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Marriage and the Great Pearl Hunt

 

Next week Steve and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary.  It looks nothing like I thought it would, but I am learning that while expectations feel realer than real in my heart, they contain very little in the way of actual substance when life kicks in.  Expectations – especially those that deal with love and romance – are often airbrushed beyond recognition. And maybe that’s good.  Many of us would never bite the bullet and say the vows if we could see clearly into the future, and one thing I’m more certain of than I have ever been:  God loves marriage.  He loves happy marriages that shoot fireworks and fairytales all across the night sky.  And He loves hard marriages that dig deep and grow through faithful, stubborn, hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-our-teeth because we just can’t let go while there’s still a heartbeat determination. Please know and know it well: Steve and I have lived both. Sometimes we’ve lived both in the space of one day.

 

So, I can’t really remember what I thought my 30th anniversary would be like. Those dreamy days are pretty far in the rearview.  And it doesn’t matter anyway because we’re here and this is now.  This year of our life has not surprised God. He knew our 30th anniversary would be spent in the valley of the shadow of death. He knew our home would be filled with caregivers and hospice professionals and machines and meds that help Steve live as comfortably as he can in this season of the battle. He who lives outside time and space, knew how this moment on the timeline of our marriage would play out and He has already equipped us to face it with faith and not as victims of a cruel disease. (Brief aside: He knew what your marriage would look like right now, too.)

 

Last week Steve asked me what the traditional gift was for year 30.  I can’t remember him ever asking that before, so I immediately googled it and found: pearls.  Pearls are the gift for year 30.  As silly and commercial as the traditional lists of gifts are, this information has stuck with me because of this one verse:

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a jeweler on the lookout for the finest pearls. When he found a pearl more beautiful and valuable than any jewel he had ever seen, the jeweler sold all he had and bought that pearl, his pearl of great price.  Matthew 14:45

 

We who take the leap and say the words and promise our lives to another frail  human are also like jewelers on the lookout for the finest pearl. We believe that, though it will cost us everything, there is treasure inside that person…there is untold, unseen beauty and it will be worth everything we have to spend our lives finding it.  We know somewhere in the deep places that it won’t only be beauty, but we are willing to take the sad with the happy and the hard with the good, believing all the ledgers will balance in the end and we will find ourselves the proud owner of a pearl of great price.

 

This marriage, this life, these three decades have been the most difficult, exciting, amazing, rewarding, frustrating treasure hunt. Steve and I have both had to sift through a lot of junk in ourselves and each other.  We’ve had to fight and love hard.  I’m not proud of how we’ve done everything, but I am proud of this: we know the value of the pearl. In spite of how much the past four years have cost, I know that I am the big winner here. The treasure inside of Steve Stern shines more brightly than ever before. His love for me is my hidden portfolio, my offshore bank account, the cash buried under the mattresses.  Knowing him has made me richer, stronger, smarter and more secure. Serving him has made me softer, safer and more compassionate.  Loving him has made me happy.  And these things that have grown inside of me are treasure in themselves. I am better because of the battle and brilliance of marriage to the man of God’s dreams.  And I am thankful.

 

Happy 30th, Steve Stern.  I love you madly,

 

Bo

 

 

 

 

January 27, 2015 - 8:25 am

Teresa B. - Bo, Congratulations to you and Steve on your 30th! Last summer a friend and I were having a discussion about marriage. She talked about many of her coworkers were getting divorced and why wouldn’t they want to work on it? Only those persons know the reason but we said that we would do whatever it took to stay with our husbands because divorce is not an option. By keeping Christ in the forefront of our marriages, it helps keep us stronger. There are some who are continuously looking for the more rare and precious “pearl” that they don’t see what is right in front of them. I admire those that have stuck it out through thick and thin because they have the most precious pearls of all: Their life partner given to them by Jesus Christ.

January 27, 2015 - 8:27 am

Angie White - Sweet Bo & Steve, Tim and I celebrated our 30th in November 2013. We, too, recognized the symbolism of the pearl anniversary. The making of that pearl in our marriage fits so well.

This is quoted from a commentary on James by Kent
Hughes.
Making Pearls
Life on earth would not be worth much if
every source of tribulation were removed. Yet
most of us rebel against the things that irritate
us, and count as heavy loss what ought to be
rich gain. We are told that the oyster is
wiser; then when an irritating object, like a
bit of sand, gets under the mantle of his shell,
he begins covering it with the most precious
part of his being – and he fashions a pearl.
The irritation that it was causing is stopped
by encrusting it with the pearly formation.
Imagine that – a pearl is simply a victory over
tribulation.

Here’s to your victory, sweet brother and sister-in-Christ.
With love & prayers,
Angie
P.S. I got a beautiful pearl ring surrounded by 30 tiny diamonds and I got Tim a beautiful pearl-handled pocket knife for our 30th anniversary. And Tim sent me a bouquet of beautiful purple roses, my favorite color. Tiny treasures to remember the love and laughter of our life together before he went ahead of me through the pearly gates in 2014.

January 27, 2015 - 10:50 am

Annette - airbrushed beyond recognition…that’s good. We really, really love you.

January 27, 2015 - 8:53 pm

Rachel Hallett - Wow– THANK YOU for sharing this. My husband is a triple amputee, and I am his caregiver. I’m sure your challenges are more difficult than mine, but your post spoke the the depths of my soul. Marriage is absolutely hard, and one can only hope to have as much courage and strength as both you and your husband have had. YOU are a pearl; priceless and beautiful in every way! Keep it up! Happy Anniversary 🙂

January 27, 2015 - 10:12 pm

Jenny - Thank you for this beautiful post. You make me want to find the pearl within my own marriage. Praying for your lovely family.

January 28, 2015 - 4:47 am

m thomas - Hi Bo,

I heard you speaking on Focus on the Family this week. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You said a few things this morning that moved my spirit and the Holy Spirit nudged me to find your webpage. I intend to read all of your books because my family and I are currently in a battle. But after hearing your testimony, I told the Lord, God thank you because my situation could have been worse. But He is tugging at my heart right now and your story gave me hope. God is calling me and I am afraid. My family has been torn apart and in the midst of this storm, God said now is the time for you to step out on faith. I felt your heart when you said that through our suffering God is making something beautiful; and that suffering and joy can coexist together. Thank you for that! I am praying for you and your family. My grandmother passed away in 2005 from ALS. I watched her life change right before my eyes. She had been healthy all the days I knew her. All of a sudden she was diagnosed with ALS and we had to pull together as a family to care for her. I personally know what you and your family are going through. I pray that one day I will be able to personally speak with you. I want you to know that, I care about you and your family. I will pray every day without ceasing. Thank you for your obedience and strength. Please know, there are people out here that have been blessed by your obedience to share your experience with us. Thank you.

January 28, 2015 - 7:00 am

Jean Sheard - Greetings,

I just finished listening to your second day on Focus on the Family and I am rejoicing that you were able to do that program.

I am a volunteer in an ALS Clinic at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. My daughter is the OT in the Clinic and we both serve the Lord and our patients in that setting. What a blessing it was to hear how you have approached your caregiving to your husband by putting Christ at the center of your thoughts and actions. It is so hard for us when we are confronted with pa;tients and their families who have become so bitter because of their diagnosis and the sometimes long period of caregiving. To hear your honest explanation of how hard it is to serve your husband brought tears to my eyes – it gave me a better perspective of what our families go through – and yet you brought it all back to serving Jesus. Most of our patients and families are not in a right relationship with Christ, and I can see how it would be easy to become bitter. We do, on occasion, have a chaplan in Clinic, but most of them do not evidence regeneration. However, one of the chaplans was one of the best ones we have had (being a state run Clinic, at the university level, most are very liberal). I heard her one day visiiting with one of our patients who was going on about “having her house in order”, and the chaplan told her that was fine, but “what about living”. Your comment about making memories with your family was exactly what the chaplan was talking about. How I wish we could have opportunities to share the gospel with our families! For now, we are trusiing God to use our gifts and our compasions to testify of Jesus.

Thank you for your openness in sharing your journey with ALS. We have added you and your family to our prayer list. I pray God will bless your ministry in the ALS community.

Because of Christ,

Jean Sheard

January 28, 2015 - 9:14 am

judy - Thankyou so much for for sharing this. It is a precious gift to read today, our 37th anniversary. I completely agree with everything you said, it is all so true, and amazing that God gives it, costume designed for each marriage. Bless your hearts.

January 28, 2015 - 11:01 am

Sue Hughes - I just heard your story on Focus on the Family and wanted to share a site/link with you that I received from a friend from the 700 Club. My husband passed away with leukemia and for the last 2 years of his life, except when he was in the hospital, I gave him all of his care, also except for the wonderful Hospice people who cared for him. We had the same kind of experiences, that as he got sicker, all the problems we had been dealing with over the years just didn’t seem important and we grew much closer and our marriage became much more precious.

This report from 700 Club talks about how coconut oil has healed so many people of a variety of very serious and deadly conditions: Parkinson’s, diabetes, als, ms, alzheimers, etc. This has not been laboratory tested, but has worked for so many people. If someone had told me about it, I would have tried it for my husband. Here is the link to the report:

Alzheimer’s Doctors Taking Note of Coconut Oil

Video:
The most popular CBN News story of 2012 showed how coconut oil helps some Alzheimer’s patients. Now, some heavy-hitters in the medical community are noticing. <a …
http://www.cbn.com/tv/2079641150001

I will keep you in my prayers. I have found that you can actually feel the prayers of others. My heart breaks for you, but God is surely with you through this trial.

God Bless You-All,
Sue Hughes

January 28, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Sue Hughes - Bo and Steve, I got so busy telling you about the ‘cure’I heard about, that I forgot to wish you a Happy Anniversary. So Happy 30th. You know how to appreciate each other even through this very difficult time.

I wish I had journaled through losing my first husband (I’ve lost 2, but they aren’t lost when you know where they are.) He had surgery and we were making plans (don’t stop dreaming) for when he was home and well again, and POOF, he was gone. I couldn’t wrap my mind around him not coming home from the hospital. God gave us time together for him to help me through my grieving process, even though we had no idea he would be gone. I think the planning/dreaming helped a lot, but God gave me that peace that passes understanding. It is still as real to me today, nearly 29 years later, as it was then.

You are Pearls of Great Beauty. You do need to treasure these moments you have together. Time will pass and you can clean the house later or write that letter to a friend later. Everything else will keep, but you only have this special time NOW. God Bless You

January 28, 2015 - 3:18 pm

Pam - I just listened to your interview on Focus on the Family…..I immediately thought what a blessing it is that you both have that long goodbye…..and how most assuredly, the Lord will bless you in the days that follow with the memories of the special moments you shared. May peace permeate your souls in the days to come. Thank you for sharing!

January 28, 2015 - 6:08 pm

Mark and Susie Warren - My husband, Mark, and I heard you on Focus on the Family today. We don’t expect you to reply, for we know something of what your days and nights are like. Less than 1 year of marriage and Mark developed ALS. That was back in 1983. Exactly 5 years to the month, Mark went into respiratory arrest and having previously made the decision to use artificial ventilation, is still by my side today. We are into our 31st year with ALS, and 26 years of ventilator dependency. But, by God’s grace alone, we do experience the joy of God’s strength. Thank you for your testimony of love and devotion! Bless you both and your family.

January 28, 2015 - 7:48 pm

Karen MacKenzie - Yes pearls. It is through stress and irritation that they are made. I love to wear mine. Very appropriate for a 30th anniversary. May your time be filled with love, joy and peace.

January 29, 2015 - 7:27 am

Jim H - Hi Bo and Stern family,
I heard part of your story on yesterday’s Focus on the Family broadcast. I hope you hear might heart on this. If you have tried everything else, I have one suggestion where to look. Maybe you are familiar with Andrew Wommack? His ministry has recorded testimonies of modern day miracles of people who were sentenced to die by the best medical minds of our day, yet these people did not die but lived and recovered from what was not supposed to be recoverable from. I would encourage you to take a look, there are many testimonies at his site. But I would encourage you to take a look at this one:
http://www.awmi.net/extra/healing/niki

January 29, 2015 - 10:12 am

Lori Jackson - Happy Anniversary to you and Steve! I heard you on Focus and am encouraged to hear how God is faithful to reveal Himself to you; and so generous with His strength and mercy. He is a God who is near and not far away. I heard you say that Steve listens to worship music. It made me think of other things he could listen to. Have you discovered Sermonaudio.com? There are hundreds of sermons that he can hear there. My current favorites are messages by Sinclair Ferguson and Eric Alexander. Also, Librivox.com offers out-of-print books read by some good readers (and some not so good). Many of Andrew Murray’s wonderful books are read by excellent readers. Also G. Campbell Morgan has a couple. Hudson Taylor’s wonderful commentary on the Song of Solomon is also there. Also, Biblegateway.com provides audio versions of many translations of the Bible. I pray that he will find something in these sources to bless his mind and soul!

February 4, 2015 - 7:29 pm

Becky Aylor - Exhibit S

I don’t have words of wisdom, nor websites for hope. I simply want you to know you and your family are in the forefront of my mind and thoughts and that I pray for you so very often throughout my day. XOXO- B

February 5, 2015 - 9:01 am

Dani - Thanks for sharing your heart and being vulnerable. Your grace is mentoring me and I am grateful for it!

February 6, 2015 - 3:47 pm

Jewl - 30 years! What a gift to have had that. All gifts passed through the Potter’s hands! Thank you for standing by each other through the mountains and through the valleys, including this most shadowy one. Thank you for giving God the glory through riveting sunsets and while grasping for the rock through stormy seas, always reaching for the pearl in it all and in each other. Thank you for loving God and each other, even when so much of it looks different than you expected. We cheer for you both as the finish line draws near. With prayer.

February 11, 2015 - 2:07 pm

Bob Bolton - Congratulations to Steve and Bo as they celebrate 30 years of marriage. The strength, sacrifice, compassion, courage, commitment and love you have shown one another, and most especially during the past 3-4 years as you struggle with challenges most of us will never comprehend….is a testament to the GOD focused lives you have led, and been stewards for your family and thousands of others.
May GOD bless you and may his face shine upon you as you celebrate what HE “has brought together”.
Love you,
Bob