The Forest for the Trees…

When I said my wedding vows to my husband over 10 years ago I didn’t shed a single tear.  I was filled with a joyful anticipation that our life together was going to be simply, in a word, wonderful.  And…it has been…but a very different wonderful than I ever dreamed.  In hindsight…the words you think you know…but you have no idea come to mind.  This past weekend thinking about our wedding day and our marriage since then I started to understand a little bit more why we weren’t able to see the forest from trees until we were through the thick of it.

Ever since I fell ill I always wondered with an overwhelming feeling of guilt, knowing this wasn’t what my husband signed up for, if he would have chosen not to take those vows…so easy to say at 21 years old…if he would’ve known what was going to happen.  It took me about 7 years to be able to ask him that question out loud.  I guess I never asked because I didn’t want to know the answer.  After we watched the movie Fireproof a few years ago I asked him nearly sobbing.  I’ll never forget what he said.  He told me…almost shocked that I asked in a very firm, absolute voice…that he absolutely would have still said those words and chosen to marry me because he loves me no matter what and he couldn’t imagine his life without me.  I believed him…but at the same time…isn’t that what he was supposed to say?  Would he really have chosen this life?  I couldn’t at that time see the picture God was painting and what this burden of pain and struggle was doing. 

You see I didn’t understand that God was pulling us closer to Him at light speed through something very difficult.  I couldn’t see the blessing in the seeming curse.  I couldn’t see the gift God had given me right in-front-of me until that moment.  God unveiled my eyes and all the memories of my husband came rushing to my mind of him beating down the doors of doctor’s offices and holding me close when I just couldn’t take it another second and literally begging God on his knees to take this away.  Nathan was Jesus hands and feet and I didn’t even realize it in the thick of it!  I couldn’t see it!  He sacrificed so much…not because he had to…not because he was supposed to…because he loves me! 

You know…I never really could put into words what attracted me the most to Nathan when we were on our first date until this weekend when I was writing him a love letter.  It was that I finally felt safe…safer than I had felt with any other human being…almost instantly!  That safety grew stronger over time and came from his complete and unconditional love for me despite all of my many imperfections.  I just couldn’t understand it at the time…but I get it now.  Why did he stay?  Why wouldn’t he just let me go?  I’ll be honest…there were times I wanted him to!  I wanted better for him!  I wanted him to have what he deserved…someone who was healthy, had no baggage, could give him a perfect life and treated him like the treasure he is!  But you see I just couldn’t understand…the classic good girl in me…because no matter how hard I tried…I couldn’t earn his love…he just freely gave it.  Even though God commanded him to…that’s not why he did…why he does!  God showed me this weekend in a whole new light that Nathan really does love me like Christ does.  If Christ giving himself up for us is God’s parallel for marriage…something permanent…something absolute…how could we just throw it away?  God…in giving me Nathan…has helped me understand so much more about His love…and this battlefield…and just what we’re fighting for.  I didn’t understand it when I signed up for that love so long ago…the cost…the magnitude of grace and mercy…but it’s permanent…absolute.  Jesus won’t leave me no matter how sick I am…what a gift it is that my husband won’t either.

I had the opportunity to say those vows again yesterday to Nathan and make a Covenant before God.  This time…I shed many tears!  I now know what those words mean…and I KNOW my husband means them too because I have experienced first-hand countless times how he has selflessly demonstrated them and shown me…when I certainly didn’t deserve it.  In hindsight…it doesn’t really matter if we would have said those words or not if we could have known what was to come.  What matters is that we did say them and that we did not…are not…going to give up…no matter what because our marriage belongs to God.  If He brings us to a forest, He will bring us through the trees.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.  Ephesians 5:25-31

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