Saturday of Lent 5
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Betty, John’s Wife
Many years ago, a dear older parishioner in Waco gave me a book entitled, “The Dance of Anger.” After I had read it, we talked about the web of relationships into which each of us is born… even when some of us never knew much about our families of origin. After all, adopted children are received lovingly into a web of relationships, too. Then, we talked about the relationships we build through marriage and family. Life is difficult.
I was never much of a dancer, more likely to be playing and singing music than dancing, but I have always admired the smooth moves of a man’s man like Gene Kelly. There was a time early in another life when going to country dances in the Czech halls in Ennis TX or to the dance hall owned by then parishioner, Janie Fricke, was an occasional night out. Then, in Waco, there were plenty of weddings in which there was the Texas ritual of the Grand March, where an older couple leads the way until all the couples face each other leaving a lane for the new bride and groom to pass through. I delighted to watch the older couples glide across the dance floor whether to a waltz, a two-step, a polka, or the sweetheart schottische.
I realized that couples over a lifetime develop a dance in their life together. Some dances are mostly loving with an occasional awkward transition where someone steps on another’s toes. Others are painful to watch as they live out the steps they learned in dysfunctional families. A few are downright angry and impossible for a variety of reasons: how to stop doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results.
In the South where football is a religion in itself, the gridiron star and the beautiful cheerleader are a match made in pigskin heaven. That’s the way it was with Betty and John. They were a handsome couple and produced a couple of beautiful blond daughters. Betty and John had a dance that could be precious, but often they found it hard to be together. Everything we learn about how to be husbands and wives comes from what we saw at home. Those who recognize they either need to learn some new steps or quit trying eventually come to an understanding. If we have a heart, we just don’t want to keep on hurting and being hurt. With the help of God, it is possible to start over, but that’s very, very hard for some to accept.
Even when the dance is not a good one, it’s familiar. I have watched couples locked in a dance for years, and, then, one dies, and the other one literally doesn’t know how to be. My first in-laws, a raging drunk and a passive wife, died seven weeks apart after fifty years of marriage. When John died, Betty was diagnosed with cancer shortly thereafter. His funeral was in August and hers the following January. They didn’t know how to go on without their dance partner. That was an unbelievable blow to both daughters and to the grandchildren, who dearly loved their grandparents.
Lent is a time to go into the wilderness with the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s easy to give up chocolate and much harder to give up alcohol when you rely on it day after day to take the kinks out of a stressed out body. It’s easy to set aside some habits even though the first days are uncomfortable breaks in the routine. It is much tougher to look at the dance a couple dances and to admit it’s not good much of the time. It’s easier to fantasize a different life like a smitten teenager. It is much tougher, with the help of God and perhaps a counselor coach, to serve one’s spouse with new steps that make her or his heart sing with joy and gratitude. The psalmist says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121).
Dear Father, thank you for Betty and all the wives of difficult men, who struggle to figure out where to draw the line. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put thirty-nine pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.