A Cord of Three Strands

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

My husband Rex and I celebrated 25 years of marriage on May 30 th . The traditional gift for this anniversary is silver, but we’ve never given each other gifts on our anniversary, or even on our wedding day for that matter. I remember my maid of honor, a very traditional woman of Greek descent, telling me that we had to give each other a gift on our wedding day. I was a bit dazed and confused because we had just spent all our meager savings on our wedding, why would we get each other a gift? But for this momentous anniversary, I came up with the brilliant idea to give a gift to each other that would be forever. Something out-of- the-box, a little bit edgy for us, and yet very heart-felt and significant. Matching tattoos!

My husband loved the idea of getting ink. We talked about ideas, drew out some possibilities, and contemplated the most significant aspects that would be the most meaningful to our life together. We planned for it to be a secret, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and told a few of our kids, then a few close friends. We were really excited about our final artistic concept. We made the plan: what to get, where to get it, when to go, where to go, who to use.

And then I got cold feet.

I was nervous about what people would think. I didn’t want to spend the money. I was worried about the pain. What if

they messed up? What if I didn’t like the design after all? What if it got infected? What if people laughed at me? Was I too old to get a tattoo?

Then I got spiritual…what does the Bible say? Was I being vain? What about the controversy? Would I be a stumbling block for someone? Really…what would Jesus do?

But after 25 years, my husband knows me. He knows my twisted, catastrophizing, over-analyzing thinking. He took my hand and looked deep into my eyes and reminded me of my uncertainty before our wedding. He reminded me that I had chosen to trust him and his love for me as we made that permanent decision to join in matrimony. He gently told me that these small tattoos, though permanent, were not going to be nearly as painful as some of the things we’d been through together over the last 25 years. It was just the beginning of the next 25 years together as we open a new chapter on our life together in the freedom that we have as Christ followers.

I told him, the night before we planned to go, that I just didn’t think I could go through with it.

As we prepared to leave the house, I told him that it probably was just going to be him getting the tattoo.

As we parked the car I reminded him that I was too nervous. I couldn’t do it. Rex just smiled.

It turned out that the idea we had for our tattoo wasn’t going to work. The person we had been referred to was over-booked. The location on our bodies that we had planned for our tattoos wasn’t recommended. I felt more and more convinced this wasn’t a good decision.

That’s how a lot of our life expectations have turned out over the last 24 years. So, we worked together on a new design, incorporating the scripture that brought us together (Psalms 37:4) and the scripture that kept us together

(Ecclesiastes 4:12). We accepted a different tattoo artist to do the work and chose new body parts to permanently ink.

Rex went first and didn’t flinch. He reminded me that I had had C-sections with each pregnancy and breast cancer. I live with chronic pain every day. What was 15 minutes of being slightly uncomfortable?

And before I knew it, I was in the chair. And then it was done. It wasn’t a spa day, but even spa days seldom end up the way we think they will. I was even complimented by the artist on my composure.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4).

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Eccl 4:12).

During our courtship, we worked diligently to delight ourselves in the Lord rather than each other, so that our desire

would be for His will, not our own. But I honestly don’t know if Rex and I would have made it to the 25-year mark without the “third strand” in the center of our relationship. Sometimes, it’s only Jesus that holds us together, that keeps us standing in the midst of pain, struggles, and turmoil. If we turn our eyes to ourselves or to each other, we falter. On occasion, the two of us can defend ourselves, but that third strand is what really keeps us strong. We’re ready for the next 25…trusting not ourselves, not each other, but in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Lord, we know that sometimes there will be pain. Maybe just a few minutes worth, but more often it’s long and awful. We may have permanent scars. But each mark tells the story of our lives and if we allow it, your work and healing makes us stronger. Holy Spirit, I lift each person reading this and ask you to minister to hearts and minds, reassuring us that with Jesus in the center of our lives we will not be quickly broken. Help us to delight in you Lord, so that your desires are ours. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Stacey Ray

Stacey has been married to Rex for 25 years and together they parent four sons ages 17 to 23. Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development. Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s current favorite quote is: “To be significant, all you have to do is make a difference with others wherever you are, with whatever you have, day by day.” (John Maxwell, “Intentional Living”).

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