For Better Or For Worse… For Advent and For Love

I love this photo.  We took it in the courtyard of City Hall in Pasadena.  It is home to the original spot were Eric and I decided it was going to just be him and me, our first DTR.  You know, where you ‘define the relationship,’ and in our case we sealed it with a make-out session.
Photo by Kate Noelle Photography

Photo by Kate Noelle Photography

So we brought our kids back there to take family photos seventeen years later.  While we were taking photos, so also was a bride and a groom.  It made me think, Would they, too, years later, come back with their kids?  What will happen to them between then and now?  How will their love mature?  And oh LORD, help it to do just that so that it will sustain them as it has us!
to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part…”  Ah…  Think about what they are committing to…
We come to weddings with hopes and dreams but also with wisdom.  The other person does not solve all our problems.  In fact, times will be tough.  That is a guarantee.  So even in the midst of a ceremony declaring the utmost beauty and goodness, we get some pretty big declaration that we marry each other not knowing the future, and with certainty knowing that the future is not all roses and tea lights and string music in the background.
So marriage love today is not supposed to be a transactional type of love…, an ‘IF you do this for me, then I do that for you’ kind of love, or a ‘BECAUSE you do this, now I will do that,’ love, but rather marriage should be an IN-SPITE-OF love, a REGARDLESS OF love, where we are in it, no matter what.
Of course, we do not start out that way, but that is the goal as we mature in our love.
I feel like we often miss the richness of Joseph’s love as we celebrate the nativity.  He must have had such high hopes for his marriage to Mary, excited to arrive at this important societal milestone which comes with a new status in the community, hopeful for children, eager for sex.   But then he got the completely distressing and humiliating news that Mary was pregnant.  Now there’s a child, not his own, to support and care for.  A woman with what appears to be obvious betrayal is set to be his wife.
His choices were bleak.  He would either be embarrassed that he was with a woman that was unfaithful to him.  Or he would be embarrassed that people would assume that he too had not waited to have sex, as was expected by the community.  Either way, he has already lost.  He wants to be kind to her, a sign of his good character, but he does not want to become her husband any more.  And who would blame him?
But then God challenged him.  Trust that it will be okay.  Trust that this is good.  Trust that Mary and the baby are good.  So Joseph does!  And in that moment, Joseph moves into mature love.  No longer is this an IF love, or BECAUSE love, but his love for Mary becomes an IN-SPITE-OF love.
See, when we enter into a contract, we are very concerned about what the other person is going give us, but in a covenant, we are focused on who we will be to that other person.  Covenant relationships are very special.  For family, we will endure and bear with and sacrifice, without needing to receive from the other.  Sometimes, it is the family we are born into or adopted into, sometimes it is the family we marry into, and sometimes it is the mysterious and beautiful magic that happens when friendship become like family.   For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.  That’s the true nature of the best form of love.
We learned it, not merely from Joseph, but first and foremost from the author of love, ‘Immanuel – God with us!’ (Matthew 1:23)
God with us…  Think about it.  GOD, the holy one, the maker of heaven and earth.  That is who Jesus is…  And Jesus is WITH us in the act of becoming human he takes on our weakness or our frailty and our dependency.   As the Message says, (John 1:14) ‘God moved into the neighborhood’…  So now even, God is with US in every action of our life, to comfort, give wisdom, protect and defend, in times of temptation and trial, in our hour of death, in the Day of Judgment, and even to eternity…
God is both with us and in us…  And as such we can be both with and in God!
Now we can start to see how God is for us… for better or for worse
‘No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.  But you will be Hephzibah (which means God’s delight is in us) and your land Beulah (as in married, in covenantal, in spite of love), for the LORD will take delight in you and your land will be married.  As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder (your Maker, God,) marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.’ (Isaiah 62:4,5)
From deserted and desolate, we were without God to a now “God with us” status.  And not because God has to, as some chore because that is what God is expected to do.  No, God so desperately desires to be us.
You know my favorite part of a wedding…  that moment when everyone stands to look at the bride walk down the aisle.  That is when I turn to look at the groom.  His joy and love is unfiltered then.  That is when I see the glimmer of all good things.  So I love weddings, because they are really an echoing of God’s love for us…  I know it puts a high bar on the couple, impossibly high.  And an impossibly high bar on all our relationships.  I fail at that standard every day, every hour.  But even in our failings God is with us and God set us right…  God rebuilds, and restores and renews and trades our mourning for joy and despair for praise and our shame for a good inheritance.
‘God with us’ does that.  And at Christmas we celebrate that…  God has moved in.  God with us!
With love, for you and for Advent,
Jeanine
PS – This blog post is post 4 in a 4 part series for Advent.  You can check the others out with the links below.
Week 1 for Hope…Holiday Lite
Week 2 for Peace… The Herod vs. Santa Smack Down
Week 3 for Joy… I Wanna Be Like Her
Week 4 for Love…  For Better Or For Worse

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