Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It Matters Whom You Marry: Before and After

My daughter is planning her wedding. She and her fiance want a very simple affair with less than a hundred people. They are not concerned with the flowers or the music or the food at the reception. They are concerned with making sure their marriage will honor God. This is what they put their energies into as they move towards June 28, the day they will become husband and wife.

My daughter's happiness spills out of her and I rejoice that she, who has seen so much hurt in her young life, still has the capacity to love someone as much as she loves Jared. I thank God for that. But I also take a little credit. Somehow, in the midst of a home life where their father has been hospitalized more times than not, my children still believe in everlasting love and Christian marriage. What a miracle! How has this come to be?

This morning I saw a blog on Facebook entitled "It Matters Whom You Marry." The intent of the blog was to give advice to young Christian girls on how to choose their future husband. And as I read through the five suggestions given by the author, God revealed the answer to my question to me. The reason my children can all still open themselves up to loving another is this: I chose the right man. And, equally as important, he chose the right woman.

Since Ron's car accident in 2000, our lives have been divided into "Before" and "After." Our marriage is  no different. So to well-meaning doctors and acquaintances who ask me, "Why do you stay with him?" I respond with my own list of five.

Ron and I began attending church together shortly after we started dating. In the year before our wedding, we read through the Bible together using a couples' devotional. I had come from a Catholic background and Ron had been raised in the Baptist church. We built up one another's faith. We took on ministries in our church right away and started every meal with a blessing. When we had children, we dedicated each into God's family and made sure they were fed spiritually. Sunday School, Church, Evening Services, and Wednesday night prayer meetings were our weekly routine.

In the after time, there are Sundays when Ron cannot get to church. I go without him when I feel that I can leave him, letting others at church know that he is thinking of them. The accident has altered Ron in many ways, but it has not altered his care towards others. He calls those that are hurting or sick and tries to cheer them up. Does it impact me spiritually? Definitely. Ron's illnesses bring me closer to God. I have spent many, many hours praying in hospital rooms and trusting Ron's very life in the hands of the Great Physician. There has never been a time in the After that I have not been able to ultimately say, "God can handle this."

In the Before time, Ron was a kind person who was not afraid to show his own emotions. If I cried, he held me close and handed me his handkerchief. He never once accused me of being a cry-baby or a weak woman! He did all he could to keep me balanced. I tend to take on too much in my life, and Ron always tried to get me to set priorities and keep myself safe in all ways.

Ron is still the same kind person, even though his own emotions are often out of whack. I do not cry much in these After days, simply because my life is too full and time is precious. I would rather pray than cry. But the first 20 years of our marriage gave me the groundwork I needed to become a wife and a mother. My emotions now channel into my writing, which Ron whole-heartedly encourages.

Ron worked hard to support us. When we married, he was making little more than a hundred dollars a week and I was going to school. Money was tight. Money has always been tight. Material things did not matter that much to us. We always had a warm, safe house and food to eat. We had enough to share with others in more need than us. Ron worked a second job from time to time when the kids were small. If a child needed shoes, he did without. He even welcomed the series of "Lost Boys" into our home, fellows who would stay with us for a while seeking some stability. It certainly impacted his wallet, but I never heard him complain.

Ron is no longer able to work. I work two jobs now to support us and provide for Ron's medical needs. I try not to complain, although I do get tired from time to time. He is the first one to suggest I take a day off or sit and rest for a while. It is advice I do not always take. But because I know the bulk of our support depends on me, I take care of myself. I watch my weight, exercise, take vitamins, and try to get enough sleep. If he is snoring too loudly, he will move to the couch so I can sleep.

Yes. And yes. Ron told me early on in our dating days that he had a bit of a temper. It was never, ever directed towards me or the kids. I desperately wanted to finish my bachelor's degree, and Ron helped me make that happen. The fact that he did not have a college degree himself did not impact the decision to encourage me.

I now not only have a bachelor's degree, I have a master's and a doctorate. Mentally, it is sometimes challenging to handle all of Ron's medical and psychological issues. But I am grateful that I was prepared to support us with my advanced degrees, and that my ability to understand medical issues has helped me to panic less when a surgery looms. I have sometimes wondered if I would have all the education I do if Ron had not become ill.

I have a small, but close, family. I also have really good friends. Ron supported the time I spent with my family and friends and made sure we divided holidays up evenly. I will admit I have lost some friends in the After time. There are those who just do not understand that my time is very limited. There are others who do not "get" while I am still with Ron. I do not need those people.

The friends I hold dear now are the tried and true friends, those who have seen me through crisis after crisis after crisis. Even if I do not see them as often as I would like, I know that they uphold us in love and prayer. I maintain a close relationship with each of our three children as well. In the After time, they have adjusted to a different sort of Dad. But they have adjusted. Ron continues to support my friendships. I have a standing monthly dinner date with a close friend. Only the end of the world would make me miss it. Ron would not suggest it.

If you want to read the original article that prompted by thoughts on this snowy day, here is the link.

I'd like to leave you with just one more thought. Marriage is about hope. As Emily Dickenson noted, it is the thing with feathers and can quickly fly away. But choosing the right person to marry makes Hope cling to the branch despite the storm. Hope does not promise it will be easy. My marriage of 37 years --yikes!--has not always been easy. Ron's illnesses were not something I could have predicted when we said our marriage vows.

 For better or worse.

I meant it.

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