There are myriad blogs out there about how to keep the marriage spicy; how to love well; how to honor your husband or love your wife; how twenty years later you’ll be more in love than ever…
This is not that blog.
It’s not that I don’t think those words are true or useful – I do. It’s just that, given the recent tumult of my own marriage, I’m wishing someone had warned me up front of this basic reality:
Marriage sucks. For everyone.
Seriously. It is hard, often boring work. And all of us have hellish seasons, years, decades…
Because marriage is, at its most fundamental core, two intrinsically selfish people attempting (and usually failing) to live for the other’s good at one’s own expense.
We’ve all survived some ugly, hard times, right? I ran 50 miles one day (on purpose). Another day, I almost died giving birth to my son, and only survived by losing my ability to have another (not on purpose).
And yet none of that compares even remotely to the ugly, hard, painful relationship that is marriage. For all I thought I knew and understood, at least theoretically, when I made my vows, I was absolutely clueless.
Truth? You make vows because sooner or later, you will want out. That’s why the make you say, “For better and for worse, in sickness and in health…” ‘Cause there will be sickness and there will be worse.
Marriage is the deep end of the ocean. The great unknown. Where feet will fail.
So I will call upon Your Name…
Despite that I’m constantly looking for close companions and confidants, I’m not all that quick to trust others. But when I do trust someone, I tend to elevate them. I idolize them. I put them on pedestals and am devastated at times of crisis to learn they are human.
This is no truer than with my husband.
We fight, okay people? I mean, we fight good and hard. I don’t mean we have disagreements. I mean, we fight. Reality TV fight. It’s not good, it’s not pretty. It’s a full-on Charlie Foxtrot every time. Rare as they are, they’re massive. And as my husband once observed after a particularly gnarly confrontation, it’s like this: We have a pretty good, fun, loving and generally other-oriented, healthy marriage “…with occasional bursts of What The Fuck?”*
It’s intense and scary and hopeless. We say mean, horrible things to each other, which we each, in turn, then carry around as ammunition against the other in the next confrontation.
And what I’m learning only now, eight years in, is that, whatever his part is in it all, my greatest sin against him (and God, for that matter) has been to make him an idol. To raise him up as a god who is perfectly trustworthy and safe and who can and will meet my every need and satisfy my every hurt every time. I’ve expected him to say the right thing and respond in accordance with my whim and mood.
I’ve set him up to fail me.
I shouldn’t be calling on him in the first place.
…And keep my eyes above the waves.
It’s disturbingly easy in times of distress for me to think about throwing in the towel. I cry, and I blame him, and I proclaim that we can’t possibly live like this another second.
It’s easy to forget what we’ve weathered in the past, and how much stronger we’ve been made by it. It’s easy to focus on the deafening crash and terrifying height of the waves and be consumed by fear and dread and hopelessness.
I’m learning it’s these times when I must, Must, MUST buckle down and do the hard work of captivating my angry thoughts and surrendering them to The Lord. I must lean into my fervent hope and belief – based on what I know and despite what I see – that we are equipped to do this together.
I must keep my eyes above the waves, set on the Savior who matched us, who is perpetually fitting us for one another… The One to whom our marriage *actually* belongs.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me…
We are not our own.
It’s tempting to look at marriage as a lifelong free ticket to shared bills, a consistent dinner date, best friend sleepovers, endless laugh-fests, and daily sessions of guilt-free baby-making multiple-orgasm sex.
And while all those things are sometimes true of marriage (even sometimes simultaneously – mark the calendar when that happens), the truth is that marriage was not just a gift to us from God. It’s not just delicious cake. It is to be our continual gift back to God, to each other, to our kids, and to the watching world.
Marriage is simultaneously the most mundane and adventuresome; the most painful and most pleasurable; the hardest and simplest thing I have or will ever be part of.
It is work. Hard, arduous labor, this giving-up myself exclusively for the good of another, and often at my total expense and with little hope for reward. It is excruciating at times to look around and realize, This is where I agreed to go with him. This is lightyears beyond the borders I had in mind when I asked You to “lead me where my trust is without borders.”
Marriage is a practice in abandoned discipleship and fearless obedience.
It is living as Christ.
But to catch the sunrise from atop the mountain you just climbed together, risking life and limb to do so, is worth the descent into the next valley and the up-hill battle toward the next peak.
For those few seconds when, holding hands, you are able to walk across the water, eyes fixed on Jesus who’s called you out there, and then to look back at each other in absolute wonder at what you’re doing together…
This is Life. It is the pinnacle of marriage. And it is worth every drop of blood, sweat, tears, and pride sacrificed along the way.
Neither of us is particularly safe or trustworthy or selfless. If we bank our success in ourselves and our commitment or love, we are seriously screwed. Out on the waves, it’s not going to help me one bit to look at my equally human, equally flawed husband to keep afloat.
But I can entrust him, myself, and us to Christ. And when I do…that’s when the magic happens. That’s when marriage is the fairy tale image I always dreamed about. That’s when we are so perfectly One that we actually experience, in small measure, what it must be like for the eternal unity of the Godhead.
All that to say, Happy 8th Anniversary to my love, my best friend, my confidant and champion. Even through our deepest, darkest valleys, I’d not trade you for another.
For I am Yours, and You are mine.
**All lyrics taken from ‘Oceans’ © 2013 Hillsong United