Sitting in bed my youngest child looked at me, his eyes brimming with tears, and the look on his face that shows he is trying not to cry.
‘Promise me you and Dad won’t split up. Ever. Promise me.’
He held out his smallest finger to me and urged ‘Pinky promise Mum’.
I knew what he wanted me to do. In his world, if you interlink your smallest fingers and ‘pinky promise’ something, it means it’s unbreakable.
I remember having conversations like that a few years ago with my other children, usually because, as in this case, I was breaking news to them of our friends’ relationships breaking down. As they imagined themselves in the situation of having separated parents they couldn’t bear it and asked me to give them assurances that it would never be their reality.
A few years ago I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t promise and I definitely couldn’t ‘pinky promise’. I wished that I could but I really didn’t think their Dad and I were going to be together for ever. I’d fudge the issue by offering them comforting words, but no promises.
Yesterday I held out my little finger immediately and said ‘I pinky promise’. I do . I fully intend to stay married to his Dad until one of us dies. Yes, our marriage is in a much better place than it has ever been before. We have a healthy relationship and on the whole life together is very good, but I’m not naive. I don’t think that contentment now means that things will never be difficult again. Who knows what we may have to face together, and we are fully aware that difficult circumstances place almost unbearable pressures on our marriage.
Why do I feel so confident in promising my son that we’ll stay together? It’s not because I believe that I will always feel love towards my husband, or that being married will always make me happy. I’m pretty sure those things will come and go over the next however many years. No, it’s because I have discovered that God is enough, and like the merchant I read about in my bible this morning ( Matthew 13:45-46) I have found something which is so worth having that I will let go of everything else I feel is valuable, just so that I can hold on to it. I have discovered that living in obedience to God brings freedom and life and joy, no matter the circumstances. It’s a work in progress, I’m a work in progress, but I have found that when I choose God’s way rather than my way, I know that life is how it ought to be. It isn’t necessarily more fun, or more exciting, although sometimes it can be, but it is more ‘whole’. It satisfies at the very deepest level. It doesn’t leave me thirsting for something else to drink. I know that for me, God’s way is that I stay married to the man I committed to twenty years ago.
This year and every year that I am given I want to take hold of my marriage. To treasure it as a gift, and to see it as a place of security, freedom and strength. To know that it is the place where I learn to love another as I love myself; where I set aside my selfishness, and where I share in the amazing job of raising children with another person who loves them just as I do.
So yesterday I took hold of that little finger held out to me. And I pinky promised without reservation.