During a marriage ceremony, couples perform three primary acts: verbally pledge their love and support before God through the reciting of the wedding vows, promise their fidelity to each other by the exchanging of the rings and seal the deal with a kiss. On this happiest of days, most couples are more concerned about not forgetting the words to the vows they have to repeat than the responsibility behind what they are promising.
Over thirty-eight years ago, I declared the following words to my best friend: “For better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part.” As I looked into my brides beautiful blue eyes, moist with tears of joy, all I could envision for us was the better, the richer and in health words and for good reason. The best of “the better” occurred a few years into our marriage. We accepted God’s gift of salvation and became “born again” on our pastor’s living room couch. We have never been materially rich but we are blessed with our family in which we are rich beyond our wildest dreams.
No marriage though is spared from hardship. In November of 1990 seven feet of water rushed through our neighborhood. We lost everything in our home that day, including the use of our home for thirteen months. That was hard but we trusted God and with the help of our church family we rebuilt and pulled through.
The biggest test of our marriage began when Karen became very sick and was diagnosed with mercury poisoning at the age of thirty-five. We went to Colorado to a specialist. She had all her molars removed and underwent extensive detoxification to remove the mercury from her body. This took care of the poisoning but, because she was allergic to most dental materials, she had to settle for partials made out of a plastic. These broke down frequently and never allowed her to maintain a good “bite”. Over time she developed TMJ, cervical dystonia (a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably) and arthritis of the vertebrae in her neck.
This brings me back to my wedding vows. “For better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part.” I’m not going to speak for any man other than for myself. Living with a spouse in chronic pain is not easy. Saying our wedding vows before God doesn’t guarantee an easy life; they are a promise to commit ourselves to authentic love. 1 Corinthians 13 describes this tangible love this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs….It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
I am far from a perfect husband but from God’s own words come the target for which I constantly aim for in my relationship with Karen. So even with my imperfection I will:
- Be patient when my wife needs me most.
- Be kind even when kindness may not be returned.
- Not be envious of couples whose lives are free of chronic pain. (Every marriage goes through times of difficulty in one form or another)
- Not be easily angered. (One of the shortcomings I’m working on)
- Not keep record of wrongs whether real or perceived.
Keeping the above vows takes a lot of work on both our parts. For me, to always protect, hope and persevere does not. I will always cherish my relationship with my wife because my love for her will never fail.