On the Side: July 2024

Shooting for Five Stars
by Carol Mason Shrader

My physician hubby and I just celebrated 33 years married. 33 years. 25 of those I have been married to a physician. (The first eight he was an aerospace engineer but don’t get me started on the bliss of having a NASA engineer as a husband and the flex schedule that meant he had a three-day weekend twice a month!)

A year ago, we purchased a house in the town of our beloved alma mater with the hope of spending an increasing amount of time there in the coming years. In the meantime (meaning in THESE years where he still works so very much that we can only get there once or twice a year….), we are using it for short-term rentals. And y’all, I am having the best time hosting guests! I thrifted, cleaned out attics and searched local antique stores to give it the cozy and comfortable charm I had envisioned the minute I saw the house for the first time. So, though I am a thousand miles away from having these, often, strangers (and sometimes friends) gather and make memories brings me great joy. As ridiculous as it sounds, one of the parts that makes me smile, is that our short-term rental service asks for the guest to leave a review, and the reviews are delightful! I love reading how we succeeded and even how we might improve the space! (I have added luggage racks to each room this week in direct response to a reviewer!)

A few years ago, Wade and I were returning from a trip when we saw a gentleman waiting in baggage claim with a rose. A woman from our flight walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. As I passed, I heard him telling her how many hours they had been apart. How many hours.

If my math skills serve, it was around 10 days since last, they had been together. But if the reunion was any evidence, it had been unbearable to be separated. I do not know any more of their story, but I had concocted an entire history for them before my bags arrived.

And maybe it was the romantic in me—we were just returning from a sweet weekend away ourselves—but I found myself hoping that my version was accurate. This was not a young couple. This was a couple that probably had children, grandchildren and maybe even some greats. Perhaps they were newlyweds, but I have to tell you that I hope they were not. I hope that they were that happy to see each other after a lifetime of marriage. I pray that 10 days apart felt like an eternity because they had spent years and years side by side and preferred it that way.

In a world where the divorce rate continues to climb, and the trend toward not marrying at all does the same, my heart aches for love. We have become such a society of convenience that we do not want anything that requires too much effort. Our food is microwavable, our books are downloadable with a moment’s notice, and our marriages can be dismantled in less time than it took to walk down the aisle.

Our college campus minister, Ken Watkins, quoted these verses when Wade and I married:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a, NIV).

As he read them, he immediately turned to Wade and I and said, “Anyone who has attempted to be patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not irritable or resentful knows how very difficult these words are to follow.” I remember dreamily looking into the eyes of my groom and wondering, how hard could it possibly be? I adored him.

Because Ken knew us, he added that he knew this marriage would be blending idealism (me) and realism (my groom). So, he encouraged us that our vows were not just ritualistic promises.

And then this dear minister turned to us and asked first Wade and then me:
“Carol, do you commit yourself to Wade, to be his wife, to seek God’s grace and strength in order to love him as he needs to be loved?

Do you accept him as he is and desire that he will grow as a person becoming all that God made him to be?

Do you pledge to forgive him when he fails to live up to your expectations of him?

Do you covenant to care for Wade in times of sadness and sickness and to celebrate with him in times of joy as long as you both shall live?”

Y’all, I didn’t even hesitate. I didn’t even pause. I practically shouted, “I do!”

See, young me had no idea of the storms that would blow through our lives together. Young me had no idea what our future held. Young me did not have a clue that I would be married to a physician and not get all the attention I crave. Young me didn’t know about the triplets plus one that would bless our lives. Young me had no idea how many moving trucks were in our future.

So, young me stood, smiling dreamily and didn’t hesitate.

But not-so-young me can confess to you that the truth is I don’t always live them. I don’t always live my vows. As a matter of fact, I would wager a guess that I more often dwell on how I think I should be loved than I dwell on loving my man the way he needs to be loved.

As for forgiving him when he fails to live up to my expectations? I fear I have seasons where instead of exercising forgiveness, I exercise stretching the bar of my expectations higher and higher out of his reach.

I get a little cocky over the vow regarding allowing him to grow to be all God desires him to be. I mean, after all, I married an aerospace engineer at that altar. Surely, I get points for loving him through a decision to go to medical school followed by four years of school, five years of residency and one year of fellowship. Right?

Vow number four, though, knocks me flat. Do I covenant (pledge, promise, agree) to care for Wade through times of sadness, sickness and celebrate in times of joy? Oh, the celebrating part I can cover. My dining room right now—covered in the décor for the upcoming grad party for our baby—can attest to that. But the sadness and sickness part can be a struggle for me. I want us on the same page—we have weathered our share of storms but sometimes we are weathering them in our own orbits. We can sit in shared sadness together, and I am supportive. But if he takes longer to move through the sadness, I fear I am standing on the sidelines clapping my hands for him to hurry and catch up, in possibly annoying staccato beats.

So, like our rental home, it occurred to me today that perhaps I would benefit from an app where Wade can leave me the occasional review. Maybe I need to see in black and white the areas where I succeed….and areas where I might improve living up to our vows. Perhaps looking at the areas where I fall short might spur me to do better, to make improvements, to buy luggage racks as it were. I am so grateful to know that I am still loved by the one I stared so dreamily at across the altar those few years ago, and I am so grateful to have today to love him better.

Oh, dear ones, a five-star review is nothing compared to the reward of a lifetime of counting the hours you are apart and celebrating every reunion in a way that speaks to you both! The reward is having a husband eager to get away with you to the little bungalow on the campus where you met. The reward is knowing that when the storms come, he is praying for me to be sustained, to endure and to cope. And the reward is knowing that together our tomorrow seems brighter no matter the season, the sickness or the storm.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV).

Carol M. Shrader

Carol Mason Shrader lives in Delaware—state number eight in her marriage—with her wonderful Wade, a child or two of their four (depending on the season) and two pups. She is ever grateful that the college minister who married them, gave her a printed copy of his sermon and the vows he asked them to make at their wedding so she can remember, refresh and recommit over and over and yes, over again. 

Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

About Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations® (CMDA) is made up of the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the Christian Dental Association (CDA). CMDA provides resources, networking opportunities, education and a public voice for Christian healthcare professionals and students. Founded in 1931, CMDA provides programs and services supporting its mission to "change hearts in healthcare" with a current membership of over 13,000 healthcare professionals. CMDA promotes positions and addresses policies on healthcare issues; conducts overseas medical education and evangelism projects; coordinates a network of Christian healthcare professionals for fellowship and professional growth; sponsors student ministries in medical dental, PA, and other healthcare training schools; distributes educational and inspirational resources; hosts marriage and family conferences; provides developing world missionary healthcare professionals with continuing education resources; and conducts academic exchange programs overseas. By being the "hands of Jesus" to needy people, CMDA seeks to fulfill His Great Commandment (Matthew 22:39; 25:36) and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). The Christian Medical & Dental Associations® is a 501(c)3 and is governed by a Board of Trustees and House of Delegates. Policies of CMDA are interpreted and applied by the Board of Trustees, which also establishes the guidelines for the executive director and his staff. An elected House of Delegates assists the board with recommendations on courses of action. The House of Delegates is composed of graduate, student, resident and missionary members who are elected for three-year terms by district and meets annually at the CMDA National Convention. Approximately 75 employees currently make up the staff of CMDA in the national office and U.S. field offices.

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