Yesterday I was driving through “downtown” Federal Way when I witnessed something quite interesting. There was a man around 60 walking very deliberately down the street about six paces ahead of his wife. I wondered, “What kind of husband leaves his wife in his dust?” But wait…there’s more! The woman walked with a visible limp and was using a cane! A CANE! And her “in-sickness-or-in-health” husband had his hands stuffed in his pockets and was walking alone! It was not until this “gentleman” came up to the crosswalk and pressed the walk button that he looked back to see if she was keeping up. Then he marched into the crosswalk still several steps ahead of his wife.
Were they having a fight? Was this normal for them? I don’t know – I was just driving by. But I saw this little episode as an illustration of what takes place in too many marriages. Selfishness, indifference, impatience. Call it what you will but at the core its the breaking of a vow. Did this couple stand before God and witnesses all those years ago and commit to putting up with each other until life got messy? Or as long as each was healthy? Or “as long as love shall last?” I don’t think so.
The very public spectacle of this man ignoring the obvious physical needs of his wife declared to all who witnessed it that he no longer loved his wife and couldn’t be troubled with walking down the street at her slower pace. I wondered how this woman felt. What was going through her mind? How did she feel knowing that her husband no longer cared about her?
But less than an hour later while walking and talking with my wife I raised my voice. It was over nothing – I don’t even remember the specifics of the ‘conversation’ but I was impatient, short, and louder than I should have been. If anyone had been in earshot they might have asked some of the same questions I asked earlier in the day.
So I have to ask myself how others view my marriage when they catch short glimpses of my behavior? Do I consistently demonstrate my love and commitment to my wife of 30 years? Does my body language and spoken language affirm the vows I made to her? Do people wonder how Julie feels about her uncaring husband?
The writer of Hebrews (my favorite book of the Bible) tells us to “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage.” (13.4) There is no way that I honored marriage in general or my marriage specifically when I raised my voice with my wife. It was wrong. And there are plenty of other ways everyday where my behavior fails to honor marriage. Even though my wife and I conduct pre-marital counseling, have read dozens of books on marriage, and have counseled couples having marital struggles I still fall far short. I love my wife. She loves me. We have a really good marriage. But I know that it could be even better if I would allow these powerful words from God to direct and shape my life.