To have and to hold

       1979: Our first walk as husband and wife

February 16 marks the 38th anniversary of my marriage to the former Cindy Alfonso. While we considered writing our own vows, I worried that nerves would render me tongue-tied so we went the traditional route, repeating after Fr. Cronin who performed our ceremony at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Farmington Hills, MI.

“I Glenn take thee Cindy…”

I’m pretty sure I used “Cindy” vs. her proper name, “Cynthia.”  She has always been “Cindy” to me, or occasionally “Cin,” (pronounced sin).  Never thought much about calling her Cin until our pastor questioned me about it when he first met us.

“Do you really call her Sin,” he queried?

“Not S-i-n but C-i-n,” was my amused answer. “Same pronunciation, different spelling.”

I also hold fondly that word “take” due its first use by Cindy’s dad as he blessed our plans to marry.

“Here, you ‘take’ her,” he urged conspiratorially.  “I can’t do anything with her.”

To this day I am deeply moved to recall dad’s jesting blessing due in part to my fondness for him and to having indeed been blessed to do life with his beloved second daughter as my wife.

“to be my lawful wife…”

“Lawful” as in Cindy agreeing to take on becoming “Mrs. Trevisan.” Hearing her addressed as such still sends of a shiver through me, marveling that this stunning lady agreed to set aside her own family name for mine. Also “lawful” that she so readily accepted that “wife” role that sources from humanity’s beginnings when God recounted fashioning woman from the man’s rib, thus “completing” a grand design began when he announced,

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” … so God created man in His own image…male and female He created them.”  (See Genesis 1: 26-27, NASB)

“to have and to hold…”

Layers and nuances of having and holding marks every good marriage, including ours.  Perhaps the words were inspired by the man’s excited response when God brought “HER” to first name and then to also have and hold.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23, NIV)

Not hard to imagine the man thinking God saved the best for last while also wondering how God timed her arrival to complete man’s odd naming assignment during which he realized that unlike other creatures, he lacked a suitable helpmate. (see Genesis 2:20, NIV.)

Given their nudity, having and holding probably flowed spontaneously at first especially with God managing the introductions and then staying near to delight in how their loving parts fit together just so.

The leading word “to” in this phrase launched our life as a married couple, formalizing the blending that formed during our 16 months of dating and courting as we two become one.

“in sickness and in health, for richer or poor…”

These phrases that sound so romantic during the ceremony are less endearing when encountered in actual life. Nevertheless, weathering life’s highs and the lows together is how our romance formed into a priceless gem.

A game-changing paradigm was discovering that the highs require as much if not more tending as the lows.  Success, prosperity and well-being can grow layers of entitlement that lusts for more while gradually replacing humility, gratitude, and serving that undergirds relational maturity.

That I’m hard-working but not particularly endowed toward tapping the money spigot has kept us in a near-constant “make do” mode most of the way.  But here we are a team with God timely opening doors that we gratefully stepped through.  Along the way, we were credited with distinctions that allowed us to eek out and frugally fashion a modest but comfortable life.

“to love and cherish from this day forward…”

To be drawn into a redemptive relationship with the Lord Jesus was a huge highlight in our first few years of marriage that grounded and grew us individually and as a couple. A minor setback occurred when we turned to the children part of our plan until we were inspired by the nature of God’s relationship with us to also adopt.  (see Ephesians 1:5, ESV).  Having formed our family that way, we enjoy the uniqueness of being a 100 percent “chosen” family.

“until death do us part.”

Uttering these words, we naively thought of death as distantly future and as the only power that could part us. When we and are marriage were adopted into Christ, we were folded into a reality where death was mercifully settled and behind us.  Considerable biblical teaching on this is includes Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (NIV)

This plays out practically as we confess our stumbles to each other and God whose “amazing grace” assures forgiveness so complete as to literally separate our failings from us as far as east is from west. (see Psalm 103:12, NIV).

A dear friend just lost his wife after illness that dulled the last 20 or so years of their marriage.  Walking alongside him in the aftermath of her “homegoing,” we marvel at how God has seemingly dissipated the fog of those sickness years to bring to light the sometimes overwhelmed but nevertheless steady pulse of love and joy running through their now completed married life.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. “(Ephesians 5: 31-32, NIV)

Here Paul cites a profound mystery as the reason why a man leaves home to unite to his wife. Marriage alludes dimly to Christ “taking” the Church as his bride that in turn draws from the covenant Yahweh extended to Israel.

“With this ring I thee wed.”

The significance of our rings were in no way diminished by purchasing them at Murray’s Hardware. Same with Cindy’s first diamond, so small because I waited until after diamond prices skyrocketed.  By the time we upgraded both the bands and her diamond, their merit to us was due more to the richness of our love than to any value they have as precious metals or gems.

While  I cherish and support Cindy’s individualism that allows me to also grow as a person apart from her, I most appreciate that we share many elements of life, building deeper layers as we mark more years together.  One of those is music and song, such as the chorus of Warren Barfield’s “Love is not a fight.”

Love is a shelter in a raging storm

Love is peace in the middle of a war

If we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door

No love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for.