership, working together in different roles, depending on individual strengths (as I explained to a bank teller, “I don’t do deposits, only withdrawals.”). Typical days start with individual morning devotions, then Scripture together, breakfast going over the calendar, often the unintentional switching of coffee cups(!), 6 pm check-ins if either isn’t home, one cooking and the other doing dishes, attending each other’s events. Acting as a team. Helping each other.
“I, Caleb, take thee Bronwyn… I, Bronwyn, take thee Caleb.” This is the solemn marriage vow: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.” Jesus shows the way. He provided the marriage metaphor, husband and wife, Christ and his Church. He took the risk of committing to us, no matter what. Willing to risk, sacrifice – God so loved the world…We are all on the receiving end of his love.
That greatest level of love is the marriage vow’s goal, and the only way we’ll achieve it is by learning Christ-like love, dying to self. An impossible task, given our human nature, but we take heart: The Holy Spirit is in the business of teaching transformation. I imagine that, when Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, he knew we’d need the “Marriage Coach”.
Help! Given that a marriage relationship is so intimate and constant, there is no “seeming to be” anything to our spouse. He/she is aware of every spot and wrinkle. What a perfect situation for God to use in testing, pruning and training us in Christ-likeness! The Marriage Coach helps us develop virtues, so we can adjust, forgive, sacrifice, be patient, etc. It takes many sessions of listening to him, and then practice and more practice to improve, like any discipline. A morning practice of Caleb’s is to bring me coffee in bed, just one of many loving gestures. In turn (once I’m awake), I serve as his administrative assistant throughout the day. Learning the marriage love lesson by practicing it is necessary. Otherwise, frankly, marriage doesn’t become what God means it to be: BOTH spouses serving each other.
We believe marriage is a sacred project because it is God’s project. He calls us to press on towards the marriage vow goal of Christ-like love. We are still learning, and I am far from the goal, but after 50+ years, Caleb and I are grateful to the Marriage Coach and grateful to say that “our love is here to stay”. Thanks be to God.