• John & Vivett Dukes

Vivett Dukes: On Love and Marriage

When John and I first reconnected, being in a relationship and getting married was not on the forefront of my mind. About a year prior, I had gotten out of a very long-term relationship and was finally taking the time I needed to attend to myself in a way that I had never done before. Through genuine prayer and Bible study, I was learning to see myself and love myself through God's lens, not that of a man. I had tried love my way. It hadn't worked. It was time to attempt a different approach. With a sincere, diligent heart, I entered into a real relationship with Christ and began to feel adorned with the liberation of His love for me. Slowly but surely, His message of love seeped into my soul and I was becoming free to be me, and to love myself honestly and openly. Little did I know that John would soon be teaching me how to extend that love to others -- namely him -- within the covenant of husband and wife.

I knew early on that John and I had feelings that went beyond friendship for each other. John was very vocal about his love for me from the start. I, on the other hand, was more reserved in my profession of love towards him. Instead, I chose to focus on respect. I was scared to love -- especially to love somebody in prison. That was just way too much for me to fathom. How could we endure such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle? How would we make it through? I was still healing from the wounds that those who'd claimed to love me had inflicted. I told myself that I had to "toughen-up". I would tell John that love was over-rated and that even when love vacated the building, respect would carry us through. He wondered why I was separating the two - love and respect - when, in fact, they were inextricably linked. I told him that love, if you let it, will make a mockery of you. He heard the pain in my words. He was patient with me. He invited me to continue along the journey that I was already on with Christ, and to embrace love because it -- love -- God's love -- was the foundation for everything -- especially the feelings of true love that were blossoming between us. I accepted his offer.

That was August of 2015. From that time until now, I have grown to love and experience love in ways I had only dreamed about, but never really thought possible for me. I can only love John the way I do and experience the genuine love that he shows me in our marriage because I learned to love as God has instructed.

Like I said, I guarded my heart a lot during John's and my courtship, choosing to focus on respect and friendship over love, a lot of times. Since I chose to truly follow God and have Him as the Lord of my life, my life has deep meaning and things that once escaped me are now object lessons of Christ's ever-present love for me. In this way, I can love and be loved deeply and without fear.

In word and in action, John continues to consistently prove that my heart and all of me is safe with him. Despite the circumstances of his incarceration, with a daily comittment on both of our parts, our marriage thrives in goodness, kindness, patience, peace, faithfulness, joy, self-control and most of all -- LOVE.

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