Last night a friend contacted me with the shocking revelation of a “secret child”. Not hers, that is, but that of a close relative. A couple of years ago this revelation would have shocked me and caused my heart to beat just a little faster. Not last night, however. I sighed, reflected, and went about my business thinking, “Hmmm.. another one.”
Last night I thought about my classmates who had gotten married and (have gotten or were getting) divorced. I reflected upon how happy I had been for them then, and how sad I felt for them now. I thought of the joys we shared at the news of their engagements; and the tears we jointly shed at the revelation of their loving husbands’ continuous acts of unfaithfulness, betrayal, disloyalty. And again I though, “Hmmm.. another marriage falling apart.”
Last night, perhaps more strongly than ever before, I felt thankful and indeed blessed for my singleness. I felt the Lord had been merciful to me: withholding a certain level of pain and grief. Perhaps not forever, but at least for now. I felt blessed and fortunate for not having taken that plunge just yet; for not having made that mistake yet; for not having put all my eggs (read: my one heart) in one basket (read: the hands of one man). But beyond that, I realized I felt scared.
It was this fear I chose to analyze carefully.
Very few of us have great examples of what good marriages look like. If we did not grow up in a polygamous home, we grew up with a parent whose extra-marital affair was swept under the carpet, hushed. As long as the bills were paid and the face seen somewhat regularly, there was no cause for alarm, no need for a stirr. If we were not raised by a single parent, we grew up in a broken home; a home in which mother and father could not bear each other or speak kind words to another. If we never did find out about “secret siblings”, chances are we were those secret kids. If we did not find out about “another woman”, chances are our mothers were those “other women”.
And for those few of us who can say our (nuclear) families are loving, strong and united: I think it fair to assume things were not really always like that. This path too has significantly been marred with tears, hurt and grief: dealing with unfaithfulness, overcoming pain or abuse, discovering and accepting another child.
I knew both offender and offended – both adulters and adultresses. I knew it took two to tango, and I knew it was more often a matter of weakness than of wickedness. I knew how much evil good people could do and how much pain they could cause. I want to be neither victom nor offender, but I also know that there can and will be no guarantees.. How trustworthy, how faithful would he/I/we be?
Probably not very, if it solemnly depended on me.
Last night I was once again reminded of risks, rewards and the limits of mitigation. Wherever and whatever one chose to invest in – there was no realistic way of measuring, projecting or predicting one’s eventual return. To a certain extent it really was a gamble: marriage was a gamble. With the only eventual success factors being sacrifice, patience and forgiveness – on both sides.
His enabling and empowering grace. The God-factor in (hu)man(s).
Love was important, but I realized it just wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t do. What I needed was a man who feared the Lord and chose to keep His commandements: not because he loved me, but because he loved Him. Like Joseph, a man choosing to crucify the flesh and “not sin against his Lord” or Jesus, a man ready to willingly sacrifice it all. A man who, although he could do wrong and perhaps never be found out, lived and led with integrity: wholeness. A man ready to pay the price – especially when it hurt. A man so whole that should he one day fall, is humble enough to repent: to quickly acknoweldge his wrong and turn from it.
Love was important, but I realized that he too would need much more from me. I’m still in the process of figuring out what exactly that could be.. and whether I will truly be able and willing to give it.