Don Henley of “Eagles” fame once sang, “I had a good life, before you came.”
And so it was with me.
I was single.
I pastored the little white Church on the corner.
I did not feel as though I was waiting for my life to start, indeed I was locked in a pattern of discerning God’s will (as much as my fallen filter would allow), and, then by His grace: executing His will in my life.
I bought an old white house within walking distance of the little white Church.
I christened the white house “The Hermitage”, and went about fixing it up.
The Hermitage had a little green dining room, so I went about teaching myself how not to be a terrible cook.
On the whole I attempted to skip the entire phenomenon dubbed “Batching It Up”, even when I was as it were, a bachelor.
I did not have cable. The Hermitage didn’t even have a television antenna.
I had my books, my dog, and my God.
I prepared my sermons and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was not wasting my life. My life was going at full speed. And, for whatever it was worth, I was happy.
One day, God in His providence ordained to pour blessing upon blessing. He brought her back into my life. I had met her in college years before. We were at a Christian college whose ecclesiology lacked formally ordained pastors, yet there I was studying to be one and there she was the daughter of one. She had honey colored hair, green eyes, and freckles. We had been two fish out of water, and she was… resplendent.
The years went by and she had become a teacher, and served with Africa Inland Mission.
There she was, standing before me once again, and she was as she had ever been… resplendent.
I told her I intended to pursue her.
She told me she was going to the remotest part of the Congo she could find.
I told her we’d pray about it.
God smiled down upon me, and she became my Resplendent Bride.
While we courted we read “This Momentary Marriage”. Pastor Piper reminded us of things we already knew about the covenant of marriage from the Bible.
Marriage isn’t about you, it’s about God.
She wore a $100 white dress without guile. I wore what she told me.
We were wed in St. Louis at a Church called Hope, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
I told her I would let her down: but grace.
We sealed it with our first kiss, and we made our home at The Hermitage, nestled in the sacred hills and hollows of Glenwood.
A year passed. She showed me South Sudan. I showed her how to brown hamburger meat.
The Covenant of Marriage is a gift, and I feel like I’ve always received more than I ever gave.
Two more months passed and a fox named cancer tried to raid my home.
He is a wily one, he is. We fought him when he called himself Non-hodgkins Lymphoma. We fought him when he called himself Hodgkins Lymphoma. We fought him when he called himself myelodysplastic syndrome and we fought him when he called himself Acute Secondary Leukemia. And still we fight on.
The Hermitage has sat vacant for months while we sojourned in various hospital rooms.
My Resplendent bride endures chemo cocktails and radiation. I endure cots.
People say I need to take care of myself. Take a night off. They mean well of course, and I don’t think less of them.
But I don’t leave. That’s not what I do. The two became one. I don’t leave.
I said “I do”, and I still do. The “I do” of marriage is always in the present tense until The Lord Jesus says otherwise. “I do” is never “I did at the time”. “I do” is always present tense. “I do” travels through space and time to whatever condition the married couple finds themself in and says, “I still do, I always do, and when the enemy burns down these battlements, I shall remain”.
The perpetual present tense “I do” is anchored in the grace of God. It is only possible in Him.
Marriage was never about being happy. Marriage is a covenant, and covenants are rarely pain free.
My Lord Jesus endured far more pain than I ever will to bring peace through the blood of His cross to this realm of dustlings.
What I’ve learned from my Resplendent Bride’s cancer is that The Lord Jesus shines still brighter.
Once, a nurse told me that it was good that I was there with my Resplendent Bride.
I shrugged and told her, “That’s what marriage is.”
A shadow of sadness creeped over her face and she replied, “Not always.”
She’s right, you know.
Many a caretaker have crawled into a bottle never to be heard from again.
Many a caretaker has retreated into himself so far so as to be useless.
Many a caretaker has found comfort in the arms of another.
God have mercy on us all, for the things we do and the things we have no mercy for.
I suspect though, that those whom vanish in the hour of need thought marriage to be about happiness and perpetual comfort rather than the perpetual “I Do” that comes from a Christ who is always saying “I Do” to His bride, the Church.
Recently, on the Grammys, entertainers mocked God’s Word because it is old and then stole our glass and arches and held a ceremony “celebrating the commitment to love”.
It all reminded me of something the Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy (though he is quite old by now),
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful,unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NASB
Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power, indeed.
Ask any Pastor of a Church residing in a beautiful historic building: people want God’s house, but only if He’s not home.
I remind many couples that the stained glass windows were not erected to honor and celebrate their commitment to love. This house is consecrated to God, and furthermore, we are not part of the wedding industry.
We are about Jesus, and so too must be your wedding, and more importantly: your marriage.
If not, call it what it is: a celebration to your commitment to having bubbly butterflies for the flavor of the month.
God’s menu for marriage does not change.
When the squall rages against my marriage, I thank God that this marriage was not built by mine, nor my Resplendent Bride’s hands, but by His holy hands.
Many have questions about what marriage is, and whom it is for. Many have sinned against a holy God and wonder if He forgives. Many think that it would take a miracle to save the marriage they are in.
The village of Marriage has long been at the mercy of robbers and bandits. And I do emphasize the word, “long”.
Perhaps you are like many who have suffered the scars of other’s sin so harshly that you think it would take a miracle for someone to love you with Christlike sacrificial love.
I know a guy.
All things are possible with God.
The Lord Jesus desires to take you by the hand and make you whole, but His hands shall always have holes in them. You must ask yourself what you have to do with those holes.
Married or not.