It’s Anniversary Week for my darling husband and I so naturally I am in full on reminisce mode. We had such a blissful dating, engagement and wedding process. Truly lovely with lots of humor and a little romance and oodles of joy. Makes me smile just to think about it. We were one of those couples who wrote our own vows. I worked diligently to memorize mine, so as to recite them flawlessly during our ceremony. And I did, unless becoming so choked with tears I couldn’t speak doesn’t count as flawless. The husband, who doesn’t really like memorizing things, glanced at his before the ceremony. He said several wonderful things about leading me as Christ leads him but at some point got stuck and ended on, “I just love you so much. Just a lot. I just do.” At which point I gave our officiant a look that said, He’s done here. Put him out of his misery. We then exchanged rings and recited the traditional ring vows which end with “till death do us part.”
Till death do us part. It’s always been kind of a morbid thought to me that we talk about death in our wedding ceremonies. I mean, I understand the idea- we’re committing to love the person as long as we’re both physically available. However, when you’re all dressed in white and lace and flowers, bringing up death has always felt out of place. And, it seems like something that will happen far into the future. But as my marriage has taught me, and continues to teach me, if I want to be around to love when we’re 90 and almost done with this life, I better get used to a lot of dying in the present. There is just no other relationship that asks me to die to myself as often and as deeply as marriage. In the beginning, it’s not so hard. Sure, it’s annoying to have to compromise on so many decisions I used to make alone, but it’s manageable. That’s because you aren’t dying yet. You know you’re dying to yourself when there is no way to compromise. You can’t live in two different cities at the same time. You can’t save and spend the same dollar or go home and go away on the same holiday. One of you will get your way, and one of you will die. But even those moments can be shuffled about in your mind and kept track of who has given in, how many times to even it out. To keep things fair. But then there come the hard moments. The times where there is no way to make it right, to even it out or pay it back. When one of you sins against the other. When you are both in pain and grief and someone has to be the first to reach out. When apologies are needed, but not offered and yet love still needs to be exchanged. These are the moments you really have to die to yourself in order to love. They feel almost impossible at times. My pride and selfishness are so hard wired into my nature. My need to be validated or be right or be better threaten my ability to love often. The only way I have found to really die to myself is to remember the one who died to Himself for me. When there wasn’t a way to make up for my mistakes, to even the score, He made the first move. He willingly laid down his perfect life in exchange for my sinful one.
So on this wedding anniversary, I am focusing on the cost of real love. It is not cheap. It is not easy. It doesn’t always flow like a love song. But in the moments of surrender, sacrifice and serving- there I get a glimpse of my Lord’s love for me. And there I find that God changes my heart toward my husband and my marriage so that even in death, I see life renewed.