I had already planned on re-posting this one sometime this week, but decided to do so today because I just heard this woman's story, on NPR (Yeah, that's right...I'm a Christian and I listen to NPR. Leave your comments below :o) Now, this audio essay, called "I Believe" has featured some real kooks and God haters in the past, but this particular story was rather encouraging. Betsy Chalmers has been married 30 years to her husband. The last 28 - almost the entire marriage - he has been in prison. Why did she stick with him? In her own words:
I have faith in the covenant of marriage and of the God we stood before when we took those vows. I have faith in my husband and his ability to grow and change and become a better man, no matter where he is -- and he has. I have faith that time makes changes in us all we cannot avoid or ignore.
Whatever you think or decide about Betsy and her husband, you must commend her for her faithfulness to her marriage covenant. In a world where getting divorced is easier than getting married and it's done for far lesser "problems" than a spouse being sent to prison for decades, Betsy's example is one for us all.
So, here's my "Post from the Past" and my committment to faithfulness:
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY - DECEMBER 22
Excuse the sap, but this one's for my wife:On December 22, 1995 my life changed forever, again. I say “again”, because three years prior, I received God’s gracious gift of eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the fall of 1992, at the age of 22, in the small town of Sheridan, Arkansas, I heard the gospel for the first time that I can remember. God granted me faith and repentance (Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25) and opened my heart to believe the gospel (Acts 16:14).
There were many human instruments used in God’s redemptive work on my behalf. One person – of no small significance – was a pretty young lady I was pursuing, named Anita Kelley. Through Anita’s gentle spirit and sweet disposition, and because – even in my unregenerate condition – I respected her as being “religious”, I ended up in church with her after our first date where I heard the bad news of my sin and separation from God, and the good news of God’s forgiveness through the cross-work of His Son. I believe it was only days after that particular Sunday, that the Lord saved me. My life was changed forever. Hallelujah!
But I don’t want to talk about me right now. I want to talk about her. Anita Kelley. On December 22, 1995, my life changed forever, again. I married Anita Kelley. Today we will celebrate 10 years of marital bliss (with an occasional “miss”) :o). These are my thoughts about Anita, marriage and the past 10 years.
We certainly didn’t know much when we started, we’re much wiser now, but the wiser we get, the more we realize we have yet to learn. You learn simple things like…uh…like realizing my mom isn’t going to come behind me to clean up any more…and that I shouldn’t expect my wife to clean up like my mom…in fact – I shouldn’t expect my wife to be ANYTHING like my mom (and for crying out loud, don’t tell her if you do!!). I learned that Anita’s dad has protected her all her life. Now it’s my turn. So, be sure all the doors are locked at night.
I’ve learned not to hang wet wash rags over the top of the shower stall, not to leave messy, mucky lids on the condiment bottles and not to throw away ANYTHING without asking her (I love my frugal wife!). I learned to eat Chinese food (how did I survive for 26 years without it!?). I learned to make coffee that I would never drink, how to sleep with a noise machine and how to shine a sink.
You learn things that aren’t so simple…things you can’t explain…things you can’t always live up to…but you’ll die trying. You learn to forgive and you learn to be forgiven. Me, I’ve learned more about being forgiven…for Anita has had plenty of practice forgiving me of my selfish, sinful actions. Let me park here for a moment. My wife is a forgiver. She has forgiven me seventy times seven (Hosea’s faithfulness to forgive, she has modeled Christ’s forgiveness for sinners (Proverbs 31 woman. If you’re going to be a husband or a wife, you must be a forgiver.
You learn about love…and that it’s not based on a feeling. IT’S NOT BASED ON A FEELING! Love is an action. To borrow lyrics from one of my first Christian albums (dcTalk, Free at Last)… “Luv is a verb”. It’s an action. Genesis 2:23-25), one flesh. One flesh cannot have two separate directions in any area of life. You are one. And you are one forever. The cute little algebraic love equations we wrote in grade school said it best: 2 PEOPLE + 2 TOGETHER=4 EVER.
4 ever. Forever. Together forever. I’m still learning a lot of things. I want to always learn. But there’s one thing that I learned before I even began my own marriage. It is this: I won’t give up. I won’t. I won’t. Together…forever. This “one flesh” thing is serious. One flesh cannot separate. It’s not supposed to. It’s not God’s design (Genesis 2:23-25; Malachi 2:10ff; Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:1-12). I’ve seen one flesh separate. I’ve seen it up close. I was in the house… I was in the middle…I saw and heard and felt the flesh ripping apart. I still feel it. I still hear it. I still hear my mom weeping in the middle of the night. I still remember going to my grandparents home where my father was living and pleading with him…wailing uncontrollably for him to come home. It still makes me want to weep. It makes me want to get angry.
Just recently I heard a lawyer on television discussing divorce and it’s horrible effects on children. He spoke from experience, saying he could still remember telling his four year old son that “daddy and mommy aren’t going to be married anymore”. He said his little son ran out of the room with his hands over his ears. That’s terrible. That is absolutely heart wrenching. That really makes me angry.
I think I did that…maybe not physically, but in some strange act of denial, I just ran around with my hands over my ears for years. I was 17 years old.
So, even before I knew anything of unconditional love, before I knew anything of God’s love for His own, before I knew anything of God’s plan for marriage, I knew one thing: Not me. I will not end my marriage in divorce. Now, as I live my life on the other side of the cross, I still have the same resolution towards oneness and permanency. I will not end my marriage in divorce. I will not do that to my children. It just kills me to think about telling them something like, “Aaron Job, Abby, Anna, and little baby still in mommy’s belly… Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore, so we’re not going to be married anymore. Daddy is leaving. We’re going to live in different houses from now on. You won’t get to see daddy much anymore…maybe on the weekends…and holidays…but I still love you guys…” and on it goes, ad nauseum. PUH-LEEEZE! WHAT A CROCK!
I will not do that to my wife. I promised. I made a commitment to her. I made a vow. I made this vow before her, before my family, my friends, and my God. ‘Til death do us part. Does that not mean anything anymore?! I will not do that to my God. I’d like to say that it’s my love for God and reverence for His holiness and hatred toward sin that compels me toward my resolve to remain married to my wife. And it does, to a great extent. But it’s my past that makes me resolute. Now, I’m not one to build a theology on experience, but since my experience – in God’s providence - has given me fuel to heat the flame of what I now understand to be a biblical position, then I’ll continue to use my past, painful experience with divorce to keep me warm toward marriage.
I love being married. I love my wife. I know that I’ve been a real sanctifying instrument in her life (that’s NOT a compliment towards me!), as I’ve seen her grow into godliness over the years. I’ve seen her develop a deeper love for God and His Word and His people. I’ve seen her follow me into youth ministry - spending our first days of marriage with 20 something teenagers at a weekend conference. She has followed me out of full time ministry under a conviction that I was under-qualified. She supported me emotionally while I tried to find a job to support her financially. She has patiently spent many long days – from dark to dark - at home with the children while I was working job number 2…or job number 3. I worked these jobs so that she could continue to stay at home with the children.
And the children, oh my! I’ve watched my wife transform in ways that can only be attributed to God’s great design for mothers. As I watched her belly grow with our first child, and watched her “nesting” period as she got everything in place and just right before our baby (babies) would arrive. She’s a wonderful mother – a super mommy! She’s done this now three times, and is currently about mid-term in her fourth pregnancy. She makes it look easy! I know! I know! It’s NOT! I know!
It’s been a great 10 years. If the Lord would give us 10 more, I’d be elated! I’m elated that Anita even gives me another 10 minutes on some days! :o) Anita, you’re the greatest and I love you. Thank you for 10 years of bliss… and miss. You’ve done the “blissing”, and I’ve done the “missing”. Thanks for putting up with me.
Happy 10 Year Anniversary!
All My Love, All My Life –
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