When I was in college, one of my best friends had a funny picture of herself and her boyfriend taped to a wall in her dorm. In it, she was clutching his shirt collar and dramatically serenading him with some show tune (did I mention we were theatre majors?), though it looked as though she was telling him how it was going to be. What made it funny was that Melanie had taped a speech bubble onto the photograph (ahh…the days before Picasa) that said, “You always follow.” It was a joke between them that if they had a fight and she got mad and walked away, he was always supposed to follow rather than just let her go.
Wish I could tell you that worked out for them and they’re living happily ever after, but life happens. They’re still friends and so are we, though it’s one of those relationships that only surfaces every so often. Things like distance and choices and kids have moved us far apart, but she stood by my side in sticky hot blue chiffon on a sweltering summer day and listened to me promise to love my husband for better or worse and in those years since, I’ve often remembered that mantra of “always follow.”
Because he always does.
Sometimes I’m selfish and I
walk stomp away in anger knowing that he will come to me. I don’t have to make the first apology or slink back later, because he always follows. He always reminds me that I don’t get to just walk away from life, from marriage, from my kids, from problems. I get to stand with him and work through the hard times, the rocky places, the rage-filled moments when it’s all too much and I wonder for half a second if all this is worth the work.
After ten years, I can tell you it is. And after ten years I can admit that if I want my marriage to work for another ten or twenty or fifty, sometimes I need to be the one who follows.
We named our girls to remind us of God’s promises: grace, faith, hope. If I was naming Joshua, he would be mercy. More than anyone else he has shown me how merciful our God must be. Joshua knows me better than anyone because he’s seen more than anyone else. Seen my worst, my darkest, heard my most pitiful cries and held me in moments when I certainly didn’t deserve his love or anyone else’s.
He always forgives me. He always follows me.
He loves me the way Christ has loved his church, with a love that is merciful even when I think he should be casting me out and choosing someone who isn’t as selfish, as broken, as difficult.
All I can be is grateful for the blessing of a husband who truly loves me for better, for worst, for always.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.