If you google “Marriage Advice Quotes” you have to be prepared for a whole bunch of attempts at humor that bash the idea of a happily married couple, that assume without question that a long-lasting marriage with faithfulness to another is impossible. It is not impossible. It is hard work, but it is not impossible. And it is the most satisfying kind of hard work you can do!
Marriage is an intensely personal thing. We know our husbands like no one else knows them: habits, moods, wishes, regrets, sins,giftedness…we get the inside look. And (here is the hard part): they know us better than anyone else does. The trick is to take that knowledge, the beautiful, the difficult, the work in progress, and to really LOVE them, to SERVE them, to be loved and served by them, to know the truth and be faithful because of and in spite of it all. It is a privilege and a responsibility to know someone so well, and to commit to being faithful to them “until death do us part.”
One of my favorite passages in literature is a scene between a convict and a Catholic priest. It is from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Jean Val Jean is a man who stole bread to feed his starving family, and he was caught, convicted and became a hardened criminal through his years in chains. He was convicted because of a crime committed out of love, but the hardship and the hatred that surrounded him changed him into a frightening man.
When he is released from prison, he cannot find a place to sleep; his reputation as a criminal is made clear by the papers he is required to show at any inn in which he attempts to stay. Finally a priest allows him to stay in his home, he shows gracious hospitality without fear, he allows him to sleep near the cupboard where the silver is being stored for the night, and he shows no need to protect himself or his property.
Jean Val Jean steals the silver, and escapes into the night, only to be caught and returned to the priest’s home. When he is brought back, the priest declares that the silver ValJean has stolen was a gift, and that the only problem the priest has is that his guest had not taken the candlesticks also. They are so valuable, and they could be of such use to him in his new life. The stunned police leave, and the priest is left alone with Jean Val Jean. This is what he says to him:
“Jean Val Jean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”
Now, I don’t think it is our job to BUY another’s soul, but I do think the priest is a beautiful example of love: he knows the criminal and his crimes, but he calls out to man man with love and it changes the man's life. We all need to be reminded of our true identity, our identity in Christ as new creatures, reminded of the fact that God calls us Beloved and that we are clothed in righteousness. It is so easy in the pressures and mess of life to forget who we really are. And as wives we have the privilege of seeing our husbands day in and day out, we really know them in their habits and behaviors, when those things reflect Christ-likeness and when they don’t. But even when they don’t, we know who God says they are. We can remind them of their real identity, LOVE them as the priest loved a hardened criminal, without fear or self-protection.
1Corinthians 13, the chapter on love, says in verse 7: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. May you give to one another a love that knows and bears and endures through it all.
My gift to you is these silver candlesticks. I love candlelight: it creates romance, it hides the laundry pile we didn’t quite finish, it softens wrinkles and bad hair days, it creates a soft glow that is beautiful. May the candlelight set the stage for romance, may it create soft light that radiates beauty. And let these candlesticks remind you of Jean Val Jean’s story: may you believe and hope for each other, calling out in each other your true identity as a Son and Daughter of the King. May that bring you great hope and an anticipation that He is doing a great work in each of you, in your marriage, and in your future together.
A bridal shower devotional
For a very dear young woman whose bridal shower was tonight: