Recently, I shared a song I recorded to Facebook for my wife as we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. Along the way, I was humbled by comments from viewers who remarked about how we demonstrated our love for one another and kudos for being married so long. I say humbled because I don’t really feel I have done anything extraordinary. I believe my wife would say the same thing (although I have been the beneficiary of many her extraordinary acts of love).
Just a vessel, and a broken one at that.
For every time a person complimented me for singing a song for my wife, I could point to dozens of requests by my wife to record many songs over the years. Whether due to laziness or an exaggerated sense of perfectionism, I didn’t fulfill my promise to her to record many songs. In reality, a successful marriage can hardly be defined by the utter volume of broken or unfulfilled promises on my part… unless…..unless there is a greater husband than me…unless there is a greater promise-keeper than me….unless there is a greater promise than all of those wrapped up in the marriage vows.
When asked what the secret of a long marriage is, you often hear the stock answer “it’s not us, it’s by the grace of God” or “it’s because of our faith”. Those are correct responses, but they don’t mean very much until you know how utterly weak we are as vessels. I will not speak for Tina, but as for myself I confess that I’m extremely lacking as a husband. I’m self-absorbed, insecure, prone to anger and lust, and as the classic hymn would say, prone to wander.
In light of the modern day celebrity examples of males who use and abuse women, I can’t point fingers. Though I haven’t egregiously acted out in some of the ways that many of these men have, I confess that my heart is every bit as bent toward these behaviors apart from God’s grace. So when we say, “but for the grace of God”, it must be prefaced with the acceptance that we are creatures who are inherently doomed to fail without it.
God created the institution of marriage to bring glory (or put on display) the redemptive characteristics of his covenant between Himself and his people. It is a covenant that only He has fulfilled as his people repeatedly fail to live up to their requirements much like spouses fail at living up to vows they made to each other. But God is the perfect spouse. He is a good God, so he calls on spouses to show His goodness to each other. He is a forgiving God, so he calls on spouses to forgive each other. He is a merciful God, so he calls on spouses to show mercy to each other. He is a longsuffering God, so he calls on spouses to suffer one another until death parts us. He is a loving God, so he calls on spouses to love each other. He loved us by humbly serving us, so he calls us as spouses to serve one another. He loved us by dying for us, so he calls us to die to ourselves and our selfish pursuits.
So, while the mountains, oceans, stars, and galaxies effectively speak of his majestic power, God was not satisfied to be seen as mere impersonal abstract force. We are all doomed to annihilation if God isn’t a person. However, if God is indeed the Person behind all of creation, we will not survive his righteous wrath and thrive in His perfect holiness apart from an intimate knowledge of the person of God. How is that even possible? If he is perfect as we are imperfect, how could we ever get close enough in order to truly know Him? It was made possible because at a particular time in history, He condescended to us, that is, the Son of God who is the perfect embodiment of all these personal characteristics came to us to fulfill the Father’s righteous demands in both his life on earth and death on a cross. He resurrected bodily to complete the transaction of forever clothing us in his righteousness cleansing us of our sin with its guilt and shame. Finally, he sustains his promise by His Spirit whose work is to point our gaze to Christ and upon his finished work all the while empowering us to properly bear his image before a world that is willfully blinded to His beauty. Marriage is one such vehicle where by His power we bear his image to one another and to the world which enables us to rightfully say, “But for His grace.”