I remember standing at my place at the front of the church. The white haze of my veil made the scene feel like a dream. I watched as my brand-new father-in-law stood at a lectern and opened his Bible. He stretched out a long finger to keep his place on the lines as he read.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; Bind them around your neck; Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
It would be convenient if there were a bit more detail between these lines. For instance, how does one remain steadfast in love if the other is flagging in love? What exactly do I need to do to ensure that love and faithfulness are written on the tablet of my heart? Can you tell me a number of verses to memorize or a prayer to say every day?
Especially when it comes to marriage, Christians look for a prescription. We want a vaccine against the viral, menacing poison that is eating away at the institution of marriage. Surely, if there is anything the Christian life is good for (some may substitute “God” for “the Christian life”), it’s making sure my family is happy and blessed.
Are we searching Proverbs and Christian teachings with the hopes that we’ll find the right combination of choices to guard us from heartache and failure? It would be natural to do so. But it would be looking for a list of instructions, when really wisdom is more like a manner of building.
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding he established the heavens; By his knowledge the deeps broke open, And the clouds drop down the dew.
Wisdom is the manner with which God designed our world. I don’t fully understand this, of course. But one thing I’ve been thinking on is this: The natural world is built of very, very small things.
Even in the non-scientific creation story, “the Lord formed the man of dust from the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Dust is tiny particles of being. When we count the cells in our body, which are not even our smallest component, we find that we are made of approximately 30 trillion pieces.
If toddlers build with Megablox, and preschoolers build with Duplos, and elementary kids build with Legos, and grownups build computers under a microscope, imagine how tiny and intricate must be the building blocks of God. Science strains its eyes and yearns to understand these things.
So if we were to seek out wisdom for a solid, living marriage, we may want to think about how God builds things with the smallest of parts.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you in the everyday moments. It’s the glances met across the room, the willingness to help set the table for dinner, the generosity of five minutes’ conversation when one of you needs to use the bathroom.
The risk of marriage is that it takes two to tango. If one partner is expecting to love faithfully in big pieces only—sharing the paychecks and the roof overhead—the structure of such a relationship will suffer. Pretending that the paycheck and the roof are the essential components of marriage is not a risk, it’s a danger.
The risk of loving on the cellular level mirrors the risk God is taking in making humankind with the hope of dwelling with us forever. It’s a tremendous, heart-shredding risk. And its success depends on miniscule choices made every living day.
On the plus side, no single Herculean, heroic effort is asked of us. We commit to a lifetime of steadfast love, but we live that lifetime in momentary pieces. Can we in this very second of time exhibit love and faithfulness? Then we can build, however slowly.
Just like with human cells, and with Legos for that matter, some pieces are bigger than others. Some are harder to fit together. Usually the big pieces are actually made of small ones if you look closely.
Marriage is not a single-celled organism. It’s built of moments, choices, words, and glances. Those cellular bits log together to form a structure that will reflect the nature of its smallest parts.
Lord, help us to build from the small to the grand and from the moment to the year to the decade.