covenant is a thing that lives and breathes

Posted: December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

A friend of mine has a husband who struggles with porn.  Even when she doesn’t yet “know” he has suffered a relapse, she can feel it.  Maybe it is the selfishness that rears its head.  Maybe it is the funk into which his mood dips.  But mostly, she says, she can feel the rift – the violation of their marriage covenant, something that somehow has a supernatural sort of life in itself.  There is the unheard keening of the break, and it settles there, wailing and grating them both, making them crazy until he comes clean and steps away once more from the sickness and seduction.

The first time she described this to me, it was shocking.  Was it possible?  Could betrayal disturb our unseen spiritual world in a way that is visible/perceptible separate from manifestations, emotions, and direct or indirect consequences?  Then I remembered scenes from the end of my first marriage.  Sure, the obvious things on the surface were there, spilling pain everywhere and at all times.  But there was something so much more than the words, the tears, the arguments, the trying and giving up and trying and giving up and trying and giving up some more.  Something bigger than what can be recounted in an “and then this happened next” fashion.  Something was being broken, being torn apart.  Something very much alive.  Something that made an awful, terrifying racket on its way out of existence.  The “noise” of it rippled out, touching not only me and my ex, not only our kids, but an astonishing number of other folks, some of whom I’d not have listed if I had been asked in advance who might be harmed by the violence done to the promise. 

That was 15 years ago.  These days I live a whole other life, as an almost entirely different person.  The last four months, I’ve been living inside the happy bubble of the newlywed, reeling in wonder, running over with joy, ridiculously giddy much of the time.  But even amidst some of the very happiest moments, crystal-clear memories from that awful breaking process flash across my mind, as fresh as if they were yesterday, and I understand in new ways the gravity of the destruction of that forever promise. 

I am not the same selfish, self-seeking person I was back at the beginning and then the end of that marriage.  I see beyond the “me” part and am more clearly able to assess the collateral damage.  I mean, I THOUGHT I saw this, back during my divorce.  But now I see more honestly (and mercifully, with more compassion all around.) 

This time around I approached this whole marriage gig from a perspective of obedience – looking to God for the plan instead of just grabbing what I thought I wanted or needed to make me happy.  I walked it out in His ways, not according to the ways and timings that made sense to me.  This time around, I married to give, to serve, to offer myself – not to get, to feel good, or to have what I want. 

In other words, last time I “loved” by the definition of the world.  This time around, I love by a kingdom-of-God definition.

The difference?  Oh, there are many, but for today’s focus:  I remember that old breaking, and I know for sure that I could not break this one, regardless of what might happen.  I couldn’t do it to him.  I couldn’t do it to me.  I couldn’t tear this living thing apart, any more than I could decide to simply stop breathing.  I feel the force of our covenant promise.  It lives.  It breathes.  It shapes us daily.  It surrounds us.  It carries us.  It is part of us, and we are part of it.  Permanently. 

It goes beyond just the question of divorce, though.  I cannot even imagine the “smaller” betrayals along the way.  When G does something I don’t like, no part of me goes to willingly dwell on the not liking.  No part of me picks that up to caress it or clutch it close to me.  No part of me is willing to sit stewing in the juice of it.  I don’t desire to complain about him, even inside my head where only God would hear it – or at least, not for more than a matter of a few seconds.  I can’t mention or or even think of it without gentleness, humor, and/or an earnest desire to change whatever needs to change in ME to work it out. 

“Oh,” some will smile while reading this, “newlyweds are funny creatures.  She’ll get over it.”  Maybe.  I’ve given up trying to decide when those kind of predictions are accurate and when they are faithlessness.  Maybe I’ll settle in and get comfortable and bitchy and selfish and irritable.  I hope not.  But maybe it will happen.  If so, it won’t make it right or good, even if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  I think of the 12-step folks, who will tell you that while every meeting needs the wisdom and experience of some old timers, it also needs the freshness, the passion, and the sharp edges of the newcomers.  The views of the weather-worn folks are important.  But so are those just stepping off that first ledge.  Mine right now is the voice of a newcomer, with all of the force and fire and perhaps-naive optimism that generally entails. 

I’m not inclined to try to, as my friends teasingly say, “happy down.”  Not inclined to try to brace myself against the possibility of future pain.  Not tempted to be “more realistic.”  Not in the least.  Some things, we don’t need to repent of, you know? 

I’ll occupy this sunny space in my mind for as long as I’m given the grace to do so.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll still be dancing here when we are very old. 

Don’t tell me it can’t happen! 


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