Fifteen years ago my marriage was in a shambles. I had done 24 years of damage to our relationship and, as Malcolm X said regarding JFK’s assassination, “the chickens” had “finally come home to roost.”
We were at a breaking point, several events serving as the final catalysts of our destruction; we were headed for divorce.
We had just celebrated our 24th anniversary when some secret damning information came to light; the demise of our relationship was on the horizon, and I started to plan the way I would explain our separation to friends.
I won’t bore you with the sordid details, but suffice it to say I gained some valuable insights in the ensuing weeks; these came from conversations with friends (both past and present) as well as strangers in a support group I had joined. The crumbling marriage held together somehow, and we began to make slow progress toward restitution.
In my support group I was given literature to read, and in the process of reading I came across a phrase that stopped me in my tracks. It was “commitment of permanency.” When I read the phrase I realized it was something I had never had in my marriage. I did not even know how to be fully committed, fully invested, totally involved in any relationship.
As I began to learn more about myself, and face the deleterious behaviors I had embraced, I realized that “commitment of permanency” was a quality I aspired to possess, and I set my mind and heart to the task.
My wife had given me back her wedding band in disgust. So . . . unbeknownst to her, I carried it in my front right pants pocket each day; it rested inside the circle of my own wedding band (which I had removed as well), symbolically encompassed by my protection, my love, my new commitment.
Symbols are interesting things. Clearly, they are not the substance which they represent, and they can be as hollow as empty words. On the other hand . . . they can be as powerful as a battle flag that rallies the troops, or a shiny badge that carries with it the whole vested authority of a sovereign nation.
I took my chosen symbol seriously. I carried those two rings, one encircling the other, for many weeks. Because for me, it was significant that I learn how to shield, guard, prize, cherish, and encompass my chosen bride. I was reminded of the framed counted cross stitch we had been given at our wedding; it read,
“Choose Thy Love. Love Thy Choice.”
I could not afford a diamond engagement ring when we were planning to be married (39 years ago now), and as the years passed it seemed a needless expense. But a decade and one-half ago I made that a new priority. I picked out a diamond ring, surreptitiously paid on it for six months, then planned the special way I would present it on our 25th anniversary in Charleston, SC.
After we recited our marriage vows to one another, we exchanged rings (except that I had secretly replaced her wedding band with the new diamond ring for this occasion). It served to mark an anniversary that would not have happened at all had I not honored the new reality those rings symbolized in my heart.
Our relationship has steadily improved since those days. Now we are true partners. Not perfect, mind you. But best of friends, nonetheless.
And it all began . . . with a ring.
I was just reminded of all this today as I listened to Craig Groeschel talk about the book, “From This Day Forward.”
And I was prompted to write this brief synopsis of my experience with rings, because – in a very real sense, by all accounts, our story should have ended 15 years ago.
But it did not.
A large ring surrounded a smaller ring. And in that nested place of refuge a new relationship was born. The never ending circle of the ring tells the tale, and symbolizes the beauty that can be found – in the refusal to ever give up.
Thank you, my dear.
Truly lovely and SO thankful for your renewed commitments to one another! 🙂
Steve, thanks for your candor and willingness to share painful realities. As always, your comments are much appreciated.
Similar experience, my friend, with a significant difference: my 23 yr marriage did not survive. Nevertheless, redemption takes many forms, as varied as grace itself. My new wife wanted to know why I did not appear happy when I bought her wedding ring. She misunderstood: I just took a much more serious approach to what that ring represented when I purchased it. So, broken, but better for it as healing continues. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you, Ray. Yes, the sermon to which you refer was a memorable one for me, too. I appreciate you remembering it, even after all these years. Yes, I think you are correct when you say that “anyone married for a long period of time has experienced one or more similar situations . . . .” I am so glad my wife stuck with me; the lessons we have learned from it all are invaluable. Thanks for reading and commenting with your “voice out of the past.”
I have known you since we both went to Highland – – I have tremendous respect for you for the only sermon I ever heard you present when you stood up and chastised the leadership for giving some very poor advice to the congregation even causing another associate minister to stand up immediately after your sermon and try to discredit it. Thank You.
We both left that area shortly afterwards and I have not seen you since – – but I have recently found you on Facebook with your lovely wife. Thank you so much for sharing this sincere real life story and I’m personally so very happy it turned out this way.
We will celebrate our 55th anniversary in June this year Lord willing, and I suspect anyone married for a long period of time has experienced one or more similar situations over the years, – – many of which do not turn out as well as yours.
May God bless you and your lovely wife, Ivan.
Ray Gentry ( a voice out of the past 🙂 )
Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Bill.
Ivan, thank you for this encouraging post.