This October marks my 30th wedding anniversary. I love my husband dearly, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s a miracle we’re still together. We have defied the odds, breaking many likely-to-divorce statistics. Thirty years since we said our original vows (we renewed our vows five years ago), we are lovers and friends, committed to making our relationship work.
In preparation for our 30th celebration, I wondered what gift was appropriate for the occasion. The gift for the 25th anniversary is silver; the 50th anniversary’s gift is gold. But what about the 30th? I found the answer quickly on Google—it’s our pearl anniversary.
Pearls are beautiful and evoke fond memories for me.
One summer vacation when I was a young girl, my family and I went to a tourist attraction featuring Japanese pearl divers. It was thrilling to watch as the diver dove into the water, selected a special oyster from the bed, and brought it back to the surface. My heart pounded as they presented my prize and opened it to reveal my treasure containing not one, not two, but three precious pearls.
I learned that pearls are created by an irritation such as a grain of sand or piece of food that enters the shell of an oyster. In an attempt to protect itself from the irritation, the oyster secretes a substance, layer upon layer until the pearl is formed. The irritation is transformed into a valuable treasure.
As I reflect on my marriage, the pearl is meaningful to me. It symbolizes an important lesson I have learned about making my marriage work.
Irritations abound in marriage. Like the oyster, we try to protect ourselves from the irritations. We can react in many ways.
Or we can apply grace. Layer upon layer of grace transforms our irritations into treasures.
As a Biblical term, “grace” is God’s unmerited favor. Our Lord pours out His kindness on us that we do not deserve and can never earn. Because of God’s grace, we receive the blessing of a relationship with our heavenly Father and the promise of heaven. He offers it freely.
As Christ-followers in marriage, we extend grace when we choose to emulate God’s character and extend undeserved kindness to our spouse. We bless them, not because they have earned our favor, but because we are aware of God’s great love for them. Like Jesus we offer grace freely.
In 1913, Webster’s Dictionary defined grace as “the exercise of love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefit or serve another; favor bestowed or privilege conferred.”
The more modern WordNet version gives the definition as “a disposition to kindness and compassion; benign good will.”
Both definitions can be aptly applied. Grace has my partner’s best interests in mind, even when I’ve been inconvenienced. Grace seeks to benefit and serve, responding with compassion and goodwill.
It is all too easy to allow irritations and hurts to fester into uglier issues. Hearts are infected by unforgiveness and resentment. Instead of grace, we live by the law of “eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth.” We strive to be heard and understood, and demand our own rights.
There is no simple way to take two people with different personalities, backgrounds, and interests, and merge them as one. Toes get stepped on; expectations are unmet. Grace is a necessary ingredient to counteract our own selfishness and pride.
In my marriage, grace empowers us to laugh at issues that once seemed like major mountains. We flow together rather than put on our brakes of resistance. We offer understanding when the other one is having a bad day rather than rushing in to correct or fix. Through grace, we glimpse in ourselves the love Christ has for His Church.
I am excited to continue to grow in grace. I look forward to gleaning more pearls from the irritations in marriage and life.
How is grace expressed in your marriage? In what areas do you need to allow for more grace?
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:31-33, NLT).
We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19, NIV).
Heavenly Father, help me to appreciate and value the spouse you have given me. I acknowledge that I often take him/her for granted and react poorly to the irritations common in marriage. I desire to be gracious. As you have extended grace to me, may I extend grace to my partner. I trust you to transform our irritations into precious pearls. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Important Note: This post refers to irritations and differences in opinion. It does not include abusive behavior. If you are in a relationship that is abusive, please find a safe place and reach out to others for help.