As 20-somethings – one with a history of sexual abuse and deep harm – we had no idea of the difficult adjustments ahead of us.
I struggle to let the words settle over me…ponder their meaning.
The words carry me to places where I have known deep harm. Mental alarms clang. Breath quickens. Chest tightens.
I wear these words comfortably. My wardrobe is full of them. I know how to defend, deflect, control.
Marriage vows do not call us to stand alone. Marriage proclaims: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
Over 46 years, we have weathered our share of seasons of change – some with great difficulty – some with great joy. Our current season incorporates my husband’s progressive illness that now spans nearly a decade. It rips and tears at the fibers of our intimacy, our equal partnership, our love. It is a season that stretches our understanding of necessary surrenders, forgiveness and radical love. It is a place where I have been challenged to embrace the words that go against the fiber of a heart conditioned early in life to fight and flee, defend its ground, overrule and control.
As the disease ravages the mind and body of the only man I have ever loved, every new episode of change calls my wounded heart to battle.
Contemplation of a future alone instigates terror and a paralyzing fear that often keeps me from moving toward him with kindness, openness and hope. I struggle with the urge to protect myself…control an outcome I do not want to face: But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
Any marriage that spans that four decades has seen its share of the dichotomy reflected in the vows we so innocently – but sincerely – repeated on our wedding day:
To have and to hold from this day forward – as long as we both shall live (life/death).
Today I want to invite and receive all my husband longs to give, in any way he can give – to have him and hold him from this day forward as long as we both shall live…with no regrets for foolishly letting go of him before it is required.
Help me, Jesus. Help me.
Christine Browning is a lover of story—including her own. She loves to hear and longs to respond well to others’ stories. A late bloomer in the field of education, it is her absolute delight to teach at Milligan College in East Tennessee. She also counsels women who have experienced trauma and abuse. Christine is the mother of three adult children, three incredible grandchildren and has been married for 42+ years to her delightfully playful husband, Tom.