I'm tired. The days away were well-spent but exhausting. I am glad I made the trip, but I'm even happier to be coming home. There's nothing like a few days away to remind me how much I love being home.
No hotel can take the place of those warm, satisfying feelings that wash over me once I step inside and close the front door of my home. It's hard to identify exactly why being home brings such delight to my soul. Perhaps it's the familiarity of everything…certainly, that's part of it. Or the feeling of belonging…that intensifies the pull of my domestic magnet. And then there are all the memories that surround me at home. Special moments with the kids and grandkids come rushing back as I glance at their photographs in various places around the house. Memories of days gone by come as a result of shared experiences—vacations to mountains and beaches, graduations from high schools and colleges, and memorable meals around the table during holidays. The list goes on. Yep, it's definitely the memories that add to the pleasures of coming home.
The place also represents reflections from now-silent pools of pain. Tears moisten roots, causing them to grow deep, strong, and firm. Tears resulting from misunderstandings and mistakes…tears of painful news, disappointments, passionate disagreements, offences, confessions, repentance, forgiveness. Such bruises of the heart cannot be erased from a home, nor should we try. They give a home tender beauty, similar to severe mercies that accompany grief.
But most of all, coming home means being embraced by the arms of one who has loved me faithfully since the summer of '55. Can it be—can it really be—more than 56 years? How young we were, how inexperienced in so much of life! Nevertheless, since the first blush of intimate affection that warm, starlit night after both of us said “I do,” to this very day we've continued to grow and learn. I'm so glad we've been willing to forgive as we stoked the fires of our love together…so glad we talked it through and stuck it out together—rather than giving up and walking away.
Tonight, on this long journey through the sky, my heart beats faster as I think of coming home. Distance and time away have reminded me of the importance of continuing to work diligently on my marriage—to work hard at things like showing common courtesy, fighting petty acts of selfishness, being more understanding, listening better, forgiving quicker, talking truth, cultivating deep intimacy, resisting passivity, and practicing a dozen other marital disciplines that keep the cobwebs swept away…that keep those ugly spiders of neglect from coming back. As I get older, I want our marriage to get better, but that won't “just happen.” Age is no friend of affection, no soothing balm massaging two people's “Trip to Bountiful.”
It hit me that someday—some dreadful day—either Cynthia or I will come home, alone. I loathe the thought, but I cannot, I dare not, deny it or ignore it. And when that dark night becomes a reality, I don't want any bad “I-wish-I-had” thoughts to add regret to my grief. And so, this very night at a 31,000-foot elevation, I want to go on record by saying that I recommit myself to obeying the command, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). Otherwise, the haunting words of the poet Lord Byron will only intensify my future grief:
The thorns which I have reap'd
Are of the tree I planted;
They have torn me, and I bleed.
I should have known what fruit
Would spring from such a seed!
And so, to all husbands everywhere, I urge you to join me in this high and holy pursuit—to make loving your wife your aim so that coming home might always be your delight (and your wife's delight), never your dread. As that happens, we need never fear death; instead, loving our wives will help us start to live.