It’s everything we thought it would be, and everything we did not expect it to be, all thrown in together.
It’s beautiful and it’s chaotic, it’s tiring and it’s uplifting.
It’s exactly what we need and it’s what makes us want to crawl in a hole and hide.
It’s every juxtaposition you can imagine, because it’s two imperfect people’s lives constantly colliding.
But it’s good.
My husband, Tucker and I have a slightly unique take on the subject because we met and started dating at an age when our parents still had to drive us to a restaurant for dinner. Actually, our first date was my high school’s play production of “Grease” and I will never forget his parents dropping us off as we held hands walking into my high school auditorium. We were fifteen-year-old babies. Naive, but pure of heart. We knew we would get married even then, and that certainly makes our story a bit of an anomaly.
Somehow we made it through the awkward days of high school, and through the challenges of our college years.
Then, our first year of marriage hit us like a ton of bricks. I was suddenly in charge of 19 first graders day to day, and he was in the throes of a new big-four consulting career that was absolutely kicking his butt. We were tired. We were learning to adjust to a new life in a new city, with our very own grown-up careers.
The honeymoon period quickly faded with the stresses of day to day life, but we leaned on each other to get through. We had no idea what we would walk through after that time, but felt that it surely couldn’t get much harder than that first year.
A difficult pregnancy, a rare chronic disease diagnosis, months of caregiving for Tucker with a brand new baby, my dad’s cancer diagnosis and difficult death coinciding with a tumultuous adoption… I guess it did get harder. A lot harder.
Many people see marriage as something that will help gratify their desire for a picture-perfect life. Many think that marriage will fulfill what they need to feel complete, whole.
Lots of times people think that marriage makes life easier.
My take on it is that marriage provides a companion, plain and simple. Someone to walk with, process with. It gives us another to refine us, to make us more like the person we were meant to become. That doesn’t necessarily come in rosy, sweet conversations about how we want to help each other out, or how much we love the other (though that can be nice.)
I believe it comes through watching them encounter hardship and coming out the other side. It comes through difficult conversations, even arguments and clashing of strong opinions. That is where the refinement happens.
The goodness of marriage comes when we lay down our pride and listen to the other, the one on the other side of the table, the one we committed to spending all of our days with.
When we realize that they’re the one who sees us, really sees us the most and has the most authority on the subject of me, it changes the way we listen. They are, after all, the one person who is most intimately associated with you- they sleep with you, eat with you, see your every move, decision and step, every day.
What do I need to see? What do I need to change? What are the habits of thinking, talking, being, that don’t align with the way Jesus guided us to do things through His word?
I don’t know about you, but my response to the refinement that marriage brings isn’t always pretty. I find myself either trudging through shame-infested waters or bowing up my defenses. Either way, somehow, we learn and grow through it. Sometimes I find myself in awe that someone who knows me as well as Tucker does could love me still, and commit to continue loving me for all of my days.
Then, when I realize that my heavenly dad sees me and knows me infinitely more clearly than my husband, it brings me to the realization of the kind of love that I’ve been given. It’s genuinely unconditional. He believes in me, He loves me more than I can possibly understand now, despite who I am, despite the things that get brought to light in the purification process of marriage.
And I believe, for me, Tucker is the one to help me become more and more of my true self, as I hope to do the same for him.
In all of this, as we learn and grow and refine together, our children are watching. Even when, (especially) when we wish they weren’t. They’re present for all of the moments that we fail, they’re around for the moments when we’re winning, and they glean so much from our state of being.
So we owe it to them, and we owe it to ourselves to invest in each other, especially during these tumultuous years of mothering. Nothing shifts a relationship or marriage like the addition of little humans to care for day in and day out.
So, those of us who have committed to another on this side of heaven have a responsibility to love that person and demonstrate humble acceptance of the things we need to work on. It’s when our kids see the “I’m sorry” and the “I will work on it,” that they realize some pivotal things about us and about themselves:
We can’t and should never appear to be infallible. There is no perfection in who we are but there is perfection in a Savior who redeems us and sheds light into our faults and failures, using them for the work of His kingdom.
Relationship requires work. Often that work isn’t fun, but it is necessary.
Openness in communication is everything.
They see it. They will know love by how we love one another. When we are healthy together, we have more of an ability to love others- our children included.
So, this is a just a reminder from myself to me, and hopefully to those of you who plan to live up close and personal with another human for your entire life.
It’s not easy.
But there is grace; for us and for those who depend on us. There is always tomorrow. Tomorrow holds the possibility for healing, love and change. Always.