Marriage – A Priceless Painting
by Marlene Houk
Eyes staring at the rhythmic swirls and cadences of the artist’s hand, I gazed with wonder as he sketched in the background. As the mysteries of his artwork unfolded, the slow unveiling mesmerized me. Although it took an hour for the black light chalk artist to finish his work, it was worth the wait. A tranquil rural scene cradled a rustic wooden fence, and the blue bird perched happily, singing with abandon. Strong branches swayed gently in the breeze. But a collective gasp rose from the audience when he turned on the black light. What had been a blank space in the painting was now filled with Jesus’ face, and it shone in the clouds, plainly visible. When the special ultraviolet light revealed Him, it captured an astounding completion to the picture.
As the artist clicked on his black light, it dawned on me that marriage should be considered sacred because God chose its symbolism to represent a spiritual truth as indicated in Revelation 21:9. The church (people who have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ) is Jesus’ (the Lamb) Bride. John 8:12 says, “And Jesus said, I am the light of the world.” Just as the picture gained significance when the light shone, so, when Jesus lights our marriage, it shimmers with an ethereal beauty. Jesus is the Light of the world, and His covenant with the His Bride, the Church is reflected in the glow of an earthly godly marriage.
The longer the marriage, the more detail that is added as the Master Artist, God Himself, overlays a glorious menagerie of brilliantly colorful life and muted shadows of grief. The final picture of an older couple holding hands, smiling at each other and walking into the sunset gives us hope that there is an eternal Light to sustain us. lavishing a richness and depth of detail to our marriages that is breathtaking.
The Bible elevates marriage as a symbol of the magnificent relationship between Christ and the Church in calling the body of believers His Bride. This is the reason that our marriages should reflect that relationship in the “holy state of matrimony.” It is the reason that marriage is defined biblically as between a man and a woman. One of the most beautiful mirrors of marriage that reflect this symbolism are couples that have been married the longest. Their marriages offer an expansive and richly detailed landscape of the opulent grace and strength which Christ brings to a couple’s sacred commitment.
Jack R. Taylor, in his book, What Every Husband Should Know (©1981 Broadman Press, Nashville, TN) offers an acrostic of marriage that provides the best path to that marital grace and strength mentioned above. When these facets of marriage shine, we can enjoy more fully the presence of His grace and strength in our marriages. Here it is:
Motivating one another to seek God, Accepting One Another, Respecting One Another, Responding to one another, Identifying with one another, Attentive to one another, Going in the same direction,Excited about one another.
The Bible gently enfolds Jesus’ love for His Bride and helps us to put into practice these ideas mentioned in the marriage acrostic. We are commanded to:
Motivate-Hebrews 10:25, Accept-Galatians 6:10
Respect-Philippians 2:3 Respond-Galatians 6:2
Identify-Ephesians 2:19 Attentive-James 1:19
Going in same direction-Acts 9:31 Excited about one another-2 John 1:4
I spoke recently with a couple who have been married 71 years. Preston and Bea Denton were married on October 15, 1945 while he was home on furlough during World War II. He was in the navy and on board the ship LST700 in Japanese waters when a suicide bomber attacked the ship. Although soldiers behind him were killed, Preston made it home, met Bea, and was married a few weeks later. Even after they were married, they were separated as Denton was stationed in New York on Staten Island. Three children, six grandchildren, five great grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren later, I asked Bea several questions about their seven decades of marriage.
Question: What helped you and Preston to have a long marriage?
Answer: She replied in a sweet warm voice, “We didn’t believe in separation or divorce. Preston was good to me, and we did things together with the children and also as a couple. When the children were young we enjoyed the beach (as a family) and also had caregivers when we spent time together.”
Question: If you were to advise a new bride about marriage, what would you say?
Answer: She replied in a reflective and quiet voice. “Make sure you know the Lord and go to church. I was saved at eleven years old, but it wasn’t until after we were married that I began to serve the Lord fully.”
Question: How did you solve problems?
Answer: She replied in a practical and down-to-earth manner. “We did not stay mad at each other. We weren’t too fussy with each other, and we prayed.” We both knew the Lord and that worked.”
Question: What is your favorite verse in the Bible that you’ve applied to marriage?
Answer: After a moment’s thought Bea (who earned her GED high school equivalency diploma at the age of 64) acknowledged this powerful verse. It is that verse that includes “lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
As the artist sketched in the last detail of the chalk drawing and turned on the ultraviolet light, the audience drew a collective breath at the powerful face that was revealed under the special light. It was Jesus, the strength, light, and beauty behind the enduring marriage of two people who reflected God’s perfect illustration of Jesus’ bridal relationship with His Church! They had lived their painting for 71 years, and the beauty of their portrait of marriage had been filled in over the years until it was rich in love with numerous details of joy, shadows of sorrow and a surreal overall luminescent glow of Jesus’ presence!