A few months ago, I visited my grandmother at a nursing home. She was there a few weeks while she recovered from surgery, so it was an unfamiliar place to all of us—and my first time spending any measurable time inside one.
I’ve got to tell you, it was tough for me to swallow.
Maybe it’s because I’m so deep in the throes of raising a young family that most days, I can hardly see for all the busyness and constant caregiving I do in my role as a mother and wife. Maybe it’s a conditioned judgment of nursing homes and the stigma that tends to be attached. Maybe it’s just that I’m selfish and still in my 30s. Whatever the case, every time I walked through the doors of that nursing home, I felt a little nauseous.
Part of the daily routine involved breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a large dining room. Aides wheeled the residents up, four to a table, to take their meals. I joined my grandma a few times during my stay—and the scene one table over captured my attention.
She was in a wheelchair, clearly having suffered a stroke or other debilitating neurological issue.
He sat resolutely by her side, spooning bites into her mouth with enough tenderness to break your heart.
I came to learn this man—her husband—joined his wife for every meal, every day, without fail, even though he didn’t live in the nursing home with her. I watched them together a few times that weekend, and wondered about their story. Did they fall in love during the war? Did they build a home, raise children together? What kind of heartbreak did they face; what joy did they know? What path brought them there, to that table, wordlessly sharing cottage cheese and raspberry poke cake?
But I already knew the answer: marriage. A selfless, devoted, “til death do us part” promise, on display before my eyes in quiet, living color.
When you’re young and somewhat blinded by being in love, getting married sounds like a perfectly logical step in that fairy tale for two. And it’s true, marrying your spouse should be beautiful and happy and wonderful and exciting.
But marriage? That’s something else entirely.
What so many husbands and wives don’t understand when they say “I do” is that those vows they’ve just taken mark the end of their happiness.
Marriage isn’t about your happiness—it’s about your spouse’s well-being, above your own, every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
Marriage is loving another person more than you love yourself—even when that person seems unlovable.
Marriage is laying down your selfish wants and desires, sometimes even your hopes and dreams.
Marriage is humbling yourself as a vessel of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.
Marriage is reflecting the love a good and perfect Father gives to you.
Marriage is repeated, intentional, complete sacrifice of self.
Do you see where your own happiness fits into the marriage equation?
You shouldn’t . . . because it doesn’t.
But before you become too indignant to read on, consider the way God designed this thing called marriage: it takes two equal parts.
That means while you’re dying to self for your husband—he’s doing the same for you.
While you’re worrying about his happiness over yours—he’s doing the same for you.
While you’re breathing quick prayers pleading, “God, help me love this man better,”—he’s doing the same for you.
Society tells us marriage is meant to serve you, but society has it exactly backwards . . . because marriage isn’t at all about you.
Marriage is about that other person sitting at the table—broken, weak, and in desperate need of grace. And when husbands and wives each tenderly offer nourishment to one another, when they’re replenished daily by the One who brought them together for His divine purpose?
We can’t know any greater happiness than that.
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