(excerpts from Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples)
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, MSG)
“. . .in sickness and in health.” You have no real way of knowing exactly what you’re pledging before God and your wedding guests when you utter those five little words. But like every other part of your vows, this phrase will be tested.
Here’s the thing I didn’t realize. If you study the entire vow sentence, what you’re really agreeing to is to have and to hold in all of these situations. Having and holding in health is pretty easy, but…in sickness? Holding? Really?
It was around our second or third Valentine’s Day as a married couple. We went to a little Italian restaurant with sponge-painted walls–which gives you an idea of how fancy the place wasn’t and how much money we didn’t have. Dena ordered the cheapest thing on the menu; so cheap, in fact, that it contained traces of salmonella (which I believe goes best with a red wine). Our romantic evening ended with Dena’s head in what the Italian call a gabinetto. Turns out that my job that night was “to have and to hold” her hair back while she called Ralph on the porcelain phone.
Dena’s had her share of “in sickness” moments with me, too. Confession is good for the soul, right? I’m kind of a wimp when I’m sick. Some guys like to not slow down when they’re ill, just working through the pain. Not me…at all. Sure, when I’m well I like to come off as the man of the house as much as the next somewhat virile male; but give me a smidgen of fever and some mild body aches, and I’m on a pallet on the couch like a four-year-old, calling out to my wife in a whiny voice to bring me more Sprite in “that cup that I like.”
Whether it’s me staying up with Dena while she’s yodeling groceries, or her having to put up with an ailing hubby who has all the courage of a puppy, guess what? It’s what we signed up for, and we don’t mind it one bit. True love and commitment can make you do crazy things, even if you find yourself in the middle of a mess.
To be honest, Carey has had to lean into this part of our vows more than I would have liked. In our twenty-year union, I’ve been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s—an autoimmune thyroid disease–and Degenerative Disk Disease stemming from genetics and a car wreck in college (leading to neck fusion surgery). I’ve also dealt with two very tough pregnancies, depression, and various female issues. Since we are a team, he had to deal with the fallout from my problems, as well as shoulder the familial burden (physically, emotionally and financially) when I couldn’t.
It’s not what he expected—but he has taken it (mostly) in stride. And when he’s ill, I impart love, mercy, and chicken soup to him.
When our spouses are sick, it’s important that we do whatever we can to lessen their load and make them feel cared for. By cooking or buying takeout, helping with household chores and the boys’ homework, and holding me when I cry or hurt, Carey has shown his love to me and lived out his vow to cherish me “in sickness and in health.” He’s taken me to doctor visits, fetched medicines, paid for massages and whisked me away for much-needed retreats. Sometimes, he takes the boys to do fun guy things so I can have a quiet house for reading, writing, or resting.
Sure, “having and holding” is easier when things are going well, but the moments in marriage that define us as a couple—and can ultimately bring us closer to God and one another—are those in which we have and hold, no matter how hard it is.
And truly? There’s nothing more romantic than a man who will spend Valentine’s Day taking care of you when you’re sick.
CAREY DYER is a husband, father, worship minister, comedian and musician who lives near Fort Worth, Texas with his wife, author/speaker Dena Dyer, and their two sons. When he’s not acting silly, he’s probably watching “Andy Griffith Show” reruns while drinking a Mountain Dew.
DENA DYER is a wife to Carey and mom to two boys (her favorite roles), and an award-winning author, musician, and speaker. She loves encouraging readers and audiences to laugh at themselves and lean hard into Jesus during tough times. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, watching British television, and reading.
Love at First Fight is available today!
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.