Our two grandfather clocks used to chime, not simultaneously however, they were never as precise as some might prefer clocks to be. No, they rang in answer or anticipation of the other, not for the benefit of the observer. Each clock offered a unique ring, intertwined as if they played separate parts of the same song. They were a consistent, predictable presence in our house but, they need work now and stand solitary in separate rooms. Like many broken things, they can be fixed, but I have to be willing to take on the difficult task of doing so.
On Wednesday, Zion broke a large, blue, glass bowl. It was too heavy for him to carry alone, yet he was determined. When the bowl hit the floor it produced a strange ringing sound, then splintered into hundreds of jagged shards. The bowl was more fragile than it appeared and of no great value, unlike the clocks which were crafted by a master to last for centuries over a hundred years ago .
For many years my wedding ring was a simple, thin gold band. It had no great value in itself, but four tiny prongs held an exquisite cashmere sapphire. Three times, the weak prongs failed and the stone was lost then later found. Finally, I tucked the ring away, fearing I'd otherwise lose it forever.
The year was 1999. Our healthy marriage of nine years had come to resemble my ring. The exquisite parts kept vanishing from sight and the rest felt weak and broken. I began to fear loss of our marriage as well. We were living in Memphis. Dennis worked 120 grueling hours a week between six hospitals in his cardiothoracic surgery fellowship. He was emotionally and physically exhausted. He came home empty and angry and I mirrored his emptiness. Magdalene was our youngest then and I remember kneeling on the floor weeping as she would lay her head in my lap with her big blue eyes searching my own, pleading, "Mommy, please stop crying."
I was done. I did not recognize this angry man or his sorrowful wife. I wanted to be free of the stress; the strife of our burdened marriage was far too heavy for me to carry alone. We were like the clocks, separate and broken with no song between us. I asked the Lord for my freedom, but He answered me with a question, "Do you remember your promise?" Unconditional love is just that, love without conditions. The incredible man I married, who'd always loved me so well had changed. Did that change my commitment to him and our marriage? Before God and everyone we'd promised to love, honor, and cherish each other in sickness and in health... as long as we both should live. I wrestled with my promise, which had never been tested. I was failing miserably.
During this time I met two beautiful new friends, Rochelle was the older and Jeanene, the younger. They barely knew Dennis, but they loved and respected him. Dennis gave me permission to share our struggles with them and they spoke life, hope and truth into my heart. They listened to my allegations but answered with words to encourage me to hold the course. They never spoke ill of him and helped me continue to love the man who seemed so lost to me.
During that time, Dennis rarely requested anything extra of me. Yet one evening, he asked me to take my broken ring to a jeweler. I reluctantly did so the following day. I knew that the cost of repair was far too great for our tight budget. I prayed for God's help and provision. The next morning the jeweler called. My ring had disappeared. I thanked him, believing my prayer had been answered. Bob Richardson, the jeweler, was amazed at my yielding response and quickly explained that the beautiful stone was preserved, the setting alone had vanished. We were directed to meet him in the shop and Dennis, miraculously, had a pause in his schedule. Mr Richardson placed four stunning settings before us. We expressed our thankfulness, but said that we could not accept any of the rings to replace the lost, simple gold band. He replied, "No matter the value, you entrusted us with your wedding ring, we lost that which was precious to you. Therefore it will be restored." The new setting was made of platinum with two half carrot diamonds on either side. The value was far more than that of the original. Mr. Richardson restored the gem to the new setting and gave us the ring.
It is wonderful to see how the restored is often more beautiful than the original. One evening at 10:30 pm Rochelle and her husband Jim came to counsel us. I felt relieved that justice would be served. Dennis would finally understand how poorly he had treated me. I had done nothing wrong and had endured so much. Jim's first question came to me, how long is your list of grievances against your husband? How many hurts have you stored away in a deep place of unforgiveness? Does Dennis know what he has done? To my horror I realized I'd allowed my heart to collect only my husband's flaws. There was no grace, no mercy and very little love. There was no room for good, only evil. I held every ugly thing as a triumph and had therefore forged my own rings of captivity to my own misery and Dennis'. Jim asked me to name a few offenses for which I felt Dennis had not been appropriately repentant. I had to release him from each offense, but the shock of my own guilt broke open the darkness in my heart and restoration began that very night.
Our marriage, which appeared to be as fragile as the shattered bowl, was abundantly restored by the end of our two years of fellowship. The timelessness of God's promises of hope and joy following forgiveness are real. We cannot understood the power of His presence between us without the pain of our struggles. My ring is our daily reminder of restoration and the power of unconditional love. God is the most powerful, predictable, presence in our marriage, the Master and restorer of all precious things.