For 36 years 30-31% of the population has said they were very happy with their lives (National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Society Survey). 50% of married people of faith with children consider themselves to be very happy, while only 17% of non-religious, un-married people without kids feel the same way. Gross National Happiness Arthur C. Brooks. 2008
Paul wrote in Ephesians 5: “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church… “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. To care for another person to the level that Christ loved the church is impossible – but this gives to husbands a clear picture of what we must seek to do.
When Sally Jo and I married, the two of us became as one flesh, fully committed to each other. That commitment has remained through incredible challenges. Yes, I am to love Sally Jo as Christ loved the church. In reality, if she had not equally loved me, one or both of us would have crumbled during the past 46 years. Seven times we went into new situations, each more difficult than the previous one. In each situation we knew I had the responsibility of getting a ministry on its feet – twice this was within a larger organization. What the Lord has used me to accomplish has, in reality, been accomplished through the work of both of us. Paul introduced the passage above with “Submit to one another.” A good marriage requires this!
So why do I write this now? Because I am gaining a much greater understanding of the work Sally Jo has been doing for me and for our children. My greatest challenge has not been any specific work required – but the endless work required. I just get my mind focused on something and I hear, “Chuck, could you please?” Or like just now. I am focused and then off goes her alarm clock to end her nap – and she is sleeping so hard she does not move! So…up I get. For weeks Sally Jo was unable to get into or out of her hospital bed without help, so during the day and 3 or 4 times at night I would hear her say: “Chuck, I need to…” Which is really saying, “Chuck, stop doing what ever you are doing – I need your help now” Her needs have controlled almost everything I do. What did Sally Jo do when our children were infants, then toddlers, then…? What did she do for me when my heart went crazy and I was in 5 emergency rooms and spent a week in each of 3 hospitals, or when my hip was replaced? Sally Jo’s back was broken because I dozed off – and the car went off the road. How easy it would be for Sally Jo to say “Chuck, I would never be in this situation if you had not dozed off while driving”. (a fact I never forget!!!) But what good would it do? Would saying this be best for me?
Marriage means for me that if Sally Jo prepares a meal, I will clean up after the meal. If she leaves our home for an hour or three days, I work my tail off so that when she walks in the door she sees things to be in better shape than when she left. Her smile is worth my effort! After all, she has been keeping up with things day after day. When home, what a lift it was when I took the children out for a few hours. I have always taken out the garbage, cleaned the garage. Personally, one of my greatest challenges is to listen to her – to really listen! Does she do things that bug me? Really frustrate me? Of course she does – often without knowing she is doing so. Sometimes Sally Jo does not do something I think is fully reasonable! Ouch!! If I am to love my enemy, how can I not love my wife?
I know a husband whose wife does not want to cook or clean…and so he does it. I know a wife who was so angry with her husband that she called for help when she realized she had a butcher knife in her hand and was ready to kill him! They worked through their problems and had a solid marriage until one of them died years later. Alzheimer’s? A stroke? A quadriplegic from an accident? A job loss? Who knows what a marriage will bring.
Jesus did not give up on His church, which is people! I cannot stop loving Sally Jo, stop seeking to do what is best for her, no matter how tough it gets! With both Jesus and me as her examples, she may well love me in the same way.
There is tremendous happiness, joy, security – call it what you will – in knowing we both have someone we can count on, no matter how tough life is!