Somehow we have ended up here- eleven years in, three wild and free babies, our North Carolina home, sitting on the back porch on the last evening of the summer, drinking wine and laughing and lamenting and dreaming and talking about who we are and who we once were and our truest true. One of us said a word that came out the wrong way at just the wrong, or maybe right, time and we laughed until we cried. Just as we were composing ourselves, I said the word over again and we clutched our sides, wine coming out of my mouth, tears breaking free, it was just so funny and we just couldn’t recover.
I remember wondering if neighbors heard us, would they be shocked at a husband and wife laughing like that? The laugh-until-we-cry, the make-a-fool-out-of-myself-as-I-spill-wine connection, the intimacy? It felt a little scandalous, truth be told. Do we only act like that with our girlfriends?
We had been talking a lot about marriages that night. See, it’s a weird thing to get older. It’s a weird thing to get married, barely, barely 22 years old (such babies we were!), and to watch friends get married, then we grow a bit older and watch friends have babies, and then we grow a bit older still and we watch friends get divorced.
It’s a weird, sad thing and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately. Why is it that some marriages grow towards each other, while some grow apart?
2016 has been a wake up call to us, I think. Our marriage is strong and healthy and good and alive in ways it hasn’t been before, but our ground has been shaken, and we have had to learn how to hold each other tightly but delicately as we each still have so much to learn about who we are becoming on our together road.
We’ve had wake up calls before, though; these things happen over the course of a marriage.
For us it came in 2005, when we got married. Our first year was wild and wonderful but we were young and unsteady and immature and wounded the other so easily out of insecure love, got hurt so easily and didn’t know how to have grace. We were fierce and argumentative and passionate and year one was hard.
And then also in 2007-2009, when Lane went to war again and again and again. Everything about war is hard, every single thing. He came home, and we were both broken in our own ways and had to do the work of mending our own fraying pieces while also tenderly carrying each other’s broken and these years were hard.
And also 2011, first baby born. We waited six years to have a baby, and still, a grenade went off in our marriage as we adjusted to our new normal. We were exhausted, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing with her, we took our stress and busyness and worries and everything out on each other and this change was hard.
Each time our ground has shook, each time we’ve been broken down a bit, we’ve changed a bit, we’ve seen how easily we throw hurtful words at each other, how hard it is to love, how much work it takes to climb this mountain. We’ve seen that the work of love is hard.
But these wake up calls are good sometimes, I think. These moments that shake our ground are good, sometimes.
See, it is so hard to love. It is so hard to actually lay your life down for another and do the work of love.
This work of love is again and again and again and again once more dying to ourselves, so that they might have a deeper, fuller, richer life. It is again and again and again once more moving toward each other when it is so much easier to move away.
See, these wake-up moments cause us to ask, Are we actually willing to do that work? That hard and painful and sacrificial work of love?
Our hearts are busted up and splintered, right alongside each other as we all carry our threads and our pieces and our broken hallelujah’s that it becomes just so easy to love ourself first, take care of ourself first, think of ourself first. Isn’t that being responsible to our hearts? Isn’t that being true to who we are and not losing what is precious in the name of what is good?
And I think of the words of Jesus, who tells us that his way is the way of loving as he did, living as he did, pouring out and dying to himself and loving others above himself, even when it’s hard.
In my young life, this I know: Our ground will shake and we will be leveled and we will change and we will look to be rebuilt. I know that sometimes rebuilding comes when a marriage ends because God’s love covers us there too.
But also, I know that God’s love covers and renews and fills and cleanses and washes over and strengthens us within our marriage too. God’s love is deep and wide and high and strong and true and nothing- no power and no hardship and no height and no depth and no struggling marriage either- can separate us from his love.
I think of our eleven-years-in journey and the daily glances and the tongue-in-cheek comments and the making the bed and the raising of these babies of ours and the exhaustion and the wine on the back porch and the work, oh the work it takes. I think of our everyday ordinary love and I think of how much we’ve changed in eleven years as our feet find steady ground after each earthquake that has shook our world and how with each wobbly step towards each other we whisper I choose you still.
See, the work of love is not easy. The work of love is sacrificial and giving and selfless and humble and generous and abundant always and pouring out always, unconditional always.
And this just feels impossible at times. To bridge the gap between two souls, to recover and heal and stay the same while we change, to struggle through life while loving within a true marriage, to stay married when so many others don’t? It just feels impossible.
And I wonder if maybe that is some of the point. We bind ourself to another, for better and for worse, in good and bad, in smooth and rough waters, for as long as we both shall live. Without the selfless, abundant, holding us no matter what messes we make, no matter how busted up our hearts are, forever love of Jesus, covenant love is impossible.
We wake the next morning after the wine on the back porch to the wild and the children and the appointments and three loads of clean clothes waiting to be folded on the guest room bed. We wake in the morning and already have a disagreement about a dish that shouldn’t have gone in the dishwasher and the stress from conflicting schedules and the things that build up in a life.
The big and the small levels us, the earthquakes and the uneven ground cause us to stumble, the everyday ordinary can change two people, can make a marriage look different than it once did.
The work of love is hard, it takes so much to climb this mountain.
But we keep climbing, we keep taking steps together, we keep moving forward and up and toward love because love is dynamic and wild and love does.
And with each day that passes, each year that passes, our everyday ordinary fierce love keeps climbing and we get to know each other a little more, a little deeper and with each bend in the trail we see
the climb is worth the view.