Thursday, March 7, 2024

"Sister-Wife" (1 Cor. 9:5)

I love this expression in 1 Cor. 9:5:

Most translations render this as "a believing wife" (ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, etc.). But the KJV is better: "a sister, a wife."

This year I would have been married to Becky for 48 years. There was no one like her. She was like an organ of my own body. For 37 years she was the woman lying next to me. It's staggering to think about it today. A wife is more breathless than any natural wonder. You gradually become unconditionally coadunated into each other. Separation from one's spouse is not like separating two pieces of lumber. It's like trying to separate the layers of plywood without destroying it in the process. It's impossible. Of course, "husband and wife" isn't the only way to describe a marriage. Paul's expression here reveals that marriage is both a marital partnership and a spiritual one. And -- paradoxically enough -- it's only the latter relationship that lasts into eternity. 

Becky was my wife for almost 4 decades. But she will be my sister forever. The greatest correspondence between us was our shared faith. We were two persons, yes, but two persons existing not only in marital union but as partners in the gospel. We saw ourselves as God saw us -- united not only by a marriage covenant but by the New Covenant. I stress this point because this is a major way in which marriage reflects our relationship with God. I venture to say that it wasn't until Becky and I realized our calling to live for something bigger than our marriage that we began to experience the full blessing of marriage. This conviction arose from the fire. It didn't come easily. But once God changed our perspective  -- B was my "sister-wife" -- our marriage became a high and holy calling. Marriage is precisely the path of Christian discipleship -- coming to understand that the ordinary way we live our married life together has everything to do with our calling to make disciples of all nations. 

Today, as a single man again, I like to think of Becky's death, far from being a black cloud hanging over my head, as a constant reminder of the preciousness of life and the importance of living each moment with the cherished hope of contributing to eternity. Our God, if you will, made us for love. And we can give ourselves to the Lord and to others in love whether we are married or not.

It's taken me 10 years to come to grips with Becky's passing. It's a process, not a step. Maybe that's why I love marathons so much. The suffering involved in running 26.2 miles forces you to face the deepest challenges of life head-on. But when you do, you discover that the Lord is every bit as close to you as your spouse once was, only immeasurably more so.