Five years ago, in a small Outer Banks ceremony, I became Chris Strayer's wife. Well, to be technical-- it was five years and 1 week ago (but we won't mention how I forgot our anniversary [and Chris didn't], 'cause it's just not relative to the story). The point is-- I was young, in love with Jesus, in love with a boy from Pennsylvania-- in my mind, there was no way that this wouldn't work. We were in love and we were Christians, so it had to work. It had to be easy.
I am at my Mom's house this week, visiting with my sister and her family who are on furlough from Haiti. In a desperate quest to find something to read after everyone else had gone to sleep, I stumbled across a binder of stuff from my wedding. And on a crumbled sheet of computer paper, I re-read vows I made to Chris five years ago. And I realized-- wow, I can't keep these promises:
"Chris, it is with great joy and anticipation that I enter into this new life with you. I am so excited that you have chosen me to belong to you, and I promise to be a wife worthy of your confidence and trust. Because I have known the example of Christ's unconditional love for me, I promise to love you regardless of our circumstances: whether well-fed or hungry, whether in plenty or in want. I pledge my time, my attention, my affection and my faithfulness to you. I promise to listen to you, pray with you, care for you, and spur you on toward love and good deeds. Recognizing that God has given you authority over me, I vow to honor, obey, respect and submit to you. I promise to be a Godly mother to our future babies, and I promise to be your best friend. It is my earnest prayer that as your wife, I would always encourage you to seek and to love the Lord above all else. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward all that Jesus has for our future, I promise to be by your side for as long as the Lord grants me breath. Chris, I know that I am unable to keep these promises in my own strength, but because Christ has promised that His grace is sufficient even in our weaknesses, I vow to be to you a loving and faithful wife. May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death ever separates you and me."
In reading this, I was immediately floored by the magnitude of my failures, the depth of my depravity... the myriad of times I have chosen to love myself instead of Chris, to follow a fashion instead of the Savior. But I was also struck by the depth of mercy of my God. I can get so consumed with the day-to-day, the diapers, the electric bills, the house, all these lilliputians of life that sneak in to destroy my joy--- that I forget that my marriage is not about me. It's not about my husband. It is about Christ. He cares about my marriage more than I care about my marriage. Yes, this union was designed by God for my enjoyment and refinement; but more, it was designed to show me (and the WORLD), the heart of God towards His bride. This is the Gospel-- the goal that Christ be glorified, not that I be comfortable. I thought, despite what I had heard, that it would be easy. That it would come naturally. Instead, it has thrown me to the foot of the Cross at every turn, casting my only hope on Jesus; I didn't know how much I'd need Him.
What would my vows have looked like if I had written them after being married for five years? Probably something like, "I promise that (I'll try) not to kill you." :) My failings are abundant each day, His mercies are new every morning. My righteousness is dirty rags, His grace is sufficient. Great is Your faitfulness, oh Lord. Great is Your faithfulness.