Holding Fast: When Super Glue Isn’t Enough

My husband will not willingly go to a doctor.

While this is not an uncommon trait, particularly among men, the circumstances that make him actually go are the kind that will mentally and physically undo the normal, average human.

Several years ago I was talking to an acquaintance about her husband’s occupation. He was the guy who is in charge of sending out ambulances to accident scenes during any given shift. Further into the conversation she mentioned an email that was circulating among his EMT friends. It contained a photo of a guy who’s ankle had been split so wide open it didn’t look real. There was exposed bone. It was so garish that those EMTs who deal with trauma every day were shocked by it and thus continued forwarding the email.

That picture was of my husband’s leg.

It was one of only a handful of times I recall him willingly going to the doctor and that meant an ambulance retrieving him from the volleyball court.

The majority of the time, he is a tough-it-out guy. He may tell our kids if there is no blood or bone, they will be ok.

He still may not adhere to that for himself.

He is the one who first explained to me that Super Glue was used to stop bleeding for soldiers injured on the battle field. In Vietnam it saved many a life by allowing medics to stop the flow of blood and get the patient to a hospital.

Super Glue is our friend.

Circular saw cut on the meat of the hand? Super Glue.

Exacto knife slice? Super Glue.

The thing is, it works. It holds fast when there is an injury, a tear to the skin. It stops the bleeding.

It is strong and provides this barrier to keep out the bad and hold together to allow time for the healing.

Once the Super Glue is in place, however, you do not want to try and remove it. That fast hold hurts fierce when stripped away and can take with it skin—only increasing the divide, the injury.

When my brother preached these last three weeks on marriage and its purpose from Ephesians 5, he had us turn to Genesis 2 and God’s original uniting of the first man and woman. The beautiful account of Adam’s deep sleep, Eve’s creation and then their purpose brought me here, what it means to ultimately “hold fast.” In verse 24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

The bond that comes with holding fast makes two into one. Divided, separate parts are made whole. It is a powerful union.

Growing up I always heard the King James version of that Genesis 2 verse and would later often here churchgoers refer to “leave and cleave.” The man and woman would leave their parents and cleave to one another—just another way of saying hold fast.

Cleave is literally sticking to, adhering, gluing if you will.

That is the primary definition for cleave.

It is also the primary purpose of marriage.

Yet somewhere along the way, the secondary definition of the King James kind of word has become the one we seem to know. Most know the cleave that means to split or divide by or as if by a cutting blow.

Somehow those two definitions that are so far apart—not unlike that leg split wide—share just a razor thin difference whether to divide or unite. In a nation, a world, where divorce is more common than staying together, the cleave within the marriage means everything.

The same word has two primary meanings that are entirely opposites. The one implemented will make or break a union.

The end of this month will mark 25 years of marriage to my amazing Chadd.

While there are others I know (one couple in our church in particular who will reach 70 years of marriage this month!) have and will far exceed that number, today I think that is more abnormal than normal.

Our silver anniversary is a profound moment. I contemplate all those years, all that life lived, through five children and five surgeries and 12 homes and deaths and hurts and joys and failures and successes. There is not a secret formula for Chadd and me.

We are holding fast and it is not always easy.

When my eldest daughter tells me that she wants what we have, I smile and love that what she sees is something considered desirable. I also quickly tell her that what we have is hard fought. It has been attacked from within and from without.

Throughout scripture, we are commanded to hold fast to God’s covenant faithfulness to us.

In Deuteronomy we are told to hold fast to the LORD your God—repeatedly. In the Psalms God promises to deliver because of us holding fast in love. We are told to hold fast God’s commands in Proverbs and his covenant in Isaiah and love and justice in Hosea. Hold fast to what is good says Romans and 1 Corinthians and Philippians to hold fast to the word. Hebrews ask that we hold fast our confidence, our confession, our hope.

The mystery boggles my tiny mind. I often tell people that the wisdom I have to share is primarily a warning of what not to do.

I stare at a print in my office of a woman from a shipwreck washed ashore. She is barely out of the waves and pulling herself up by the cross beams of a cross. Holding fast to her rescue.

This holding fast is like that Super Glue, covering a divide, a split, leaving time for healing—a way to stop the bleeding.

Yet much like my husband’s ankle, the wide open breaks and tears will require more than the glue.

Following Chadd’s second surgery on his ankle, a wound care specialist taught me how to pack cow intestines into that wound. Yes, cow intestines. The split was so wide that the skin needed something to hold onto and provide a stable surface—a spot where the cells could adhere and begin to build to close that gap for healing.

There is a lot of holding fast couples can do by sheer force of will, many times the cleaving of their own power may be able to cover a wound. It is the deep and harrowing, the stomach churning hurts that will not be repaired this way.

And many of those wide wounds come within the marriage itself. That is why the One wounded deepest is the only qualified physician for those type of tears and damage.

Without access to this Doctor, to this kind of healing, to this kind of holding fast, marriages do not survive.

Chadd would tell you the same himself. Without Jesus bridging that wide gap, that spot that may have been cleaved (and not with the first definition) there is no unity, no one surviving. The two become one when they are fully reliant on the One wounded on our behalf.

It is a learning process, of the lifelong variety.

I would never have thought to use an intestine to help bring healing to a deep wound, but that is why we looked to someone who did.

When Jesus was broken wide and completely for me, for Chadd, it was His demonstration of holding fast. We look to Him. His willing death meant His own holding fast to a cross He could have come down from. His blood flowed and there was no stopping it. He held fast then and He does it now.

It is like we are just now learning what love and marriage look like—25 years in! Submission is an easy directive when the one to whom you submit has been broken for you. Husbands called to lay down their lives learn that the healing and resurrection follow.

Like the Savior leaving the tomb behind, new life grows out of a life willingly laid down.

The relationship we have in marriage is a clear and perhaps undeserved example of our ultimate relationship. Verses 32 and 32 leave no doubt: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound , and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

When we celebrate our relationship reaching a milestone in a couple of weeks I want it to be clear to those around me that it was bought with a price and that we are holding fast because we have been held fast.

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