My pastor tells the following story about Mabel Jean, an elderly woman in his congregation, who requested a visit regarding her upcoming surgery. “I prayed, asking God to bless the doctors, comfort Mabel Jean and help her return to full health. But afterward, Mable Jean still looked afraid. She grabbed my hand and said, ‘Pastor, I have a sin I need to confess. I don’t want this on my conscience going into surgery.’” He adds, “Even though I don’t normally hear confessions, as I leave that to my Catholic friends, I decided to hear her out in the hopes that she would feel better. So I asked, ‘What do you need to confess, Mable Jean?’” With heavy heart she whispered, “Pastor, I’ve been listening to country music” to which he just smiled and responded, “Mable Jean, that is not a sin – it’s just bad taste!”
I’m not sure whatever happened to Mable Jean after that but one thing I do know… that if listening to country music really was a sin…I’d be doomed as I share Mable Jean’s affinity. I’m a sucker for a sweet story wrapped in cute lyrics and tied with the ribbon of a catchy tune. But even more, I’m drawn to country songs that contain deeper meanings and relational components that make for the total package. In fact, I’ve had a song on repeat in my head for the past few days. The two lines that I’m stuck on go like this, “I wonder if Jack and Diane ever made it after the drums and the guitars all faded. Was the best they could do good enough or did the Heartland just swallow them up?” I wonder too…it’s been 35 years since the “little ditty about Jack and Diane” came out. I want to know if they stayed together because, in a way, they represent all of us who began our relationships filled with youthful passion and American dreams.
We all want that reassurance – especially in marriage – that our best is good enough. Deep down we know what we are capable of. We are fully aware of our flaws and selfish tendencies and we try our best to compensate for them, yet our secret fears make us question, “Despite my failings, will you stick with me? Will you stay even when life throws a curve? Are you committed to me no matter what?” The reason our wedding vows include “Til death do us part” is so we can put those fears to rest.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself standing face to face with the one you chose to share your life with. What you promised was that death itself would be the only cause for you to part. Financial stress and health crises, minor irritations and major setbacks, lack of feelings and bedroom boredom, communication breakdowns and unmet expectations happen. They do… because they are an inescapable part of marriage. But those who are committed will face the challenge head on with the mental fortitude that “we are in it to win it.” Commitment says, “I am not going to let this separate us, rather, I’m going to allow this to strengthen us.” It’s commitment that enables you to come out on the other side of a difficulty with a stronger connection and deeper sense of intimacy in your relationship. It’s what I want in my marriage and I believe so do you…and in my heart of hearts I want to believe that Jack and Diane wanted it too and they are somewhere celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary because ‘long after the thrill of living was gone’ – they were committed.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” ~I Corinthians 13:7