Living in the Safety of a Profound Mystery


Whether you’ve been married a month, a decade, or dozens of years, you may find marriage to be so much harder than you ever dreamed. Yes, it's hard, but there's a divine mystery embedded in your vows.

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV)

Julia* looked around in panic and confusion.

“Where’s David?” she asked the friend to her left. Ever so gently, David leaned in from Julia’s right, took her hand in his and said, “I’m right here. Everything is OK.” In one tender moment, David calmed her fears, and Julia relaxed into peacefulness.

Earlier that evening, I had watched Julia shuffle into the room, her face an unreadable, blank mask. Even though a mutual friend had tried to prepare me, I was shocked by the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease on a woman who was only a handful of years older than I.

Julia had lost myriads of memories, but in that moment when her husband held her hand, there were two things she knew: She was loved, and she was safe.

Conflicting emotions overwhelmed me as I watched the two of them. I thought, How beautiful that he loves her so faithfully … I’ll bet he never imagined this pain on their wedding day.

My mind drifted back to the spring day when I stood in white lace facing the most handsome man I’d ever seen. His piercing blue eyes locked in on my brown ones as he made his vows confidently and I whispered mine through joyful tears.

I, Amy, take you, Barry, to be my husband …
The word “husband” at the time was bright and shiny and new, but at the altar, my experience of marriage was limited to choosing a white dress and purple tulips.

To have and to hold from this day forward …
I didn’t know that some days “forever” would seem like a really, really long time for both of us. I didn’t know that we’d have to hold on to each other with all our might.

For better, for worse …
On the happy day at the church, I couldn’t imagine worse, but it would come. Life is hard in a broken world.

For richer, for poorer …
In the lavishness of a wedding ceremony, I couldn’t foresee times when there would be more bills than money. I didn’t know the sacrifices that we’d need to make.

In sickness and in health …
Words like “cancer” and “Alzheimer’s” weren’t on my mind when I quietly repeated the pastor’s words in front of friends.

To love and to cherish …
With love shining in my groom’s eyes, I didn’t think about bad breath and bad days. Love was in full bloom and cherishing each other seemed ridiculously easy … before we lived in each other’s space.

Until death do us part.
Two young, vibrant people said these words. We hadn’t experienced the fragility of life, and death seemed so, so far away.

This is my solemn vow.
Whether you’ve been married one month, one decade or dozens of years, you may know marriage to be so much harder than you ever dreamed — yet, it can be so much better, too. There’s a mystery embedded in those vows. It’s oneness between a distinct two. It’s faithfulness that leads to belonging. It’s protection that gives safety. It’s the exquisiteness of never leaving or forsaking. It’s exactly what Christ offers us.

Keeping our vows displays the power of Christ in us, and David’s care for Julia even when she could no longer return it was a perfect picture of this truth.

Has better turned to worse? Has richer turned to poorer? Has youth and health turned to sickness? It’s hard. No doubt about it. But today, I want us to embrace the tension between what we hoped for and what is. I want us to commit to remain one with our husbands so that we can display the power of Christ in us. Let’s stand together in the safety and the mystery of the vows we made.

Dear God, I pray that You would help me to stand in the mystery of oneness that You’ve given husbands and wives. Help me to trust You and to love him faithfully in the midst of life’s trials. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 3:3, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (NIV)

Whom have you seen display the power of oneness? What steps can you take to emulate the example that has been set for you?

Ask God to give you the power needed to fulfill your vows.

*Names have been changed in this devotion to maintain privacy.

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