Before my ordination, I spent my summer at a retirement community in Northern Virginia. My role as chaplain intern involved making daily visitations with its residents.
During one visit I met an 85-year-old Southern woman named Martha. Martha lived alone on the assisted living ward due to blindness. Her husband of over fifty years died decades earlier.
Curious about the longevity of their marriage, I asked her, “What was your secret to a long marriage?”
She paused in thought. And she gave me an answer I didn’t expect. Her secret to wedded bliss was learning how to fight.
I didn’t understand. “Fighting kept you two together?”
“No, learning how to fight together did.”
Martha explained that their arguments were often raw and heated. But there were always certain rules in place. Rules like:
- See your spouse not as the enemy, but the object of your love
- Seek the good in one another in the midst of fighting
- Do not let your anger linger for longer than a day
- Learn to forgive quickly
And in those moments that could tear a couple apart, they learned to appreciate each other. They drew closer to one another.
Like Martha, our Scripture today focuses on how we can become better people. Ways that will never grow old or die: Faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
As I read our first reading (Jeremiah 1:4-10), I picture myself as Jeremiah. I think of all the times that I lack faith in myself. I feel awkward, afraid, intimidated. In Jeremiah’s words, I sometimes feel like “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But in moments like these, God reminds us that he created the heavens and the earth. He created all the creatures and plants and oceans. And he created you. So why be afraid? Why must you worry or fear things in life when God has shown us over and over again that he is in control.
God says to the Jeremiah in us:
“Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ …Do not be afraid …I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Through God, you can do and see and experience great things in this life. But for this to happen, you must first believe. Ground your faith in a hope—in the certainty—that this world, your life, belongs to God.
Pray always as it says in our psalm (Psalm 71:1-6):
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold… For you are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence since I was young.
Live your life in the spirit of God’s love. A love that builds people up. A love that reminds people that God loves them.
When you live in faith, hope and love, you live the kind of life God intended. A life, as my friend Martha would say, that is worth fighting for.