As newlyweds, Chrissy and I once helped lead a youth group into the Maine woods for a camping trip. We had a great time canoeing, hiking and swimming. Lots of good memories. However, one specific moment is indelibly etched in my memory. It was when we went to swim in the river.
The sun was hot and the air humid. Our group had been hiking for a long time. We were ready for a refreshing dip in the cool mountain river. It was safe to swim only in certain places. Even there, no one went barefoot foot for fear of sharp rocks.
Chrissy and I were on our way to one of those pools. She preceded me in her bathing suit and sneakers. She needed to cross over part of the river that was shallow. It flowed rapidly over the uneven river bed. As she inched her way across the submerged rocks she began to lose her footing.
And me? I just stood there watching her, thinking how silly she looked flailing around trying to get her footing. Immediately one of the young men from our youth group ran up and grabbed her arm to steady her and helped her away from danger. I was grateful for his quick thinking but instantly ashamed of myself for not doing what he had done.
What does this have to do with commitment? My commitment to this woman heightened that sense of failure. She was my wife. I was deeply bothered by, and challenged to reflect on, why I did not help her right away. I did not come up with any good answers.
Granted, this all happened in a matter of seconds, but that lack of action, and even more so, my uncharitable thoughts, did not represent the kind of husband I wanted to be.
She deserved better.
I was committed to her. I was committed to giving her better.
That commitment compelled me to change. It compelled me to grow.
In the years since this incident, I have become a better husband but that did not happen in a moment. It has been, and still is, a process. Sometimes a long and difficult process.
Marriage is like a marathon. Suppose you were going to run a marathon. Would you expect to just go run 26.22 miles without building up to it?
A big commitment like that is only achieved by breaking it down into smaller commitments – weekly, even daily, commitments. So it is with marriage.
The episode on the river was a wake up call to me that I needed to get in better shape as a spouse. So I have and will continue to get in better shape as a spouse. How about you?
Here is a fun idea for how to regularly work on your commitment muscles: Date your spouse!
How has your commitment to your spouse compelled you to improve? Share with us in the comments.