Raw Reflections from the Journey

Monday, February 14, 2011

To Have and To Hold

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
~ Genesis 2:24 (NIV)

I was almost too nervous and too emotional to say my vows, let alone really understand their meaning. I just wanted to make it through the ceremony.

As Jill was escorted down the aisle by her father, my knees quivered. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized she was making me her one and only, forever. I was so humbled and overwhelmed. And, I suppose I was scared, or at least I should have been scared about holding her in love, the rest of our lives.

To have a wife is a gift. To hold her is a responsibility that is fulfilled only by selfless love. That’s something I’m still learning.

Privilege comes with responsibility. I get to have her and I must hold her. While I have exclusive rights to emotional and physical intimacy with my wife, I also have responsibility to love and to provide for her. Maybe this was another reason my knees were shaking – my subconscious knew that I was getting in over my head.

Jill often shares with couples that she and I have grown up together. We’ve been learning love for a long time. I feel sad when I contrast my bride’s happy and hopeful expression at our wedding with images of her tear-stained face when I’ve hurt her. If there was anything I vowed not to do when we married, it was to not cause pain. But I have. Being human, it’s impossible not to. I find that sad.

Life outside the Garden of Eden is tough. Pain is inevitable. It’s a clear consequence of sin. Sadly, in relationships, we hurt each other by what we say and don’t say, and by what we do and don’t do. Our best intentions sometimes go unnoticed and sometimes they are misinterpreted. Sometimes we don’t cooperate with our partner’s right to have us or to hold us. And sometimes we make it hard for them.

Recently we coached a couple by phone. She was full of pain, anger and frustration. We facilitated her sharing lots of angry, sad and scared feelings. He admitted that he had to clench his teeth and bite his tongue to keep from rebutting with his own thoughts and feelings. After she was done, he described that she was holding him, but that he wanted to pull away. She felt held by him hearing her heart and wanted to be close, despite having been hurt. He was struggling with anger about some things she said, and confusion about how she could want to be close to him. I think that’s a good picture, a realistic picture of what it’s like and what it takes to hold on to our vows in marriage; to hold on through hurt.

The pastor who officiated our wedding could have commented on our vows. It wouldn’t have been romantic, but it would have been realistic. “That’s right, Jeff and Jill, to have and to hold. You’ll have to hold on through the rough times and hold on through hurt. The happiness of this moment and the newness of your marriage will wear off at some point. Reality will set in and you’ll probably have a fight. Feelings will be hurt and your vows will be tested. When those times come, it will be important to hold on through the hurt.”

Are you hurt? How are you holding your partner? How are you holding on?

Lord, you are one who holds on through the hurt. As you hold us, we can hold each other. Thank you for your stubborn love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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