It’s been one year since my mother died.
My mother was sick for a very long time, and so I often thought about what would happen after she died. I thought it would be a heavy blow that would grow lighter as time passed. In reality I felt very little at the time, but the weight of her loss has grown heavier as time has gone on.
Mama was strong. Stubborn, yes, to a fault, but strong. She was willing to sacrifice all she was and all she hoped for (and she had dreams my friend) for her child and her family (and sacrifice she did.)
My father gave me few pointers on love and marriage when I was young, but one thing he said was, “Make sure the woman you marry is strong like your mother. She will need to be strong to raise children. Raising children is the hardest thing in the world, and only the strong can do it.”
I’ve always wanted to be married and raise a family. Since the time I was very small, I dreamed about entering a lifelong covenant with a wonderful woman and raising a household of children. Never did I dream of a life alone – such a life was a nightmare for me.
Now when I was in High School, all I knew was infatuation. It was foolish and emotion based and unwise. I was fortunate that none of the girls I pursued while in High School worked out. Nevertheless, even then my mind said, “Make sure she is strong, strong like mama is strong.” I never met one who was strong.
Then I went to college, and I sobered up some, and started looking for better traits. Traits that go beyond the physical, traits that endure. Still chief among them was “strong.” Describing this kind of strength is nearly impossible. This scene from the Replacements always comes to mind.
My life during this time drifted from Christ to the point the shore was no longer visible to me and in time I forgot about such a thing as the shore and land and believed there was only the sea. But my God is faithful even when I am faithless, and He did not leave me orphaned but crossed the horizon to bring me back.
Once back, I resumed my search for the strong one. In the Church I found there were a handful of strong women for the Lord. Many were already taken, but among those that remained I could not find one who was “strong like mama.”
Then I met Gena.
Strength seemed to be her banner and her song. She was so strong, in fact, that at first I did not like her – so intimidated I was by her strength. Of course in time I learned of her compassion, her laughter, and her warmth which charmed me like nothing else could – to say nothing of her vast intellect and integrity that has challenged me time and again.
And of course, she loved Jesus. She loved Him deeply.
We became friends, and over time I learned more about her strength. She carried her many friends through crisis and peril – she sacrificed for them and considered herself blessed to have laid down herself for a friend. Some never thanked her for it, though others did. She spent long and exhausting hours caring for the elderly and the widows who had been forgotten and abandoned by the world who could not be bothered. She loved children and took a job to care for the least of these – children with developmental disorders who often came from broken homes. This woman literally cared for widows and orphans who were considered unclean and unwanted by the cold and uncaring world.
This is why I fell in love with her. She was strong – the kind of strong that climbs onto a cross to die for the people who hate Him – to save them. Stronger than any woman or any person I’d ever known – save the One.
There could be no doubt that I’d pledge my life to such a woman – I was not worthy of her – but I hoped to spend the rest of my life trying to be.
And yet it was also she who taught me about grace – that God’s love transcends my mistakes and that He is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins – and to come running to embrace me when I turn towards Him.
More precious than rubies? Nay, far more precious. Kingdoms and power I would turn away in exchange for her. I would give away all that I have to keep her with me.
Now she is my wife. Few statements make me prouder to say. She is also the mother of my children and raises them in discipline and wisdom of the Lord. She is called blessed by her family, for we love, cherish, and respect her.
Of course, I now know to what strength my father was referring. It is the strongest of all strengths, it is the power of the cross, and the hope of redemption. It is the power God gives to all humans when we believe in Him – if only we would use it. It is Agape – the Godly love – the sacrificial love – the strong love that sacrifices itself to save others. Is Gena strong like my mama?
No, they are both strong like Jesus.