Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Determined Love

I published a link last Friday to direct you to my most-recent post at Network of Silver, but due to a mix-up of dates, my post was not there.  I apologize for the confusion, but trust you were blessed by the post you were led to. ;)  While my post was published on Valentine's Day at the other site, I have decided to also post it, in its entirety, here.  I hope it is a blessing to you.

I come from a divorced family.  I'm talking generations of divorce.  My parents were divorced when I was 12 years old.  Three out of six of my aunts and uncles had been divorced, at least once.  My maternal grandmother was divorced back in an age when divorce was rare.  If divorce is genetic, my DNA is tainted several times over.

My husband comes from a family where "till death do us part" is taken seriously.  Death may have been the tragic cause of the early end of marriages in his family, but I am not sure there is any record of divorce.  Therefore, my husband, while he was growing up, never dreamed he would marry someone from a divorced family.  It was not something he wanted.  

Then he met me - a fruit straight off the dysfunctional family tree.

While my history seems to solidify the argument that divorce breeds divorce, I emerged from my family tree with a stronger determination to make my marriage work.  I believed that with Christ in my life, I had the definite advantage.  Not to mention, I never wanted to put my children through the confusion and hurt I went through;  nor did I ever want to be alone.  I craved love. Once I received it, I wanted to have it always. 

When we dated, Eric once mentioned how divorce was not an option for him.  He would live in a loveless marriage rather than get divorced.  I found that very hard to agree with.  But, he was determined to stay married.  In fact, he was determined, as I was, to stay happily married.

I'll spare you the details, but after four years of dating and falling in love, the man from the strong, stable family tree married the girl from a very fractured and diseased tree.  While I spoke my vows to love, honor and cherish through the good and bad times for all our guests to hear, in my heart I silently determined to hold hands, kiss and smile like newlyweds until death parts us.

We're 20 years into this vow and we are, indeed, still holding hands, kissing and smiling - almost like newlyweds.  Most people who have known us through the years have seen our public displays of affection, our laughter, our smiles, our love.  Many young people have looked to our marriage as an example of what they desire someday....and that is only by God's grace.  

The truth is, it hasn't always been easy.  It isn't always easy.  I have found that a loving marriage is often hard work. And, while it is so unromantic and I used to hate hearing it said, I have had to face the reality that love is sometimes nothing more than a choice.  A choice to keep fighting for it or give up on it.  A choice to kiss when you don't feel like it.  A choice to  talk when you'd rather keep quiet.  A choice to forgive when you've been incredibly hurt.  A choice to stay when you're tempted to go.  

Hurt?  Giving up? Tempted to leave - the marriage?!  These are all things that Eric and I have faced with one another in these 20 years.  I have been hurt and I have caused hurt.  I have forgiven and have been forgiven.  (Admittedly, I have caused hurt and have had to be forgiven far more than my sweet husband.) We have faced our bad days.  We have faced our bad months.  We have faced trials & pain we never believed we'd face.   But, always, it has come down to choice.  Fight or flight?  Love or hate? Forgive or hold a grudge?  Turn our backs on God and His Word or glorify Him? 

When we have decided to make the right choice to keep loving, when we have forgiven, talked, sought God together - the feeling of love has returned.  Where once was a bleak, desolate, empty space that self and Satan had together help create, there is a renewed filling andfeeling of deep love, joy, and peace that can only come from God...the God to whom we have run and the God who has given us the strength to forgive and go on. 

Today, I am more in love with my husband than ever before.  As cliche as that may sound, it is the absolute truth.  I am in love with and I feel love for my husband.   I remember our first Valentine's Day together 24 years ago and how sweetly awkward that was.  Our love was just taking root.  The buds were just forming.  Today, our love has weathered severe storms, yet it stands strong...because of God and the determination He placed in both of our hearts:  the determination to have a happy marriage, a marriage that lasts; the determination that our children's family tree would be strong and not broken.  So far, it is strong...and we are determined to prune our branches, when necessary, with the choice to love, forgive, and stay;  and to keep watering our love with hand-holding, kisses and smiles.

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