I could see my breath this morning.
And I was still in bed.
In my house.
Yep, winter weather before fall strolls on in.
I was supposed to be waking up in a tent, snuggled between two zipped together, flannel-lined sleeping bags that are getting threadbare from use, watching the sun stretch and yawn and languidly sit up over a river bed.
It’s amazing how quickly seasons can change here in Colorado, and I am again learning the importance of flexibility. An appropriate lesson for this 27th wedding anniversary of mine, the one for which poor weather thrwarted our planned camping excursion to a favorite river spot.
‘Cause things can change in an instant.
And when we have set in our mind one particular image of how things are supposed to go, and they don’t go that way…well without flexibility we are done in.
Through the years, the HH and I have had innumerable people tell us how envious they were/are of our relationship. They think we’ve gotten lucky. They assume it has all been rose petals and sunshine for us.
It ain’t so.
Marriage is hard.
Sometimes really, really hard.
The reality, the ugly truth is…marriage can be brutal. It is the laying bare of an imperfect body and soul before another equally imperfect body and soul, under the harsh, glaring lights of real life.
Sometimes laborious, sometimes frustrating, sometimes painful; marriage takes work. It requires flexibility, and it s not for the faint of heart.
And if I’m gonna continue to be transparent, I gotta confess: there are times when I have felt like giving up. Even recently.
But the truth is also this: marriage is the beautiful meshing together of those imperfect bodies and souls, of memories and relationships, of sweat and tears and hopes and dreams, until two truly become one; a tangled, haunting tapestry that cannot be unraveled without ripping apart the individuals themselves. It is a comfortable quilt on a cold day, a two-man fan club, a mirror for reflection, a song that no one else knows the lyrics to; it is private jokes, and tender looks, a breathless anticipation, a possibility unleashed, a sum greater than its parts.
Marriage is the most sacred, the most endearing, the most rewarding of all relationships. One worth every ounce of work when the two are willing to give it to God and give it their all.
Though I’ll never claim to have arrived, I’d like to share just a few ways we’ve managed to spend 27 years together and still enjoy one another, in spite of seasons of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. These are just a few random, rapid thoughts, penned while distracted by on-line Scrabble games, and not even close to an exhaustive list. But perhaps there is a grain of help that can be gleaned for some floundering marriage somewhere.
You definitely need to Be Flexible as I said, and get rid of any set image of how it is supposed to go.
You also need to Be Generous. Be generous with compliments, hugs, forgiveness and self. Give lavishly without thought of getting in return. And be stingy with nit-picking and fault-finding.
Be Focused. Be focused on the right things, the good things. Recently a Crime Scene Investigator visited a photography class that I take some of my students to. She shared how photography is used to document and to solve crimes and showed a few series of photos from actual crime scenes, 8 x 10 glossy images that many had to look away from. Yes, many were pretty gruesome but one in particular left me with an aching sadness. A man had passed away, alone, in an incredibly filthy mobile home. It was weeks before anyone noticed, and by the time the police arrived to check on him, there were maggots in his beard. Alone. Unnoticed. Maggots in his beard.
How does that happen? And how do you ever get that image out of your mind? I wondered.
So I did what I can’t help doing; I cornered the investigator, a towering, somewhat imposing woman until I looked in her eyes and saw the kindness, and I asked questions. How do you deal with this type of thing on a daily basis and not become disillusioned with humanity?
I remind myself that this is not the whole picture; this isn’t even the big part of the picture. This – she tapped the photo – is not our city. I keep my focus on the good and the beautiful things, she replied.
Sage words, ones that collided with other words that an unbeliever, someone with a different world view but still tremendous wisdom, said to me recently when I was foolishly lamenting on marital struggles. Why are you focusing so hard on this one area? I’m not saying you should accept it…but why are you focusing on it like a magnifying glass on a happy-go-lucky sidewalk ant?
We do that sometimes, don’t we? Put all our attention on the wrong things?
This welding of messages was a timely encouragement to set my mind on the good things.
Sometimes marriage means loving in action even when you don’t feel in love. If you are struggling with the emotional aspect, Be Willing to Go Back. Matthew West has a great song, called Moment of Truth and the lyrics begin like this:
You got your hand on the door
And you’re ready just to walk out
Well, the fight that you had
Filled your mind up with all this doubt
And you’re losing your mind
And you’re losing your faith
And you can’t remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Go back, go back
To the moment of truth
When she walked down the aisle
And you first said “I do.”
What drew you together in the first place? Go back to that place. For the HH and me, it was purely lust, a physical attraction. The rest came later as I wrote about HERE And I’ve found that physical is still one of our best ways to communicate. If I’m spitting mad and he hugs me, well, I tend to forget what I was mad about.
And even if it wasn’t what initially drew you together, Be Physical. Touch is a universal language, with proven healing powers. Speak it often!
Be Together: find common interests The HH and I…well, personality wise, and gifts and talents and callings…we are polar opposites. Yet. There are things we both enjoy doing – hiking, camping…and hanging with the grandkids. These things unite our hearts and help us create beautiful memories. We try to do them as frequently as possible.
Be Individuals. Yes, it is important to have common interests, to create memories doing fun things together. But it is equally important to have the freedom to be unique individuals. The HH accepts that I find watching Sunday football a ridiculous way to spend an afternoon…and I’m never gonna get him to scrapbook with me. That’s okay.
And above all…love unconditionally, without expectations. Love with total abandon. In one of my recent blog posts I said this:
There is a tremendous amount of freedom in letting go of expectations –expectations of others and of self – that have been gripped tightly in the fist like the strings of birthday balloons; there is an exhaling in the opening of the hand and watching them rise until they become nothing more than colorful dots in the distance, a memory of childhood.
Yes, marriage is hard. But when we put on the grace of God in Christ, and love as He does, liberally and unconditionally, it is the sweetest, most rewarding, most divine of all relationships.
AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Mark 10:8 NASB
But now faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB
Happy 27th to the HH and Me 🙂
Grateful for this wonderful life,
Marie with a 🙂