In Sickness and In Health, As Long As You Both Shall Live

It was a perfect wedding.  Dressed in their finest, family and friends of the couple crowded into the church.  A string quartet played as the bridesmaids processed, and each looked more lovely than the one before.  At last, the bride entered on her father’s arm.  Truly, she was the most radiant bride I have ever seen.  She positively floated down the aisle, as her adoring groom gazed upon her. 

I began to cry, and I didn’t stop for rest of the ceremony.  Not an sobbing “ugly cry,” but a persistent teary, drippy-nose situation.  I asked myself, what on earth is wrong with me?  I’m not really a crier, and I rarely get emotional at weddings.  Then I realized, I wasn’t crying for the couple; I was weeping tears of thankfulness for my own marriage.

My husband and I had been through a lot the few weeks prior to this couple’s wedding.  I had gone through major surgery just three weeks earlier.*  This wedding was the first outing my husband and I had been on since my surgery – besides doctor’s appointments – and I was determined to go.  In hindsight, perhaps I wasn’t quite up to it yet, but I…WAS…GOING.

As I listened to the Bible readings and the minister’s sermon, I reflected on our own wedding day nearly thirteen years ago.  It, too, was beautiful.  Like this couple, we were married in our early twenties, ambitious and starry-eyed about what our future would hold.  I remember pledging that we would remain together “in sickness and in health,” but I just assumed that would come much later; I never dreamed I would develop an autoimmune disease and have complex joint replacement surgery in my thirties.

One of the readings was 1 Corinthians 13.  This passage is so commonly read at weddings, that I tend not to pay close enough attention to it.  This time, I listened from the depths of my soul.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Upon hearing this, I wept more grateful tears.  My husband has lived this passage.  This was a scary surgery, and for the 10 hours I was in the operating room, he had to “bear, believe, hope, and endure.”  Self-employed, he took two weeks off work to care for me.   While I was in the hospital, he slept every night in a chair by my bedside, helping the nurses feed me through a syringe and care for my personal hygiene.  His love for me has been “patient and kind.” 

The minister spoke of the holiness of marriage, and how a three-strand cord – husband, wife, and the Lord – is not easily broken.  I wanted to jump up from the pew and shout to the couple, “Please, listen!  Hard times will come someday, and they will be totally unexpected.  You must rely on God and each other, and you have to start TODAY!” 

Since I’m not totally crazy, I kept my mouth shut.  This couple will make it; they are both people of faith, who love each other and the Lord.  As they greeted their guests, I simply hugged them both, remarked on their lovely wedding, and wished them the best.

To all who are reading this, I have a request.  Be a little kinder to your spouse today, more present.  Hold your wife a little longer, tell your husband how much you appreciate him.  And please, remember to include Jesus as the third – and strongest – strand of your cord.

*I underwent a complex jaw and facial surgery, including bilateral total joint replacement, upper and lower jaw advancement, and nasal turbinectomies.

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