Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Bill Guarnere: Once we get into combat, the only people you can trust is yourself and the fella next to you. HBO’s Band of Brothers, quotes
Jack and I have lived much of our marriage in the wilderness, much of our marriage in doctor’s offices and hospitals, much of our marriage broke due to extraordinary medical expenses and the costs of coping, much of our marriage either grieving or recovering, much of our marriage wondering if God had forgotten us.
With our history in mind, it may not surprise you that one of our all-time favorite TV series is HBO’s Band of Brothers. It’s not the image of marriage I entertained as a teenage bride, but nothing fits our life journey better. The beauty of this war movie is that as these soldiers move through war together—battle by battle—it is their love for each other that keeps them going. They endure horrendous conditions for long periods of time, but they endure together.
Of of the most amazing examples of American soldiers’ enduring courage is the Battle of the Bulge, featured in Band of Brothers. Hitler marched his weary army though the Ardennes Mountains in order to occupy the seven roads leading to the hub city of Bastogne, intent on retaking the Allied-controlled port city of Antwerp that lay beyond it. The few American soldiers of Easy Company dug their foxholes deep in the forests of Bastogne in anticipation of defending it. They survived bitterly cold temperatures, starvation, and an awesome display of enemy firepower while defending their position. Even as they were surrounded by German forces, outnumbered 5-1, lacking in cold weather gear, ammunition, food, medical supplies, and senior officers, they held their ground within their fox holes.
These brave men of Easy Company huddling in their fox holes, taking care of each other and refusing to yield to the unrelenting shells flying all around, got me thinking about my own foxhole. Part of basic training for a soldier is learning to dig a fox hole. When you are in the heat of battle, your fox hole may not be very deep: just a shallow dip to lay down in. But, the longer the battle persists, the deeper and more elaborate soldiers dig out their fox holes. Such was the case in the long and bitter Battle of the Bulge.
I wonder: how many of us view our marriage as a foxhole? Do we see this sacramental every day as the thing we should be constantly working to improve so that it can be a solace in times of hardship? I’ll be honest: Jack and I can both say that there’s been many times in the last fifteen years that our marriage WAS the battle. But, if you envision with me the idea of soldiers running around on the battle field while shells whiz past them because they don’t want to dig into their foxhole with their partner–that sounds dangerous, wreckless, and crazy, doesn’t it? How is it that we often allow the best gift in our lives to become our deepest dread? The very gift we are given to find shelter in the heat of life often becomes a place we don’t want to be. So how do we survive, fighting outside, fighting inside, constantly? How do we survive a life with no foxhole?
I have discovered what to do when you find yourself outside your foxhole: start digging! When the battle rages, no matter how much you might want to pummel your foxhole partner, start working on that hole. If your foxhole is non-existent, dig a divot. Push your partner in the divot; lay down next to him/her. When the shelling stops for a moment, get up and start digging again. Invest. Find something–if only one thing–your partner does well and focus on it. If you can’t think of anything good about them, utter one prayer to God, “Thank you for my partner. Thank you for my partner.” I know it sounds corny and desperate even, but consider this: do you want a foxhole, or do you want to be the soldier running around on the battlefield all alone and most certainly about to be gunned down?
I want a foxhole. I want a home to hide in. I want a partner.
It took a long time for me to understand that just because our lives were being shredded, either relationally or financially, whether one of us is extremely ill or both of us are healthy, whether the doctors say one of our children won’t be born alive or live to be a certain age, whether we have jobs or whether we are losing everything, whether we have just planned another wedding or kissed another casket goodbye . . . WE ARE BLESSED, because within our two hearts is enough of a home for both of us to find shelter in.
As long as we stay in our foxhole together, as long as we refuse to give up on each other, we can survive this war of life. Whether we stick our necks out to fight or duck down to evade a shelling, we can keep each other warm, laughing, and alive. The whole world can blaze; we’re warm in our foxhole.
I wish I could hand you a shovel through this keyboard. Instead, ponder these verses and quotes that will bring you the strength and determination to dig out your foxhole. The Word of God is the most powerful tool we can use to improve our foxholes (marriages), whether we are singing these verses of truth in moments of profound love or muttering them through clenched teeth of profound anger and hurt (our marriage has been filled with both). Pray these words with me!
Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” 1 Samuel 20:42
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go . . .
Song of Songs 3:4
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; Song of Songs 6:3
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Song of Songs 8:6-7
I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Ok! That’s enough for us to all chew on this week, I think . . .
God bless your foxhole. God help me and Jack with ours!