Lately people have been asking me a question that I've had to reflect on more deeply. My first reaction was to hesitate but then answer 'Yes'. But after conversation with my wife and reflection and prayer I have concluded a different answer.
The question, "Hasn't this cancer journey strengthened your marriage?"
Looking back, we did what we needed to in the moment to care for each other. Laina is a strong woman, but she still needed care. I've seen her weak and tired (as I have before when she had a parasite and when she had mono). Typically we walk equally yoked, making decisions together, doing house chores together, caring for the girls together, handling financial decisions together and so on. Through this journey however, the scales started tipping in my direction in regard to responsibility. Laina was tired and feeling ill after chemo, so she rested. The girls needed attention and care too; not to mention all the illnesses the girls and I had during this time as well. I was getting weary and tired. Laina and I did not communicate as well during this time. We were constantly having to make health decisions and attend appointments, but that seemed to consume our time together. We made special attempts to have date nights and a marriage retreat, but still our communication was lacking. Cancer not only affected Laina's body, but also the way in which we were comfortable in relating to each other. I would want to help solve Laina's discouragements and help her process her feelings, but that seemed to just make things worse. I just could not figure out how to fix this.
So to answer the question, 'No' cancer at this point has not strengthened our marriage. It is like a storm beating on a ship. We hold on to the strongest thing we find and endure the winds, rain and crashing waves as they beat upon the ship. Things start to go overboard, the ship breaks apart. We keep holding on. We keep holding on to the strongest thing around. But nothing on the ship is strong enough. Then we come to a rock and fall on it. The waves still beat against the rock, but it is not moved. Everything else is washed away. We are broken, tired, worn. Nothing remains.
The rock is Jesus. Our marriage could not survive without holding on to him. We survived, we endured this storm. But if it were not for Jesus we would have nothing to hold on to. Marriages cannot survive by our physical attractiveness; marriages cannot survive on all of the stuff we own; marriages cannot survive on just doing the same old things day in and day out. Marriage takes effort, endurance, commitment, passion and vulnerability which leads to intimacy - all to be modeled by the image of Jesus and his bride (the church). Jesus gave his life for a bunch of sinners who are diseased, broken, neglectful, disinterested and disobedient; that is us. So too in marriage - no matter what you or your spouse go through, take on the attitude of Jesus and love them without expecting anything in return - that is agape (love); make the effort, endure, commit and give sacrificially.
I don't know if this experience will strengthen our marriage or not, but with God's help and wisdom we can endure and be made more into the image of Christ, as we seek him and obey him. He has the best in mind for us even if there is some work and suffering along the way.
Because of Jesus we have endured this storm. It is my prayer that others will first seek God through Jesus and also love their spouse (or other family members) as Jesus first loved us.
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