The Thing About Marriage Is…

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This is one of Jeff’s favorite pictures of us – on our 15 year wedding anniversary. The adventure continues…

Today is my 19th wedding anniversary. Not hardly long enough to understand very much of what it means to join my life and heart with another, and just long enough to get a glimpse of both how beautiful and heartbreaking the attempt can be.

The thing about marriage is…no one comes into it with any idea of what they are doing. I realize now it is better that way for all involved. Nineteen years ago I thought marriage was about love. About companionship. About sex. About beginning a new family together. And it most certainly is all of that.

But…for some…those brave enough to make the attempt for something greater…who are hopefully surrounded by marriage mentors able to explain and model the process…or those who God pulls along kicking and screaming… (My category, by the way.)

Marriage can also about two broken people, being courageous enough to undress their broken souls in front of the other… in all its raw vulnerability, almost never at convenient times, usually in shockingly unpredictable ways… and asking to be loved…offering unconditional love to the other…the very things that broken souls struggle to do.

And along the way, if both husband and wife face their fear of rejection, of abandonment, of failure…if they decide to do the hard and at times terrifying heart work needed to repair the damage sin has done in their lives…if they decide to stay present both physically and emotionally, even when everything in them is leading them to retreat…they have a unique opportunity.

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And this is one of my favorite pictures of us two…taken before a flight I made to Oslo…so much symbolism here…

To experience healing. Growth. To develop hearts with greater capacity to love and receive love. To do this amazing thing where their lives become more intertwined and interdependent…yet at the same time they become more fully the individual God created them to be…cheering each other on in their journey, both from the sideline as a fan, and in the race as partner all at the same time.

And if they keep at it…one day…what began as two broken people uniting in their brokenness, has the potential to become two more-whole people, enjoying the delightful and tender experience of loving and being loved by the more complete, more mature version of their spouse.  Because years into a marriage, one’s husband or wife is both the same person they married, and also, the different person that their time together has helped craft. And as their bodies decline with age and the mileage of life, their hearts can come alive, enabling a togetherness and love that is unavailable… and honestly, unimaginable in their youthful brokenness.

This is how two become one. It is a longer, messier, and more gloriously wonderful journey than anyone could ever explain to another. Instead, it must be personally experienced through the years.

The thing about marriage is…it isn’t what most people think it is. It can be more. Way more.

 

I Meant It, Even When I Didn’t Know What It Meant

(Written Friday night in ICU at Jeff’s bedside, after his surgery)

Jeff,

When I said, “For better or worse,”,  “In sickness and in health,” I meant it. Even when I didn’t know what it meant.

I'm wearing his ring, since he had to take it off for surgery.

I’m wearing his ring, since he had to take it off for surgery.

On that cold November day in our mid-twenties when I spoke those words…you were so humorously nervous about becoming a husband. Me, so in love and so oblivious to just how hard marriage could be. We were so sure we had it all figured out. The older couples around us must have looked on with a curious mixture of fear for us at our ignorance and joy with us at our enthusiasm. The same way we look at young couples now. Years in together, three kids and many adventures later, we are finally all grown up. Or at least significantly on the way.

And look at where we are tonight. You just out of another surgery to deal with the damage cancer is doing to your guts. Me weeping at your bedside, my guts all knotted up too. Who knew this was coming?

Really, no one knows what their vows mean until they have to keep them. I guess we know something about it now.

I look at you laying in ICU. Again.

I see you sleeping, exhausted and pale, attached to beeping machines with tubes running everywhere. Again.

I feel my heart ache, literally, with a visceral spasm that rolls through me from the inside out. My soul must look like angry waves on the front end of a hurricane. Again.

And I know I will have to do all of this again.

And I will.

Because I love you. Because just like on our wedding day, I am choosing to love you. I didn’t know what it meant then. I sort of have a clue what it means now. And I’m still in. Even though I don’t know what we will both have to do in order to keep our vows. I will try my best to love you with all I’ve got, even as it breaks my heart, even as it leads me to places like this. I will hold your hand and kiss your face and honor you until it is time to hand you off to the One who loves You infinitely more than I do.

And that must be a lot – because after all these years together, I’m learning to love you quite a bit.