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2068480_origAsk any couple who have enjoyed, survived, or otherwise endured a long marriage, “how did you get this far?” and you may hear the analogy that marriage is more like running a marathon than a sprint.

But the truth is, it’s more like running a three legged race. After the giddiness of dis-coordination, the patient falling down and picking yourselves up again, there comes a point where you find marriage isn’t a happy picnic party game. When you realize it’s for keeps, you actually get serious about the life long journey together.

Thus I arrive today at my 32nd wedding anniversary not a little bewildered. We started off with confidence in ourselves: me as a romantic but loyal fool, and my wife as a young and committed silly heart. Contrasting cultures, opposite personality types, different unspoken expectations: what could go wrong?!

Some Discoveries:

I thought I was the most patient person I knew… (really?) – only to discover how I had managed to avoid those things or people that revealed my impatience (and other voids).

I found that I was not the man I had wished to be… but I was becoming so much more the man than I used to be.

We found us as we struggled to tighten the ropes of our three legged race.  We have learned to be a little more coordinated, and we have learned to listen to each other, to our experiences, and to those around us cheering us on, or yelling directions.

Marriage is a cacophonous affair

 A three legged race & A Cord of three strands

Mercy is fond of recalling this ancient passage from Ecclesiastes – with special attention to 4:12:

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. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

It is a curious passage that seemingly pre-anticipates Christ being the third strand in the marriage. At this vantage point, Mercy & I are fairly humbled by our humanity, our selfishness, and our inclination to unravel. And we are profoundly aware of the third strand of Jesus in the cord – the accord of our marriage.

Here’s a little encouragement for those starting the race:

It’s not actually a race; you’re not really out to beat any one or any record.

It’s more about coordination and integration, and to do that, you actually have to slow down. Falling down does that. And fall down you will.  You pick yourselves up. You find the substance with which to encourage yourselves, and you try to just walk in unison.

By the time you enter the third-third of your life, you may be walking with a limp, holding up your spouse, or being held up yourself.

It’s all grace. As you learn to embrace each other, learn to embrace the One who is the third strand of your chord – the One who reveals the mystery of what marriage is to be.

Marriage is such an excellent mystery; as I have stated before, “it is more enigma than dogma – for it points you, not to the institution of marriage, but to the unspeakable (and unmerited?) worth of the person whom you promised to love and honour. This, in some fractional way, is a reflection of God’s own commitment to us, for as Augustine said, Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem (In loving me, you made me lovable).”