My marriage vows were no longer enough. I writhed on the basement floor drenched in sweat and tears.
“I love you, God and I take my vows seriously, but…seriously, God?” I prayed. “I can’t do this. I can’t take it anymore. I’m so alone. My husband hasn’t touched me at all in weeks. He’s so immersed in his all-important job. And when he’s home, all he wants to do is unwind with the television or a video game. He has little, no, nothing, left for me.”
My husband and I never had the picture perfect marriage. He isn’t demonstrative. The quintessential infantry officer, he has no problem focusing exclusively on what preserves the lives of his men in combat. The problem was that even when he came home, he remained in that driven, isolated, locked-and-loaded mindset.
What flames of intimacy that might have smoldered were doused when I discovered his addiction to pornography. The circumstances made him ripe for such an addiction, sexual release without ever having to take his eyes off his first priority, first love – the job. Gratification without consideration of anyone else.
“Lord, I had no idea for ‘better or worse’ would feel like worse so most of the time. Lord, I really just don’t think we’re going to make it.”
As I prayed, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a younger self. Twelve years old, I stood on a church platform next to the one man who loved me more than any other man in the world. Daddy pulled a mic from the stand, glanced down at me and winked. I struggled to pull my own mic from a stand a little higher than my head. It popped and fussed. Daddy watched and waited, letting me do it on my own.
The music swelled from the speakers behind us. I faced a sea of familiar faces, the small church body that nurtured my youthful faith. Their stories carried my faith, their lives and marriages, struggles and victories enriched the soil of my future.
Dad’s smooth tenor began the song:
We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Then it was my turn. I wondered why Daddy chose this song, it seemed like something he should sing with his wife, not his daughter. But I opened my mouth and released the words of Steve Green’s song that I’d heard over and over in our home all my life.
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives
And then our voices joined, melting into harmony. How many times had Daddy made me practice through this part over and over, perfecting our pitch?
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Memory of that day filled me, just as the swelling notes of our accompaniment did that Sunday morning in church. My skin broke out in goosebumps.
Fresh sobs broke over me, as I lay on the floor. A tide of emotion pent up for too long. I was ashamed of my failing marriage, my hopelessness, my resignation and my willingness to abandon my vows.
Suddenly, I was aware of my Heavenly Father’s presence beside me. I sensed Him smiling down at me as I struggled to exert my last ounce of strength for faithfulness to my husband. Abba’s voice was quiet, patient, just like those afternoons when Daddy had repeatedly coached me through our song.
This moment, this day on my basement floor was the reason Daddy sang that song with me. It was so the lyrics would etch themselves unforgettably on my memory, so that when the day came and my own vows were not enough, I could cling to my heritage, the heritage of faithfulness planted by my parents.
They have celebrated 37 years of commitment. Sometimes it was rough. They didn’t make it look easy, but they displayed the passion, the grit, the reward, the pain, frustration and sheer joy of a Christ-centered marriage. And they left to me a heritage of faithfulness.
I cannot tell you how many times I have clung to my parents’ wedding vows. Many more times than I have flipped through my wedding album or tried on my wedding dress. Their vows are more exquisite than any picture; they fit perfectly. After all, it is mine, this heritage of faithfulness.