The ‘In Sickness’ Vow

Meditations on love from the heart of cold and flu season.

I’m pressing a cool cloth to his forehead and next I’ll be removing the bedsheets because this is a bad flu. My husband of 17 years peers at me over the top of the duvet, his hazel eyes sorry, and I nod and swallow and quietly shut the door. The house smells of woodsmoke and chicken noodle soup.

Next it’s the kids’ turn and I know I’ll be sick last because that’s how it goes. Somehow grace keeps you serving one after the other until the body knows it can finally rest. And that’s when it collapses.

We married on the lawn of my parents’ home in Ontario that sweltering July of 2003. My farm boy had proposed one afternoon after battling a migraine, asking “Will you take care of me forever?” It was an honest question, because this is what marriage is. A taking care of one another, forever, until death takes us home. And he’s been taking care of me too, through three years of anorexia nervosa and me nearly dying and then him helping me to resurrect out of a pit of sleepless nights and wine bottles.

It’s a dance – taking turns to lean on each other as slowly we make our way across the floor. Sometimes there’s a surprise twirl or a passionate kiss, but mostly it’s helping each other move from one side of life to the other. As Comedian Tom Papa says, it’s about finding someone to love then dragging them to the end with you.

Gliding on grace
For the longest time I battled guilt over my marriage, believing it needed to be something it wasn’t. Wishing for that falling-in-love feeling every moment, for red roses and Sinatra and more passionate kisses and surprise twirls than leaning.

I felt we were failing, even as three kids came along and took up space in our bed and in our days. Inwardly I would compare us to some idea of the perfect couple and him to some idea of the perfect husband and somehow fail to compare myself to anyone and end up in a spiral of self-pity and despair.

And then one evening, my husband pulled me close, and held me like we used to when we were dating – “Just one more song,” we would say. My cheek pressed to his chest, to his heart. And as I heard its steady beat, I began to understand the love that is not of this world.

The love that begins with a flutter, with a pounding in the chest and a shaking in the knees, then starts to fly. And sometimes the flying is smooth, sometimes a furious flapping in the storm, but mostly it glides on grace and prayer and faithfulness.

It is a maturing, a deepening of intimacy into the very love of Christ whose walk on earth led him straight to the cross – and even as he finally died, and we get sick and the flapping turns to a stilling, a resting, a repose, we will one day rise with our Saviour and with each other into the purest of friendships possible, finally knowing, after sacrificing everything, the fullness of love, on the other side of death’s curtain.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of the non profit The Lulu Tree. To learn more, please visit www.thelulutree.com.

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