What is the challenge of being a newlywed, a 61 year old newlywed, a 61 year old newlywed 5 years after divorce and 25 years of marriage?
To be real honest, the biggest challenge for me is to live up to the image she has of me. My wife is grateful to have a man who loves God, who encourages her in her faith, and she shows me that by being happy with the simple faith I have. Before each meal we eat together, she takes my hand and listens to me give thanks to God, often squeezing my hand as I pray for us as a way to show her appreciation. When we painted and remodeled our condo this past summer, it was something we did together, and she acknowledged even my smallest contributions. I hear how she builds me up in conversation with her family and friends. She wants me to be my own man, admires that, encourages it. We worship together, truly together, next to each other, and I feel her admiration as she holds me hand during church services. She makes me feel like I am a man to be admired, because she truly feels that way about me. Living up to the image my wife has of me is really pretty simple to do, and I know that even when I stumble (and I have a little) she will forgive me, will continue to build me up.
In comparison, I spent 25 years wondering why I didn’t live up to the expectations my first wife had of me. I could never live up to those expectations, an almost mythical man she and her sisters had created from what she thought of her father, a spiritual giant who was obsessed with being just that. My ex expected me to be someone I could never be, and she punished me for it. When I didn’t live up to those expectations, when I stumbled, her opinion disappeared into the abyss of disrespect. She withdrew herself from me, never worshipped with me, and I eventually gave up trying to figure out what I could do to gain her respect. The last few years of our marriage, I was emotionally starved. After we separated, I hungered for attention, didn’t realize how emotionally malnourished I had become.
So how do I live up to the image my wife has of me? A lot of it has to do with being aware of what she needs from me. I don’t have to be a spiritual giant. I just need to be a man who loves Jesus.. and I do. There is no pressure to be anything I am not. The result is that I am growing in my walk with God, enjoying what I am learning, happy that she is watching me and satisfied with my desire to know God. She told me one day how happy it made her to hear me singing along to a worship song as I worked one morning, hugged me with tears in her eyes as she told me that (I think she likes my singing voice, too). The reality of it all is that there really isn’t an image I have to live up to. I just need to be myself with her, continue to be the man she fell in love with.
My mother was that way with my father until the day that she died. No wonder he misses her so much.