I’m back in love with marriage.
I know. I know. It always seems to happen so swiftly for me. But actually not really.
There’s an undercurrent of sneaky Hope that just doesn’t let go of my neck in the midst of my messy process. And before I know it, I just surrender to it. Because why not.
It really becomes that simple for me.
But make no mistake-- I was dismayed and bitter after my last blog post to you. I was actually a bit shocked of how much I exposed to you regarding the true state of my heart.
Nevertheless, I realize now it was important for you to see and to know that I don’t just wake up happy and in a constant posture of believing the best.
I have to fight for it.
Just like you.
My travels to England last month left me a bit love drunk.
Let me explain.
I had planned for this trip since last December. Honestly, I wanted to take time out of my busy schedule to be with God. The previous year had been a whirlwind, and I was ready to find my bearings again. To find me again. To find home again.
I didn’t need God to do anything particularly spectacular for me. On this pilgrimage of sorts, I was simply bringing my heart to Him. “Have your way”…”I know Your way is best.” ...“You see me completely and wholly.” ...“I still love You, even though I don’t understand.”
For my heart, I simply wanted to get out of my familiar place to meet my Favorite.
I had to say no to other things, other good things, even logical good things, to say yes to this trip.
And I’ll never regret that yes.
In short, I was given the privilege of serving with a church ministry during an incredible conference in the countryside of England and in doing so praying with a team of other amazing God-lovers.
It was as if my heart had come alive again.
In preparing for this trip, there was homework to be accomplished. Which meant, intentional prayer times with God were in order as well as listening to focused online teachings and of course Bible readings.
It was in the preparation that my heart started to get wrecked in the best way.
Peace was being restored to my soul, even before I set foot on the soil of England.
Mind you, I hadn’t ministered or done a great deal of praying with or for people, since my father passed away, a year prior.
I had stepped down from teen youth ministry and my heart took a much needed sabbatical after 7 years of running very hard in both my work in television and my work in ministry.
But I longed for the day that I would be able to pray and love on broken hearts in need.
In my wanting to kneel down at his feet, God met me in the most generous and kind way. He restored my faith in love.
Now before I go any further, I have to interject—
Have you ever met someone you just feel automatic chemistry with? I mean in a platonic way. You just vibe and click with this person effortlessly. And then you end up being life long friends?...
Well imagine that happening with about 20-30 people at one time.
That’s what England was for me.
This was my second time back in a span of a year, and I'd already met and known people there who had forever shaped me—but this year, it was like Explosive. Like Fireworks in my face.
It’s never just a place. It’s always the people.
And in true to Patrice style, I fell in love with everyone. It’s like this euphoric state (without the drugs ;) where everyone is beautiful, amazing, wonderful, talented, and magical in their own unique way. And I just want to hold their faces and just stare at them and say thank you-- over and over again.
So yes, God restored my faith in love.
What a loaded sentence that one.
I mean, so many of us harbor our broken hearts, our failed attempts, our righteous bitterness, thinking that somehow it is destroying the enemy, when in fact, it is debilitating our own hearts.
After my Springtime crush hid in the shadows of indifference. I licked my wounds, but also realized how gracious we both had been. In reminiscing about that season, I venture to glean the positive from our short encounter: In brief, I’m braver than I think. And he, being a wonderful dancer, showed me that there are still gentle-men on the dance floor. As is the case in life. Gentlemen still do exist. I know. It’s shocking. But true nonetheless.
And now we close that chapter completely. I pray he finds what he’s looking for, and not only get what he wants, but also what he needs.
But meanwhile, God restored my faith in love.
I asked God a dangerous question, after the disappointment of the Spring. What does an oath in marriage truly look like and feel like?
I was particularly fascinated with the phrase, “In sickness and in health.”
We hear that phrase all the time.
And it sounds romantic.
But is it really?
I know of a couple that couldn’t handle the ‘sickness’ portion of marriage, especially when the sickness lingered for years. And now sadly, they are divorced.
And yet, I was still fascinated with the phrase. “In sickness and in health.”
Little did I know, I would learn and see first hand what this could look like.
There’s something so powerful and painful about walking with someone through an illness. It’s humbling, tiring, unrelenting, and oppressive at times. And in that context, the oath remains. Love is to remain. Not fear. Not hardness of heart. But love.
I find that utterly phenomenal.
I mean, it’s easy to love life and people when you are healthy.
What’s the saying? “Health is wealth.”
You really grasp the meaning of that once you’ve been in the hospital for any sort of reason.
To be able to rest in your right mind and function as an active person is truly ablessing.
But to now be in a relationship embraced by an oath you spoke, saying to God and witnesses: I will still choose this person at their worst because I love them, and I believe in my heart that they are always worth it.
These words are absolutely incredible.
But I was still fascinated with this idea of how one walks with a person through pain and sickness. And yes, God does this with us. But how do we do this with our flesh and bones? How though?
When you ask God a question, often the answer comes, but in ways you never expected.
And this past weekend, I saw first hand…the how…of the oath.
I received a text no one wants to ever get.
One of my best friend’s husband was rushed to the hospital.
He had lost control of his motor skills, was slurring his words, and no longer recognized who she was.
He had been a healthy guy in the middle of an important work presentation when this all happened.
We mobilized a group of our other besties and started a prayer chain.
I drove to the hospital and prayed next to her and her husband as he lay sedated on his hospital bed.
She prayed brave prayers.
“God, he is yours.”
He would wake up occasionally in the night--agitated, and he still didn’t recognize her.
“I have a wife?” is what he said at one point in time.
And she would speak with such peaceful, calm love. “You’re safe.”
Every time he woke up in the middle of the night, she would rush to his side, hold his hand, and explain to him with such patience the events that had happened, where he was, and that he would be okay.
He, in a confused state, would lay his head back down, and quickly fall back asleep.
She would turn to me, and I could see tears welling up in her eyes.
At this point, the doctors didn’t know or understand what was going on with her husband. Not a stroke, maybe a virus, high fever, all inconclusive.
As we stayed up all night next to her husband’s bedside, do you want to know what she also did in the meanwhile? She prayed for my future husband!
I hope you’re crying now. Because I am.
She’s in one of the worst situations of her entire life and marriage, they have an 11 month old baby, and she is concerned about my love life?!
If that ain’t the love of God y’all, I don’t know what is!
And at this point I’m dumbfounded.
How is the love of God THIS kind.
Like really, people.
In the midst of everything going on. Literal life and death.
And God still speaks so directly to my heart.
All I could do was HUMBLY say Yes and Amen.
Lord, I will believe.
I do believe in this crazy thing called marriage.
And I do believe that you have an incredible man waiting to walk this journey out with me.
If God is faithful to give the promise, He is faithful to keep it. I don’t have to work out the how, but simply say yes, I believe.
And there in that hospital room, on no sleep, God restored my faith in love once more.
And around 4:30AM in the morning her husband tosses and turns awake again, but this time, miraculously he recognizes his wife and he recognizes my face as well.
Both she and I raise our voices and our hands in praise simultaneously.
Her husband, still being a bit groggy, asks, “What happened….?”
And she explains the story once more, but this time, he is tracking and can recall his last memories before everything went haywire.
And there is beautiful life in his eyes again.
And she is overcome with gratitude and strength.
And I am overwhelmed by the power of an oath.
Because in the midst of the chaos--with impossibilities lurking at every corner…
Love is still present.
And though everything else may fail,
Love will remain.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
-- I Corinthians 13:4-13