“In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways.
“The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it.
“Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day, she said, ‘All I could see was the fog… I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.’”
Few short stories have impacted me like this one. This quote is from Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven,” and yet I’ve thought of this story over and over, far more within the context of marriage than I have about heaven. Far too often in my lifetime, I’ve seen the heartbreak of marriages falling apart during the inevitable seasons of “fog.” Unfortunately, it was just too easy to give up in those times when nothing seemed clear… when the romance seemed to have faded, or the pressures of life seemed to squeeze the joy and meaning out of a relationship. Yet in almost every one of those times, there was hope…if only they could have persevered until they could see the “shore!”
There’s no question about it: as long as we are in this life, there will be occasional periods of fog. No one is guaranteed all sunny days. Yet when I’m going through the fog, there’s no one else I’d rather have at my side than my husband. Realistically, marriage is the greatest investment into Godly servanthood that anyone will ever make. It’s the best character-building experience that life has to offer. Nothing will challenge the denial of self-centeredness and the sin of self-preservation like sharing life with your spouse– and nothing will form Christ-likeness quite like marriage.
Marriage grows strong and healthy within the context of “life”– in the inevitable adversities as well as successes, the illnesses, recoveries, accidents, financial pressures, job promotions, friendships, joyful births, grievous deaths, heartbreaks, sunny skies, foggy confusion, and a million other ‘ups and downs.’ (“For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…”) Ironically, it’s through perseverance in all these realities of life that marriage will ultimately reap the most amazing joy a person can ever experience, this side of heaven.
Human nature tends to fixate on the fog, and nowhere more than in marriage. As an older woman, I strongly identify with the mother in the story above, urging the younger generation to persevere through the foggy times. Great marriages are never formed only in perfect, idyllic conditions. They become strong and great in the fog. The shore is so close– and the fruit of your perseverence will be amazing. Absolutely amazing.
This story recently came to mind again, as my husband Dan and I will be celebrating our 37th anniversary this week. Yesterday we lingered together at the lunch table wistfully considering the past 37 years. No marriage is perfect, I realize, and yet at this point of our relationship, I could not think of a single aspect of it that I would want to change. I really, really love what we have. As we talked, we both knew very well that good marriages don’t just happen by chance. Ours isn’t just “one of the lucky ones.” After 37 years, we understand that we are truly enjoying God’s great blessing, the fruit of perseverence through life’s inevitable ups and downs. And the result? It’s priceless to us. Totally, absolutely priceless.
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