Regardless of your religious faith, we have all heard the biblical story of the virgin Mary, her husband Joseph, and baby Jesus, right? Well, if not, you are in luck! I will give you my version of it today. YAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!
According to the biblical story, Mary was a virgin that had saved herself for marriage. Specifically, she had saved herself for her new husband Joseph. As a virgin newlywed, Mary was likely looking forward to her wedding night. I can only imagine her excitement as she fantasized about her magical night. Like most women, she likely selected a special outfit just for her new husband and did all the things we women sometimes do to prepare for a magical night. I can also imagine Joseph’s excitement as the night to consummate his marriage approached. He likely thought at length about what he wanted to do to his new bride after getting her home. Contrary to popular belief, the biblical characters got down with the get down…or at least in my version of the stories they did!
Well, if you know the bible story, things did not work out as planned. According to the story, an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she had been chosen to carry a son, God’s son, and she would name him Jesus. Specifically, the holy spirit would come upon her and placed the baby into her womb. That same evening, Mary’s new husband Joseph was told in a dream that his new bride would carry God’s son and name him Jesus. But, here is the kicker. Joseph was also told that he could not consummate his marriage…again, she was carrying God’s child.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that would’ve been a tough pill to swallow. Let’s translate this into today’s terms. After saving yourself for marriage, the very night that you are now allowed to release all that sexual energy, you cannot because you are pregnant with a child not from your husband. Then, as a husband, you have agreed to honor your girlfriend’s wish to abstain from sex until marriage and on the very night that you can NOW get you some…you have to wait a little longer AND your new wife is pregnant with a child that is not yours? Woooooow, you talk about a test. But, this story shows the true power of love. While the fact pattern is hard to image, the couple’s marriage not only survived, but thrived.
Last night as I LITERALLY had to fight off my husband’s attempts to tuck me into bed, I was reminded of our story. Our story shares a lot of similarities with Mary and Joseph’s story. Once I actually stopped to think about both of our stories, I was surprised by the common thread I found. No my husband and I don’t have stories of angels speaking to us, impregnation by God himself, a baby Jesus, a story about being exiled from our hometown, or a cool birthday like Christmas for either of our kiddos, but those are minor differences. But, we do have a story of a love tested.
Now, let me say at the outset, that I am not the virgin Mary…and my husband definitely isn’t Joseph. Honestly, I’m not even close to Mary’s moderately rebellious friend. I would likely be the woman Mary was warned about as a child that served as her motivation to become “Mary”…I digress. But, like Mary and Joseph, my husband and I know about having love, our marriage, and the core of our beliefs tested.
On my wedding day back on December 31, 2004, I woke up feeling unusually sick. Thinking that I had simply overdone it with all the wedding planning and final touches, I blew off my symptoms and focused on my day. Everything was a success, but in the days immediately following the wedding my health rapidly deteriorated. Thinking that I simply had the flu, my husband and I decided to return to school early to give me time to recuperate.
We made it to our new apartment on January 3, 2005. After a half day of traveling, I was completely exhausted and decided to call it a night early. On the morning of January 4, 2005, my husband was suddenly awakened by my blood curdling screams. That morning, I woke up and before I could move the covers away from my body, I felt excruciating pain. It literally felt as if my entire body had been run over by a truck…including the inside. It also felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing me with tiny sharp knives everywhere on my body, even on the inside. Alarmed and confused by the pain I felt, I slowly pushed back the covers to try and get a look at my body to find the source of this horrendous pain. As I removed the covers, I looked down and noticed raised lumps on both of my legs from my knees down to my ankles. Neither leg had a consistent pattern, but the raised lumps hurt unlike anything I had ever felt before. Very confused at that point and still groggy, I wanted to get a better look at the lumps. So, I dug deep for strength and attempted to raise myself out of bed. Despite my husband’s pleas to calm down and let him help me get out of bed, I insisted on getting out of bed by myself. Immediately, on my first attempt, I fell to the floor like a bag of wet potatoes.
As I laid on the floor crying in pain, my husband quickly ran over and scooped me up into his arms. Still with me in his arms, he sat down on the edge of the bed and started trying to console me. He said “listen, I know you are in a lot of pain, you gotta calm down and tell me what you need me to do”. Unable to hear him over my own sobs and screams, I began speaking very fast “we gotta get to a hospital, something is wrong. Something is very wrong. Oh my God I am hurting so bad, please get me to the hospital”. Still in his pjs and me in my nightgown, my husband scooped me up and carried me to the car. In the car we said very little to each other, and I screamed in pain the entire ride. While the drive from our apartment to the hospital was literally less than 10 minutes, it felt like an eternity.
Once we arrived at the hospital, doctors and nurses immediately starting swarming around us. As my husband attempted to explain why I was screaming, a nurse approached me and said “oh my God. I have read about this in nursing school, but I have never actually seen a case of this”. Pissed that I immediately became some science experiment and confused, I sternly asked “what are you talking about”? She replied, “your legs, its called erythema nodosum. I have read about it, but never actually saw a patient with it before. Do you mind if I take a picture”. At that moment, my heart sank and I knew we were in for a world of trouble.
The following days and months were filled with lots of doctors appointments and diagnoses like lupus, sarcoidosis, multiple sclerosis, and scleroderma. For 5 months I was unable to bathe myself, walk or stand for longer than 2 minutes, feed myself, or have sex. Yep, you read that correctly. The first 5 months of my marriage were fill with NO ACTION in that department. But, despite that, my husband bathe me (despite my angry protests), fed me, and most importantly, prayed over me every night. Honestly, he took such good care of me that I became convinced he was trying to kill me. I would plead with him to just leave and ask to annul our marriage. He would respond with a chuckle and say “so now you’ve lost your mind too”.
Around month 4, I asked my husband one night in bed why he wouldn’t leave. Surely taking on a sick wife and getting no action, at the age of 23 was too much. I can still hear his reply. He said, “listen, a love untested can’t be trusted. No, I wasn’t expecting a test so fast…but with you I have learned to expect the unexpected. So, this is our test and we will pass. We will show people that love, real love, thrives even when met with horrible obstacles.”
As my husband tried to tuck me into bed last night, as he has tried to for the past 16 years and been met with resistance, I was reminded of the blessing that I have. Sometimes it is easy to focus on what we don’t have…overlooking what we do have. No, I do not have the healthiest body, unlimited energy, or a life free of chronic illness and pain. But, I do have beautiful healthy children, an amazing husband that meant and engraved our vows on his heart, and a host of friends and family members that make up my support system. THOSE people, are the reasons I can remain positive and optimistic in the face of such horrible facts. Last night I was also reminded that anything untested cannot be trusted. So, while my latest health challenges have been VERY frustrating and disheartening at times, last night reminded me to see them for what they are…tests. Friends, although we are still getting to know each other, trust me when I tell you that I fail NO TEST!