Oh, the covenant we are living in. It’s more than rings on hands, it’s the yes to the unknown… What was easy to say is now staring us down. Is it ’til death do us part or ’til a change of heart? Feelings go so far, but where are we when they’re gone?
When I made a covenant to my husband in marriage almost six years ago, I signed on for a lifetime. I thought, I am heading into a life of love. Of treasured memories. Making a family. Ministering together. A life of substance. All True. But there are mysteries within the space of marriage, between the lines of those vows I made. God breathes life into that space. It’s sacramental; there’s something supernatural happening in this covenant. Something out of my control and out of Robert’s control. Something clothed in divinity and wisdom.
Marriage is hard. Many don’t last “for better or worse” or “til death do us part.” Going into it, I knew a little about sanctification: God does work in my heart. He allows circumstances to test my faith.
But. I couldn’t possibly comprehend–much less feel–what it would be like to go through not only my own sanctification, but also Robert’s. The stretching, the testing, the trying. The refining fire surely burns in marriage. It burns in the way we see ourselves and our own failings reflected in the hurt of our spouse. It burns in the way we are wounded by their choices, too.
God sets us apart. He makes us new in his love, returning us to our proper, created purpose. The sanctity of self and of marriage hinges upon releasing my white-knuckled grip on what I imagined, intended, or even desired for my marriage. In letting-go I find myself consumed by love that does not run out.
Each night last week we lit our Advent candle and prayed for Hope. This week we pray for Peace. The little flames are like marriage outside of The Mystery, outside of The Story. They burn rather dimly compared to the gaudy twinkle lights on the tree. Seemingly less powerful than those electric bulbs, the candle-flames are affected by each breath and movement.
And yet, we continue to meditate on the deep symbolism of this Advent wreath and anticipation of the coming Christ. The burning flames are pure and elemental. If allowed, they would grow and provide life-sustaining warmth. The could light up a dark room.
Hold the flame of my marriage covenant next to romances of this world, some alluring dramas or epic sparkly love stories… It seems dim and powerless. But hold it closer… let it catch. Allow it to burn anew with the love and light of Christ. I’m in it. The wind may gust through like a hurricane sometimes, but this flame is not going to blow out.
It costs something when we enter the covenant of marriage. There will be struggle. There will be sacrifice. This is what we signed up for.
We are holding on to Him as He is holding on to our covenant. We reflect the greatest story of our King and His Bride. We’re not hidden but shine brightly bearing witness in the night. -Bethany Barnard