This post is a unique one in this series because it is written not only by my father-in-law, but also because my husband’s Mark’s mother, Robin’s wife, Jean, passed away a year and a half ago. I asked Robin to contribute because his position provides a reflection that perhaps many of us don’t think about on a day to day basis – that our marriage is temporary and one day we may outlive our spouse. Sometimes, a greater perspective helps us to not only appreciate what we do have, but also look beyond our current difficulties.
We were married for 37 years. And there were 2½ years before that where we knew each other as `carefree youngsters’, before family and responsibilities became part of our lives. Having just gone through the extremely painful experience of losing my wife of so long (just 1½ years ago as I write this, things are still quite tender but not as raw as they were 18 months ago), what advice might I give? What are the lessons the Lord has taught me?
Well, I can offer two thoughts:
Firstly, it isn’t good to take your wife or husband `for granted’. Seek to treasure them, love them, care for them, try to do those little things for them that they like, to thereby give pleasure to both of you. (Flowers are good; if affordable, chocolates might be nice; going out somewhere `special` can be most appreciated.) Secondly, no matter how much you treasure that special person, make sure that you do not see them as `your whole world`: make sure that Jesus still comes first in your life. The Lord needs to be first, no matter what.
It’s important to remember things like anniversaries, favourite places to go, finding out what your `other half` likes - and that’s what it develops into as you live together: that you are two complementary halves of a whole. As Genesis 2:24 puts it:
“… a man shall … be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
We can seek to do those things for the other person that they especially like; we’ll be able to go on holidays together; we can value the time we spend together (at times not even talking).
That is why it can be such a great loss when the one you knew best of all is no longer there beside you.
Yet, it is important to give the other one `space` when they need it, appreciating that you each need time to come to terms with things, on occasion. That though you start to think the same way a lot of the time over the years, there will be times when you disagree. And that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your relationship, but just that you are, despite being `one flesh`, nevertheless separate individuals under God, for He has made each of us unique. There is no other person exactly like us, or them. Those differences may lead to tensions, for we all have rough edges that the Lord wants to `rub off` or smooth down. And be aware that He may well use the person closest to us to do that!
Do we really appreciate the Sacrifice that Jesus made for us? Are we prepared to do that for our other half, too? If we truly love them, then is not their life more important than ours? As we grow older, if we’re growing closer to our Father in Heaven, then we shall find we are choosing `better` and less selfishly, and we shall do those things that are pleasing to our partner in life.
However, the time may come, as so many have experienced, when the partnership you thought would `go on forever` is broken, when one of you is taken to be with Him and the other is left. If we love greatly, we shall also feel such a loss greatly.
At first it can seem unbearable. We can know that, in the Lord, we shall see one other again one day, but that hardly lessens the pain when one is taken and the other is left. As the Queen said at the memorial of `9-11` through the British ambassador: “Grief is the price we pay for love.” If we love much then we shall grieve much when that bond is severed – even if God tells us it is only temporary, and He assures us we shall be united again with Jesus.
Make sure God is first in your life, and don’t take each other for granted.
Then marriage can be very good!
Robin lives in Leeds, UK. He is a father to Mark and Liz and has five grandsons and one granddaughter.