i first heard this line at least twenty years ago. i don’t know where it originated, but there is no statement more true or more profound when it comes to relationships.
years ago, i got my training in first aid, CPR, and lifeguarding. it was essential for me, as a youth minister, to know how to save a person’s life…literally. i always knew that, ultimately, parents would be more impressed if i brought junior back from summer camp alive, than they would be if junior could recite the books of the bible by memory.
i remember the first time i had to jump in the trinity river in northern california and rescue a kid from the whitewater rapids after she had dumped their canoe. a wave had flipped her out and the current ripped her life jacket off as it sucked her underwater.
i found her underwater and grabbed on to pull her up for air. she about beat me to death! her arms were flailing as she gasped for air. she grabbed me around the neck, forcing me back underwater each time i attempted to help her. her screams drowned out my instructions to her. fear gripped her.
we both made it, but just barely. in her despair and confusion, she almost took me down with her. for good. all lifeguards know that the most dangerous spot they can ever find themselves is when they are helping a drowning person. true that.
we all hurt. we all get to points of despair and confusion. we all find ourselves broken and used. we cannot get through life without going through valleys of darkness.
that’s why, in marriages, we have to take care of ourselves. what that means is that nobody can be responsible for my spiritual well-being but me. nobody can grow strong and deep and wise and mature for me. i have to do that for myself.
when i am empty and my world is dark (because of sin or tragedy or simple life circumstances) , i can turn to people for help. but i have to turn to people who are strong and can handle my mess, because if they aren’t, i will drag them down with me.
this is more true in marriage than any other human relationship. my obligation to wanda is to be strong and deep and wise and godly for her, at all times…because there will be times in her life she will need me to jump into the whitewater rapids of life for her. wanda’s obligation is to be strong and deep and wise and godly for me, at all times…because there will be times in my life that i need her to jump in different rapids to rescue me.
and the last thing in the world we can afford to do is to beat each other up on the way down.
so step up. take responsibility for your spiritual life. get help if you need it. get healthy in mind and body and spirit. pay the price. stop ignoring what you know you need to do. stop blaming others and deceiving yourself.
if you don’t, you’ll shrivel and die. and you’ll take your marriage down with you.