Wednesday, September 01, 2010

For worse...

June 2, 1984, Gilbertown, AL:
"I, Lisa, take you, Mike, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death alone shall part us."

(or words to that effect...)

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him"...Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:18, 24-25

We focus on "having & holding" & "better" & "richer" & "in health." As we should. Weddings should make us go "awww..."

But the other thing they should do is fill us with AWE. Awe at what we're promising. Awe that the family was the very first institution God created (NOT the church, not the government, not schools, not businesses, not cities...FAMILIES). Awe that marriage reflects in so many ways what God does in relating to us. Awe at the reality behind what the words mean that are being said.

(Related aside: Lisa & I "started a family" on June 2, 1984...four years later, we had our first child, right when we wanted to do so. Realizing that is why I *never* ask a young married couple "so, when are you going to start a family?" They did so on their wedding day; the only remaining question is, how large will that family become...)

I was presiding minister at a wedding some years back. I doubt I'll have a higher honor this side of Glory. An INCREDIBLE experience!

("So, where are you heading w/ this?" Glad you asked!) I've been thinking much on some of the pre-marital teaching the presiding pastor at our wedding shared with us in 1984. GREAT stuff! I still clearly remember him looking at me, with Lisa sitting right there in his office with me, and asking "Mike, God forbid, but what if you're pulling away from church & are in a terrible accident such that she's paralyzed from the neck down. Does that change the way you feel about her & about this marriage? If so, I'd advise you to hold off on the wedding..." An awesome, holy silence followed...I realized that there was WAY more to this marriage stuff than simply acquiring a close buddy, or sex, or another income. One word has both haunted me & challenged me about my own marriage: responsibility. After all, I repeated very similar vows myself to the ones at the beginning of this entry before God, my family, her family, our friends,...

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...
Ephesians 5:25

There's a lot of controversy in recent years over the "wives, submit" part of Ephesians 5. I fully understand why that is; however, landing that one is not the purpose of this post. But have you read on ahead to the requirements of the very same passage for the husband? My hunch is that one of the main reasons for the pushback on the "submit" part is that we husbands are not keeping *our* part of the deal; we're not very good at "loving our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"...Just the one verse above haunts me & challenges me on a daily basis. I'm still *very much* a work in progress on this one myself, after 26+ years of working on it...

Sometimes, marriage involves all giggles & grins for decades on end. But frankly--and with apologies to my newly- & nearly-married friends--that is the VERY RARE exception. Sure, there are those giggles & grins times, where you just can't imagine more pleasing circumstances. But alas...

Sometimes, marriage involves one spouse losing a job. And having to move. And not having as much $$ as planned. And career changes. And the simultaneous GLORIOUS blessings and OVERWHELMING challenges of kids. And it always involves (eventually) not being 25 forever.

And sometimes...God forbid that this happen to you!...marriage involves things like this:

--being utterly alone in surgical waiting rooms at places like M.D. Anderson Cancer Center waiting for the nurse to step out & call your name to come see the surgeon to see how the operation went on your spouse.

(The surgery patient--me--has BY FAR the easier part of this deal, if you're wondering. Also, it frankly matters very little whether friends & family are there in the waiting room; the spouse will still feel utterly alone.)

--Sleeping on a foldout chair in a hospital room while listening to your spouse's very shallow, labored breathing along with the beeps & hisses of all of the machines he's hooked up to.

--Being awakened every couple of hours for yet another blood sugar stick & vital sign check.

--Being awakened by the sound of him not able to catch his breath & having to call for help because he's physically not able to do so.

--8-hour drives home becoming 10- & 11-hour drives because he's basically non-functional over there in the passenger seat, and yet he has to get out & walk around to keep from clotting up after surgery.

--Not freaking out when he's bazooka-barfing because of post-surgery anesthesia related effects.

--Changing surgical wound dressings.

--Pulling out pain pumps from his chest.

--Helping him wash himself because he's not able to do so on his own.

--Helping him get to bed because the pain meds made him crash while sitting on the couch watching TV

--Waiting yet again in a Dr.'s office for the latest most-important-ever scan results & hoping...

There is absolutely NOTHING romantic about any of the above. Nothing sexy or "awww" or "how sweet!" or "fun!" about them.

And yet, that's been Lisa Madaris' lot in life these last few weeks. And multiple times 2 years ago. And again 5 years ago. And there, ladies & gents, is what separates real love from squishy, romance-novel, TV love. "The Bachelorette"? Um, negative... "The Kardishians"? Please!!

The Bible speaks of three main forms of love: eros - basically, physical, romantic love, as in "erotic"; phileo - friendly, brotherly love, as in "Philadelphia - City of Brotherly Love"...and agape.

Let the word lay there a moment. AGAPE. ("ah-gah-pay" more or less). Self-sacrificing love. Love that gives, expecting nothing in return. Love that solely seeks the best for the beloved (NOT for oneself).

I'm convinced that it is the latter--agape--that is the basis for a joyful, long-lasting marriage. Note carefully: ALL ARE NEEDED! There's certainly a place for eros love in a marriage (see "Song of Solomon" for but one example of the high priority the Bible places on erotic love...and keep in mind Who it was that invented sex in the first wasn't anyone in Hollywood! *smile*) And the companionship, phileo love of a spouse that enables each other to complete sentences for the other correctly is a great treasure.

But those both fade into the distance when agape love shows up. "Wow! S/he's hot!" just fails miserably when a marriage confronts, say, stage IV metastatic melanoma. "S/he's my best friend" just will not get one through those long nights in the hospital...or at home during recovery.

On June 2, 1984, when Lisa & I made vows to each other in the church there in Gilbertown, AL, we didn't have a clue. Note: the list of topics about which I had not a clue was very long then...and is still long now...but "love"--especially agape love--was right up there toward the top of the list back then.

Now, I know a bit more about it. Because I have seen it. Lived it. Received it. From one who will be TERRIBLY embarrassed at this blog entry. She would say she's just doing what loving wives do. Duty. I disagree. I've received "duty" too, and it feels just like someone doing their duty. Duty is fine and is needed, but it is NOT agape love. Receiving self-sacrificing, agape love like I have received feels entirely different.

To wind this up, if any of you want to see agape love, don't look to me as the example. Rather, look to my bride. You'll have to watch closely, as she does her thing out of public view mostly. And as you watch, note the loving, joy-filled smile on her face. There, my friends, is what love looks like.

I, among men, am so very blessed and grateful that my Lord drew me to my wife in the early 1980s. And I am still amazed that He drew her to me, with my many & manifest issues then. And now. And I am humbled beyond measure that He has put in my home one of the great examples of agape love that I've ever seen. And I hope she's nearly finished having to do the yucky's to years of love that doesn't require any more of all that she's had to give these last few years.

Deeply in love & receiving amazing love,

p.s. - "not good for man to be alone"...ESPECIALLY true of this man! *smile*

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Just WoW! As the mother of a newly engaged daughter, this is one blog entry that she and her beloved need to read. Thanks for the excellent words, Mike. God bless you, and God bless Lisa, a living saint.

~ Rhonda Boyle