As my wife and I close in on 30 years of marriage, I suppose we will naturally look back and thank God for His care in our life together.
But I will be careful to reject any idea that we had something to do with such success ourselves. Sure, we work on our marriage, but so do others who have sat across a table from me in tears as they try to make sense of a broken marriage.
One woman described the relationship of her recent divorce to death, arguing that while a death occurs in both, a divorce is more difficult. She said, “At least when someone dies you go to the grave, and it’s over. When he left me for that woman, I didn’t get to bury him. The corpse still has visiting rights.”
I have far too much respect for those who have dealt with or are dealing with such a life-altering and potentially devastating experience to give advice as if I can judge their predicament or have an easy solution — other than the general recommendation to seek counseling. And then there are those who are truly in an abusive or dangerous situation from which they must remove themselves.
Still, though, I see in God’s word the importance of marriage, and the admonition that we not give up on it too quickly or unadvisedly. Therefore, when I perform a wedding I usually relate one of my favorite true stories that illustrates to the importance of staying together and the unexpected joy and grace that often comes with such a commitment.
Author and businessman Fred Smith, a leader in the field of leadership, writes about a time when he and his wife were traveling through Texas: “One of my treasured memories comes from a doughnut shop in Grand Saline, Texas. There was a young farm couple sitting at the table next to mine. He was wearing overalls and she a gingham dress. After finishing their doughnuts, he got up to pay the bill, and I noticed she didn’t get up to follow him. But then he came back and stood in front of her.
“She put her arms around his neck, and he lifted her up, revealing that she was wearing a full-body brace. He lifted her out of her chair and backed out the front door to the pickup truck, with her hanging from his neck. As he gently put her into the truck, everyone in the shop watched. No one said anything until a waitress remarked, almost reverently, ‘He took his vows seriously.’”
Life can put us all in a body brace at times. Right now you are either just coming out of a problem, in a problem, or a candidate for a problem. Struggles are part of the human condition.
Yet, as we wrestle with our problems, remember that God wants us to use the struggles we have as a way to create closeness in our marriage — not as an excuse to leave. The struggles in marriages are often the very things that make them stronger.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.