Holy Ever After

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family | 0 comments

Holy Ever After

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to travel alone (alone!) to Hawaii for my dear friend’s wedding. Did I mention I was alone? It’s the first time I’ve travelled anywhere alone since I had children. It was wonderful, refreshing, and a brand of fun with girlfriends that I had kind of forgotten existed.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful in every way. The bride and groom exchanged vows overlooking the Pacific Ocean with strands of tropical flowers floating in the trees above them. The scenery was breathtaking, and so was the ceremony. Their hometown pastor traveled a long way to marry the bride and groom, and his wedding sermon was thought provoking and meaningful.  With great grace and honesty, this pastor shared the real story, that marriage includes ups and downs, heartache mixed in with the happiness, and that there was divine purpose in all of this. He said (my paraphrase, he was much more eloquent) that once you get married, your spouse will contribute more to your holiness than any other person ever will again in your life. That struck me as such depth of truth and wisdom that I seriously pondered it as I watched the bride and groom take communion and wash each others feet out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was one of the most profound perspectives on marriage that I have ever heard.

Websters defines holiness as “the state of being exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Yeah, so that’s not what I’m talking about here. I don’t think marriage makes one perfect in goodness and righteousness, at least mine hasn’t yet. Another definition is “having a divine quality.” That’s what I think marriage has the ability to do, create in us a divine quality by moving us closer to God as we confront and cast off our selfishness, character flaws, and wounds. A synonym is sanctification – “the state of growing in divine grace.” Yes. Marriage presents an opportunity for growing in divine grace.

I am not the same person I was when I got married. Standing at the edge of the ocean in the gentle Hawaiian breeze, watching my amazingly together friend make this big commitment, I was reminded that when I did the same thing eight years ago I was pretty much a mess. Why did Husband choose me in all of my messiness all those years ago? I remembered he once mentioned that something he loved about me was that my heart was tender towards God. I think part of what he must have meant was that he saw in me a willingness and desire to grow, learn, and mature that ran deeper than my flaws and weaknesses. Our marriage has been an ongoing process of growing in divine grace. Sanctification. We have both been willing to be changed. We have both been willing to be humbled. We have both been willing to become less selfish.

Six weeks before Husband and I exchanged our vows, my dad died. I had great difficulty following this life event and my difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. Husband could have left. People would have understood. But he stayed. Not only did he stay, he never once mentioned the thought of leaving. I even asked at times if he wanted to and his answer was always the same – “We’re in this together. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Years later Husband lost his business, income, and status. He had great difficulty following this life event and his difficulties manifested in our marriage, causing great strain. I could have left. People would have understood. But I stayed. By the grace of God alone, when I could sense his question of “Will you leave?” I somehow knew to look at him and say “If I had nothing but you, our baby, and our two crazy dogs, I would be happy. I’m not going anywhere.” Divine grace.

Marriage offers an opportunity like no other to grow in divine grace – to exchange selfishness for love, haughtiness for humility, shame for a fresh view of ourselves through a lover’s eyes, fear for strength to push through the greatest challenges. I always hope when I write about marriage that people I know who are divorced feel no condemnation. Marriage takes such work, commitment, respect, and forgiveness from both people that I find it rather miraculous that anyone’s marriage can endure. My marriage is not perfect by any means. But it has been a sanctifying force for me. I can see that it has been for Husband too. That wedding sermon helped me understand why and I wished I had heard it sooner. If someone had described marriage to me before I made my own vows as a process that would not only add to my happiness but also to my holiness, my sanctification, my growth in divine grace, then I think I would have viewed each struggle and conflict along the way very differently. I would have purposed more to have a heart malleable enough to change and a willingness to let marriage grow and stretch me instead of expecting it to be continual bliss. I would have welcomed all that comes with the process of Holy Ever After as an indispensable part of my Happily Ever After.

 

 

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