I was chatting with a close friend on the phone the other day about the ways in which my marriage has blossomed in the past year or so. She knows about some of the struggles Dan and I have faced, and the demons with which we’ve wrestled.
“I wish I could write about the things I’ve seen and the ways that the love — not just romantic love, but true hardcore agape love — has grown between Dan and I.” I said. But many of the details are things I don’t feel comfortable sharing with the world at large. Many of our battles are unknown even to her.
“I just wish I could encourage all those couples slugging it out and slogging through, and who’ve resigned themselves to a life of the same, to not give up hope.”
Well, that I can do.
I don’t have any brilliant advice to give — other than to encourage you to cling steadfastly to hope — and I don’t have any terrible compelling stories to share — other than to tell you that through my own marriage I’ve seen God’s generosity and mercy at work firsthand — but I will say this:
Maybe things are darker than you ever could have imagined and you’re sitting there wondering whether you can endure another fifty years or so of this. Maybe you want to check out and take the next plane to Antigua.
Or maybe, like me, you’re completely smitten with your spouse and always have been, but simply weren’t prepared for the many small crosses of marriage. Maybe you’re wondering whether the minor (and sometimes not-so-minor) irritations and misunderstandings that dot your days will ever abate. Maybe a subtle but ever-present distance has grown between you and your husband. And maybe you’re missing all that wildly passionate love that once had the power to cover a multitude of sins.
About a year ago I wrote this:
Much has been written by women far wiser than I about how to fight fair. I think such exhortations are fantastic and should be implemented as much and as often as possible. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that until and unless God himself chooses to transform me and Dan (and the way we argue), no amount of advice is going to make a difference.
If we hit that red zone, all encouragements to take a step back, to breathe, and to view this process as a quest for truth fly out the window.
But you know, over time I’ve made peace with that. Sometimes you just have to accept the ugliness and patiently wait for God to redeem it.
Which, as you know, he always does.
That reflection about how God always redeems the ugliness? It was written in faith. At that point Dan and I were still very much at the mercy of the red zone.
I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but it seems that might no longer be true. I think we’ve had maybe one noteworthy argument since then? And it didn’t even involve the shattering of champagne flutes. How about that?
The Divine Physician worked on us for a long time. He tested, challenged, and stretched us out of our comfort zones again and again and again.
By the grace of God alone we did make some progress. We became a little more humble, a touch more patient, and our trust in God grew bit by bit. But you know, saint-making is a lifelong process. Most of us don’t wake up one morning and realize that at long last we’re finally holy enough to be exemplary wives and husbands who only ever treat one another with kindness and perfect respect.
But do you know what can happen? God can gaze down from between a break in the clouds and see two fallen, undeserving people doing their best to make this whole marriage thing work. He can see them battling it out day after day, begging him for mercy and reprieve, and he — in all of his incomprehensible goodness — can say, “Yes.”
“Yes, I will infuse you with more love for one another than you ever could have imagined. Yes, I will tear down the silly walls that stand between you. And yes, you will have your happily ever after — though it may look a little different than your young, naive mind might once have imagined.”
Does this mean that we will never again experience marital growing pains? I highly doubt it. I’m sure God has more refinement in store for Dan and me. Perhaps our biggest challenges are yet to come. But some sort of crazy heavenly grace has rained down upon us and we are a different couple than we were even a year ago.
The best — albeit unsatisfactory — way I can think to describe it is that it felt like for the first decade or so of our marriage we were learning how to be a team. And maybe during the really tough games (read: seasons of life) we didn’t always like our teammate all that much. Maybe we passed the ball to them with just a little too much force in the hopes that it might sting a little when they caught it.
Slowly we started to figure out how to work together, though, and things seemed to chug along just a little more smoothly, day by day. We even started scoring the odd point here and there.
But then one day, it’s like God lifted the blinders from my eyes, and said, “See! Do you see this man? Aren’t you in awe of his skill? Of the way he carries this team? And protects you on the field? And doesn’t he look cute in his uniform?” (Not that the latter was news to me.)
So, you look, and at long last you see. And he sees. You see each other with all the love, charity, and affection that God always intended. (Or a good portion more of it anyway.) And you win at the championship game of love.
Sure, the game may have been rigged when God decided to ordain your victory. And yes, more challenging games are probably yet to be played. But when you have a teammate as amazing as yours? Bring it on, world. Bring it on. We’ve got this.
Maybe my somewhat flawed analogy doesn’t resonate with you at all. Perhaps you and your husband have been frolicking hand-in-hand through fields of dandelions from day one. But if you find yourself even the slightest bit demoralized by how very, very hard marriage can sometimes be, please don’t give up hope, sweet friends.
Your love story isn’t over yet.