My husband and I plan to renew our vows this May because, well, twenty-five years is like a lifetime and deserves a bit more than dinner and a movie. We will stand before God with our three adult kids by our side and profess our commitment all over again.

Which got me thinking about the words we exchanged with each other as young 23- and 24-year- olds back in the day. Pretty sure we didn’t know Jack or Jill about the depth and significance of covenant love. We just knew we were “in love”. Period. And by God’s grace alone, we still are.

Which got me thinking about just what is God’s grace, and how does the gift work in marriage?

First, aren’t we all in that same space of naiveté when we promise to love and cherish one another until death? All starry-eyed and clueless? It’s nothing to be ashamed of because we can only know what we know when we know it. And all kinds of unknowns start barreling through our love nest real fast: raising kids, going to work, managing a house, enduring a health crisis, experiencing unexpected expenses, etc. et al.

When life forces our comfort zone to expand, the stretching can leave us wondering who we are, how we got here, and where on earth we’re going. Over time a splitting of self takes place, both as an individual and as a married one. We lose who we are as a person when we identify with our roles and circumstances rather than our authentic self. We lose who we are as a couple when we look away from the love that brought us together and start focusing on what is lacking, wrong, inadequate.

For us, small separations became great divides before we knew what hit us. God shook three apples from my mom tree in three-and-a-half years, and we experienced five combined job/career changes, two moves, and the divorce of both sets of parents in the first five years of “I do”. That’s a lot of life events. At 28 and 29, a sea of busyness, transition, and unsettledness left us doubting ourselves and each other.

What about you? Have you been there—to this uncomfortable place where you feel like several different people, none of which feel “right”? Have you looked at your marriage and wondered how two souls who were so in love could seem so different now, so unfamiliar, so detached?

Life’ll do that to us. The dividing thing, where we see our self, situation, spouse from one side—the wrong vs. right side—instead of a 360-degree evaluation. And if we continue through our journey seeing half the picture, before long disillusion sets in and we won’t recognize who we married let alone our own reflection in the mirror.

So, how do we overcome the great divide? How do we stop feeling less than about ourselves and more than in comparison to our spouse?

That’s where God comes in. If we allow Him to be the focal point of our life and marriage, we learn this truth: wholeness holds you.

Embracing both the good and bad, accepting both failure and success, enduring both the struggles and the joys is what holds us and our marriage together. Only one thing gives us the supernatural power to endure this human tension: God’s Grace.

My husband and I just saw The Shape of Water and a line in the movie captures this concept in a beautiful way. A mute woman uses sign language to describe her relationship with a mysterious creature who also doesn’t speak, “He doesn’t look at me and see what I lack, or what’s incomplete. He sees me for who I am.”

Wholeness holds you. Defining yourself or your marriage based on what’s missing divides you.

My husband and I have experienced both scenarios during different seasons of our covenant journey. But we only have God to thank for our willingness to say “we still do” after 25 years. God is the creme de la creme for role modeling how to accept someone for who they are, nothing more, nothing less.

Love does that.

God is love.

We are made in God’s image.

We are love.

Love connecting to love is what keeps us whole.

Shelby Spear

Shelby is a Christian mom to three beautiful knuckleheads who have left her with an empty nest in which to ponder what the mom thing has (done to her) meant over the past twenty-four years. She is working on her first book and you can read her open heart of revelations, screw-ups, gaffs, and joys at https://shelbyspear.com/