Category Archives: bible characters

Letter 29: Happy Anniversary Mia Perla


“Then Isaac … took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her.” Genesis 24:67a (ESV)

Nine years ago today, my wife and I married each other. Our actual wedding was really just the beginning, and looking back at the time since that day, I can appreciate the wisdom of the old vows we made that day. We’ve known sickness and health and experienced better and worse. While not poverty, we’ve even tried to live out of our freezer for two weeks as an economizing measure. Through it all, my love for her has deepened and spread.

Why? There has been nothing to distinguish us from any other couple who has gotten married. The snippet from Genesis above has stuck in my mind as I have thought about my marriage, and why I think of myself as “more married” today than I was nine years ago.

The quote comes at the end of a long chapter explaining how Isaac gets a wife. Isaac himself has no involvement in the process, as Abraham entrusts the whole thing to one of his servants. The servant finds s suitable woman, bring her back to Abraham’s camp, and Isaac is summoned. He marries Rebekah, and then he loves her.

Did you catch that? Isaac married Rebekah, and then he loved her. That is not how we usually think of marriage. The wedding is supposed to be a celebration of love. In deciding to get marries, the couple has reached the apex of love. Marriage is the condition subsequent of love. Isaac and Rebekah have it in reverse: love as the apex of marriage. He married her, and then he loved her. The love came after the commitment.

My love can be fickle. There are moments of when I do not view my wife with dewy-eyed sentiment. Sometimes I know we have both questioned what we are doing with each other. We have hurt each other terribly. Singleness can be so much easier. Yet we remain married.

Each day, I have a choice: I can be married to my wife, or not. Each day I must make the choice to love her. For these reasons, I can say that our marriage has grown, and with it, my love for my wife. That commitment to our relationship, and its daily renewal, grounds me to love, and it is that commitment I come back to whenever I am feeling less than romantic. When in doubt, wash the dishes.

The more I do this, the more I find that I love my wife. We have created memories, points of contact that bind us together. I love because I commit, and I commit because I love. Each branch of action feeds the other, but it starts with commitment.

I’ll close with words not my own. They belong to the poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet, written of her marriage, but hey speak of mine, too.

“To My Dear and Loving Husband”

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.


I prize thy love more than whole Mines of Gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.


Thy love is such I can no way repay,

The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.

Then while we live, in love lets so persevere,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.



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Letter 25: The Sign of Jonah

In recent weeks, I’ve been feeling a lot like the prophet Jonah.  You may remember him chiefly for being held captive inside a large fish for three days.  That’s certainly the part I remember from Sunday School all those years ago.  But that’s not the part I’m thinking about.

If you remember the story, God instructs Jonah to go to Nineveh to declare God’s punishment on them.  Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, which had subdued Israel, and now ruled them as a client state.  We can think of it today in terms of being asked by God to travel to an ISIS camp to declare God’s judgment upon them.  Jonah, of course, wants nothing to do with this, and so he takes a ship bound in the opposite direction.  Why?

We have to wait for the end of the book to find out.  In Jonah 4:2-3, the prophet explains himself.  While the mission would seem to be an Israelite’s dream, Jonah knows better.  God isn’t going to smite the Assyrians, He is going to have mercy on them.  And Jonah won’t abide that.  He pouts indignantly.  It’s not clear what he hates more, God’s mercy itself, or his own role as an agent of that mercy.

God is nothing if not patient.  Previously, He had Jonah swallowed by a great fish in the face of a terrific storm.  Jonah was saved from certain drowning, and after repenting of his desire to flee God’s call, Jonah was released to obey that call.  He could appear before the Ninevites as living proof of God’s mercy.  Since Jonah remained recalcitrant, God tried yet again.

While Jonah kept his watch over the city, God caused a gourd vine to rise up to shelter Jonah from the fierceness of the sun (4:6).  The next day, God took the vine away, sending a worm to eat it.  As if that were not enough, God then sent a hot wind off the desert and a blazing sun.  Jonah was scorched, so he pouted, again.

At this point, God chooses to confront Jonah directly.  Why is Jonah so upset?  He has done nothing to help the vine grow or preserve it from pests.  Yet Jonah is so distressed about its fate that he wants to die.  But what, then, of the city of Nineveh, teeming with humans made in the image of God, or the many animals within its limits?  Does God not have the right to be upset about their fate?  Does He not have the right to show mercy?

For the past several years, I have felt increasingly out of touch with the church I attend.  Most of the people I have known, and consider friends, have left.  I do not have much in common with those who remain.  I would much rather be somewhere else, and yet there I remain, and Elder of the church.

Is my discomfort a sign that I should leave, or a sign that God wishes stretch me?

Jonah was clearly stretched.  It amazes me that having received such an extraordinary demonstration of God’s mercy, he could not extend that grace to others.  But am I all that different?  I struggle to extend grace.  I get hung up on others’ sinfulness.  I don’t want to be seen condoning it.  So how do you hate the sin, yet love the sinner?

If I am to serve them, I must love them.  But if that does not come naturally, what then?  Only God’s love and love them, and He can only love pour that love through me if I yield to it.  We make it sound the simplest thing to do, yet I am finding it so hard.  It’s the funny thing, we all yearn to be used of God, but we rarely give a thought as to how He might choose to use us.

Pray for me.jonah

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