Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Living Out Vows in the Valley of Sickness and Over a Lifetime {One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak #HeartMonth.}

{To read Part 1, the beginning of the series:
click here first.}

I wept over the smallest thing holed up in my ICU room in the hospital.

I tried to slip my wedding rings on my swollen finger for our anniversary and they still didn't fit. The swelling in my hands and feet from my heart working hard to heal made it impossible for me to wear the golden band that Jon placed on my finger fifteen years prior. It was not a major dilemma, but it was devastating for me at the time.

I pulled out a fresh journal my sister-in-law had sent me and began to pour out my broken heart on crisp, white paper like the steady, silent stream of salty tears.

In writing—in the releasing, in the exposing, in the surrendering—there is a quiet balm to the soul.

Without a voice, my silent weeping merged with my quiet introspection into words that trickled down like quiet waters—a resting place for my restless thoughts:
"Fifteen years ago we were at our wedding rehearsal, practicing walking down the aisle in the church, getting all the proper positions for the wedding party, finishing up all the last minute details of our "perfect wedding". We were so excited to be starting life together, looking forward to having a family, serving the Lord together as a married couple, growing old together. 
"Honeymoon plans were all set; we were ready to set sail to Bermuda after our wedding day. 
"We had such a young, innocent love. Naive. But completely determined. I was going to completely entrust my self to my new young husband. I was eager, nervous, still much too selfish, self-conscious, stubborn, self-absorbed, but in love and ready to grow in love together. 
"Tonight, the eve of our fifteenth anniversary we sit together in cardiovascular ICU. Jon has been my steady support. The way he has demonstrated his love and commitment has been truly amazing. As the patient, I've depended on him. But, as the caregiver and one watching his wife suffer, I can't imagine the lonely road he has been walking for almost 5 weeks. 
"I give thanks for him, my love."
The next day, our fifteenth anniversary, the words were as scarce as water in a parched land, but not without a glimmer of hope:
"We've sat side by side, walked hand in hand today in CVICU today on our 15th anniversary. How we would love to go out on a date for a celebration. 
But, this year we celebrate by living out our vows in sickness. Nothing fancy."
Nothing fancy. No elaborate get-away, no sunsets on the beach, no breath-taking views or buffets overladen with gourmet food, no fun excursions, no privacy, no suites with hot-tubs. But, we celebrated by living out our vows and giving thanks to God even for this circumstance.

That's where love grows.

In the soil of the day-to-day. In the sowing, the giving, the watering, the growing, the learning, the laughing, the forgiving, the yielding, the living out of vows every day—even in sickness, in the hard, disappointing, trivial, troublesome, bone-weary, heart-breaking, growing old together, till death separates and in everything giving thanks to God.

It's an unending commitment like the unending bands of gold that may or may not fit our fingers.

So many toss it away when it doesn't seem to fit anymore or it's not new or exciting or dazzling, but it's a messy and gruesome tearing apart that breaks hearts and lives and families and grieves the very heart of God who purposed that we give ourselves in submission and love just as His Son gave Himself for His Bride.

It is the grace of God that holds two together as each one commits themselves first to God and then one to another. Without his mercy, grace, and holy love we are lost and floundering and helpless to live out this love with one another. How else could two selfish, self-absorbed sinners grow in love?

Jon faithfully sat by my side, winked at me from across the room and reflected on the years and vows we had lived and together we gave thanks. I was blessed and encouraged as he shared his musings on October 2nd:
A decade and a half ago life was bringing significant change for me. One stage of life was coming to an end and a new stage was beginning.

Fifteen years ago today at 2:00 pm I stood and watched the back doors open and Rebekah walked the long centre aisle to the front to begin a new life journey with me. With no baggage or past regrets we went forward together, looking ahead to the new chapter and whatever way the road would bend for us. We didn't know what was going to be around each corner.

I remember it being somewhat overwhelming, amid the emotion and blurred excitement of our wedding day to fully absorb and dwell on the verbal and heart commitments we were making to each other. Promises made in such a short period of time, that would be lived out over a lifetime.

It was never just a trivial thing for us. Making vows with intentions of only living through the good times, or because it's needed to make the crowd smile and nod on the special day, or to get a pronouncement from a minister, was never our focus. For us it was a big deal to stand before God and declare faithfulness, through sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live. The knowledge that just as God keeps His promises, He expects us to keep ours too.

The impact of commitment resonates and solidifies us as we sit here together today on our fifteenth anniversary in the cardiovascular intensive care unit in Toronto. Waiting for INR numbers to rise to coagulate her blood properly and safely, waiting to be weaned fully from a ventilator that is assisting in strengthening a recovering lung, living with the discomforts of a tracheostomy in her throat and a feeding tube. (We do give thanks that her recent mobility, slightly better sleep habits, clarity of mind have all assisted in keeping blood co2 gasses lower and are not being monitored now. A great step forward in this process that we trust continues).

No, it's not the same as any other landmark year we've celebrated. It's not like the cruise to Bermuda, or the trip to the Algonquin couples resort, it's not the same as Niagara-on-the-Lake or the Sight and Sound Theatre in Pennsylvania. We can't vocally communicate or even go out for a nice steak dinner today.

But even though this part of our road has descended into the valley for a time, we still have the two most important things in the journey with us. We have each other, and we have the One who brought us together in the first place who still walks with us now. 
And if those blessings are not enough, God chose to enrich our lives with loving and supportive family, healthy and active children, an incredible church family, amazing close friends, a great homeschool connection, wonderful neighbours, prayer networks, supportive and encouraging people all over the world. You are all amazing. We are truly blessed!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 
Even though there are a thousand more exciting and romantic places I would rather take my wife away to on this day—we will give thanks today, for God keeping us right in the centre of His will. 

This is part 14 of the series:
One Thing Our Marriages Desperately Need Today ~~ A Husband's Heartfelt Words as His Wife's Heart was Weak
{for #HeartMonth.}

You can read Part 1, the beginning of the series here.

Read Part 15 here.

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