I sat on a bench in a beautiful cemetery visiting with the woman who would be my wife and tried to ignore my sad, racing heart. Our relationship was about to end — not because I wanted it to — because she was about to learn the awful truth.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” I said.
Actually, there were quite a lot of things I needed to tell her. She needed to know whom she was really dealing with, that the man she admired had actually been making a series of very poor choices just before she met him. So with a deep breath, I blurted out the truth as quickly as I could, just to get it over with.
“Look,” I stammered, “I totally understand if you want to take a break from our relationship. I would want to if I were you, so no hard feelings about that at all.”
Then I cringed, waiting for the inevitable rejection, but instead, Raquel looked at me and said four words I’ll never forget: “I’m not going anywhere.”
I was dumbfounded.
“Joshua,” she said, “I want you to know how much I respect you for being honest with me about what’s been going on, and I think you’re a godly man for taking the risk of telling me the truth.”
I got choked up as the weight of her words sunk in. She knew the worst about me, and yet she was somehow choosing to see the best in me anyway.
In that moment, everything between us changed. She wasn’t just a woman I was dating — she was a woman who loved me as I was. I couldn’t experience that kind of love and just think of Raquel as my girlfriend.
This week Raquel and I celebrate 10 years of marriage. She still hasn’t gone anywhere and neither have I. We’ve been there in better times and worst, during each other’s sicknesses and health, and we’re going to stick this thing out until death parts us. Following through on these vows we made at the altar is the most important thing we’ll ever do, because our marriage is bigger than us.
Our marriage is a love story we tell our children as they watch us dancing in the kitchen or making up after we’ve had a big argument. It’s the love story that we tell those around us who know what our marriage has survived. And the moral of that story is not that we will necessarily live happily ever after — the moral of the story is that love is real and it sticks around even when a couple sees the worst in each other.
Every married couple has an opportunity to tell a good love story that’s bigger than their relationship, and when they do, they actually retell the ultimate love story that is found in the pages of Scripture. It’s the story of a Savior who came, knowing everything broken about us, and still says, “I’m with you for better or worse, in sickness and health, and nothing — not even death — can part us.” He’s the one we can tell our darkest secrets, and then look into His eyes, and hear him say the words we’re all longing for: “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.”