What “Happily Ever After” Really Looks Like
Romantic movie or story plots are often predictable. Boy meets girl. Boy woos girl, and then something happens – a fight, a misunderstanding or a disaster – that tears the would-be couple apart. Ultimately, though, the boy and girl make it back together, and “they lived happily ever after.”
However, those of us who are married know that the real love story takes place after the wedding. Meeting and falling in love are just small parts of the big picture. We express love to our spouse in a myriad of ways, but especially through commitment and hard work.
I recently stumbled on a Facebook post by my friend Dr. Charmaine Yoest, who works as the president of Americans United for Life. On the occasion of her wedding anniversary, Charmaine shared a picture of three bald heads, and the love story that went along with it.
Charmaine is a cancer survivor who faced the battle with her husband, Jack Yoest.
I leave you with Charmaine’s words:
Twenty-three years ago, I married Jack Yoest. Like most people, we were more focused that day on the "for better" part of our vows, blissfully ignorant of the "for worse" that inevitably comes to everyone.
There have been so many "betters" - chief among them our amazing "Penta-posse." Our #teamyoest. Hannah, John, Helena, Sarah and James. So much chaos and joy working together in the exhausting and exhilarating project that is parenting. Trying to do our imperfect best to raise them to be Godly men and women.
On one of our early dates, my beau who had a reputation for being a rolling stone, surprised me by saying he wanted to have five kids. I laughed because that seemed unimaginable at the time. But I was intrigued. It made me take another look at a very complex man whose depth of thought and interests still fascinate me. That conversation was just the beginning of the many ways that meeting and marrying Jack Yoest stretched the horizons of what I imagined my life would be.
I certainly never imagined some of the "worse." Never imagined job loss. Selling a much-loved house to stay afloat. Having a fourth baby in a new city with almost no friends. And I absolutely never imagined getting cancer.
In my cascades of tulle, on Cinco de Mayo 23 years ago, becoming bald wasn't even a flicker of a possibility. Ugly scars and chemo bloat. The worse comes in some way to everyone.
And, like most everyone, I asked the timeless, answer-less question: "Why is this happening to me?"
Calmly, resolutely my groom responded, "It's not about you."
He had faith enough for both of us that God was working out His will in some way unknowable to us.
Then my hair fell out. Thy will be done is abstract. Being bald is concrete.
Thursdays were chemo day. I usually woke up feeling sick because even before I was conscious what day it was, my body somehow knew. Jack always, without fail, took me to the clinic.
So I remember that it was Thursday afternoon after a chemo round and I was sound asleep in my bed, facing the door. I heard the door opening and they came in quietly. I opened my eyes and saw three bald heads.
"Mom, how do you like our football haircuts?"
I liked them very much indeed.
Happy anniversary, Jack. I love you.
Charmaine’s post concluded:
If there are any young women who have stumbled on my story, I have written this for you. Our culture focuses relentlessly on meeting a man as a source of fun and momentary pleasure. The fleeting hook-up. But this doesn't match up well with life and love, which is baldly serious.
Do search for someone you want to kiss. In God's glorious design that desire is central to the strange alchemy that propels the marital project forward in its mix of joy and hurt and better and worse.
But desire is a fire that must be stoked. By a man who has the courage to say "I do."
For better or worse. . .
Richer or poorer. . .
In sickness and health. . .
To love and to cherish. . .
'till death do us part. . .
Do I hear an “amen”? Thank you, Charmaine, for your strength.
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