When Three Looks Like Two: The Braid


I didn’t get into it thinking that it was a 50 – 50 thing. Actually, I figured that sometimes it would be 60-40, 30-70, 80-20, or even 10-90 depending on who was strong and who needed the most support at any given moment. To be sure, it should most often be around 50-50 but… life happens.

After my mother died, I was utterly destroyed. As awful as it seems I wanted to crawl up in the grave with her. She had been my best friend, my confidant, and my constant companion. My husband worked two jobs at the time and his time at home consisted of waking early, going to work, coming home to eat and nap, leaving again for his night job and then coming back late to sleep. My mom picked up where he left off. She went to school functions with me or in my place when I was working; she joined us for outings, picked up or dropped off kids at lessons, came over in the evenings to hang out and help. Nana was really more like a third parent. After she died, our marriage was pretty close to the 10-90 side of things. My husband took over because I was barely able to stand under the burden of my grief.

There have been many times in our twenty-year relationship that one or the other of us had to take on the lion’s share of the load. That was ok, we prepared for this, “better or worse, sickness and health,” and all that. This model works just fine…

Until it doesn’t.

The model is contingent upon one person always being strong enough to take over when the other is weak. But what if you’re both at 20% at the same time? What happens when the bottom drops out of both of your worlds simultaneously? What on earth can hold you together then? What happens when you can’t rely on the other to pick up the slack?

Look to the braid.

I don’t know if you do hair, but I do. With two beautiful daughters, I do a lot of braiding: cornrows, dutch braids, box braids, extensions, and a plethora of braided and unbraided styles. Even if I didn’t, I’d know what a braid looked like, and I’m sure there isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t seen at least one braid before. A braid is comprised of three distinct strands joined together to look like two. If it’s done well, there’s no way to tell which strand is which and where the third strand intertwines. The braid does much more than bind the two together; it strengthens the strands exponentially. Braided hair can withstand whipping wind, buffeting waves, tugging, pulling, and tremendous weight and still protect the core of the hair. Braids, at their essence, are a protective hairstyle. Even if some hairs pull away or break off in the wear and tear of life, the bond remains.

That invisible third strand is how the marriage of two people on 20% can be sustained in the rough times. When Jesus is a partner in your marriage, you have someone who will hold you both together against all the odds. When neither of you has the answers, He does. When neither of you has the strength to go on, He gives it to you. When neither of you can take care of the other, He provides the way.

It may seem strange, impossible even, to rely on an invisible entity to bind and strengthen a relationship, but one needs only to look at the braid to see that it really does work.

Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

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