Marriage is one of those topics that is taboo in most intimate circles, so posting about it on a blog has a level of danger. As open as I might seem on this blog, I don’t think all things taboo are wrongly placed in that category. Marriage is intensely personal. Two lives, two hearts, two passions, two backgrounds and two dreams enfolded into one. Beautiful as the sea in theory — and potentially destructive as a hurricane in practicality. Its very nature begs my handling the topic with kid gloves.
So as I tell you about the celebration happening in our home (and likely erupting in the heavens) tomorrow for our 9th wedding anniversary, it is with some level of caution. What once felt like eons (when I heard a woman speak of her 10th anniversary), now makes me feel like we’ve only just begun. We’re newbies at this thing, yet still with soles tread thin.
Marriage has been the single hardest element of my life.
There is not one other thing I can point to that has refined me more than having my life joined to Nate’s. And he would say the same. But as the Holy-Spirit-illuminated reflection has been revealing to me lately, the best things in my life have been forged with fire.
Marriage has been the single most powerful stimulant into the love of Jesus in my life.
I remember having a conversation with a woman in her forties, just after Nate and I were newly married. I was disillusioned by this thing called marriage that had knocked the wind out of me and had me confused about why no one else around me appeared to have taken the emotional detour Nate and I did. Socially aware enough to know that the most personal struggles in marriage were not to be shared with just anyone, I divulged little but absorbed much. I was hoping for any ray of light. She told me the first 10 years of her marriage were hard. Ten years?! You have to be kidding me, I thought. I could barely tread water after twelve months and you’re telling me this could endure for ten years.
What she didn’t say in our brief exchange, but I have since learned by my own chunk of hard years in marriage, was that she wouldn’t have it any other way. And looking back–me too.
For me, marriage only expedited what God was already doing in my life. Marriage has been my incubator. Personal growth–in the face of another who saw my deepest sin (and yet wasn’t leaving)–was inevitable. And inevitably painful.
Nate and I entered marriage in our early twenties. What we lacked in life experience we made up for in opinions about how life should be lived. Pride hung at the entryway to our home, both in how we approached the outside world and in how we approached one another. Our approach to the outside world was like a slow-release gas, but our pride towards one another created instant toxicity. He knew how I needed to change (but held it in) and I didn’t hold back my “discernment” on how he should change.
Oh, we were deeply in love. And our love was loud. We were in full-time ministry together, on a team of others. We had late nights dreaming about how we might be used by God to change the world. Our hearts were all filled up with vision … and expectation. Fun, crazy fun, was a must in the midst of pouring our lives out unto others. Impact was our currency. Yet we didn’t really have a grid for God impacting us, the kind of impact that happens behind closed doors. And that void was, at times, caustic.
I remember how after one of our worst fights–where I said things that most people have enough self-control to only think, I was laden with shame. It was almost as if I wanted him to leave. I wanted him to prove to me that I was not one worth sticking it out for. I already believed that about myself, in fact I wore it like a cloak. If he just left then I would feel sufficiently punished. Deserving, that’s what I was.
But he held me closer than I ever remember him holding me and whispered in my ear, “I love you. You are beautiful to me. I forgive you, even if you don’t have the words to ask for forgiveness.”
His words infused life into my soul.
That moment to me is what marriage is all about. Companionship when life is well and we’re on our best behavior is fun, at best. But having someone step into the most shameful part of you, resist insult, and speak beauty … changes you. And for whatever reason, God was relentless in allowing those moments to happen with us, over and over again.
At the time I hated them. Friends shared stories about travels and ministry endeavors with their husbands, when I felt like we were jumping from lily pad to lily pad trying to stay afloat among the unpredictable tides of our hearts. I was jealous that they were changing the world with their husbands. Little did I know that we were changing the world. God was using my husband to change my world, and me to change his world. Something producing dividends beyond our four walls years later.
You can guess that we have had enough deep-heart transformation that I can write this post, however I’m not naive enough to believe that the next decade+ doesn’t hold new challenges. Growth is hard. We can’t both desire to grow in God and expect life to be smooth. Obvious to some, this has taken me almost a decade to grasp. Marriage, like any other vehicle for intimacy with God, was not meant to be easy. It was meant to be beautiful.
And true beauty doesn’t come easily.
Not so ironically, tradition holds that 9 years is the anniversary of pottery. My immature perspective of marriage shattered just about 8 and a half years ago with the plate I threw at Nate in our kitchen. Thank God that wasn’t the final word on me, him, or our marriage.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
Marriage broke me. God broke me. (That fresh-off-my-registry plate broke too.)
But marriage is restoring my heart. God is restoring my heart. God is using Nate to make me new.
How do you say thank you for that?
To my husband, who had every reason to leave long ago … you have shown yourself a faithful and loyal best friend. You have made me beautiful. I can’t wait for what’s ahead …
To the heavenly Husband, who had every reason to leave long ago … You have shown yourself a faithful and loyal Best Friend. You, O God, have made me beautiful. I can’t wait for what’s ahead …