It's been one of those weeks where Aaron and I seem planets, maybe even galaxies, apart. Misunderstandings. Hurt feelings. Feet stomping to bedroom. (Mine.) Tears. (Mine.) Anger and frustration. Hour long conversations on the couch trying to sort things out, and for a few minutes at the beginning you think about gracefully waving the white flag of surrender, but instead you end up leading the troops on another charge, and at the end, you're no closer to a peace treaty than when you began.
The cracking moment always comes. I found Aaron in the kitchen yesterday, and I wrapped my arms around him. "I want us to have a beautiful marriage," I whispered. "I'm sorry." Seven times seventy, Jesus said, forgive and forgive and forgive, and this home needs that kind of math.
Today, I sat in the waiting room of the doctor's office, holding a book with one hand and rubbing my aching ear with the other. I was entirely caught up in the quiet life of a woman and her bees in the Ozark mountains, and then I read this,
"I met Paul, the boy who was to become my husband, when he was sixteen and I was fifteen. We were married some years later, and the legal arrangement that is called marriage worked well enough while we were children and while we had a child. But we grew older, and the son went off to school, and marriage did not serve as a structure for our lives as well as it once had....there was quite a pile to clear away before I could settle down...to the work of building a new kind of order, a structure on which a fifty-year-old woman can live her life alone, at peace with herself and the world around her."
I've been thinking about those words all day.
I admit, in my hottest flashes of anger with Aaron, the thought of being single again is appealing. "I could do whatever I want!" (In theory.) Yet I am troubled by the lie our culture propagates that the author seems to have believed - the idea that it is brave and romantic and freeing to release oneself from the bonds of marriage if marriage is no longer an important part of who you are.
The longer I'm married, I'm realizing this: there aren't enough cheerleaders for marriage. There aren't enough voices shouting, "This is worth it! It's harder, longer, and tougher than you ever imagined, but you can do it! Keep walking!" There aren't enough friends willing to look you in the eye and say, "I know you feel like this isn't what you signed up for, but you can't quit now."
What if bravery isn't starting a brand new story but staying in the story that seems dry and crusty and dull? What if bravery is walking after your spouse, catching them by the shoulder and looking them in the eye to say, "Forgive me?"
What if romance isn't fire and flame and the thrill of the unknown but nights where you take turns getting up with the baby? What if romance is loading the dishwasher when the other person doesn't notice and watching year after year pile up with gray hair and sun spots and flabby stomachs? (Of course, there will be some crazy good sex too.)
What if freedom isn't cutting oneself loose from a promise and beginning fresh but planting one's feet firmly in the dirt of a sacred vow? What if freedom is death to self, chosen day and again, the seed that falls to the ground to bring forth new life?
The shelf life of self-centered happiness is short.
If you need some words? A soundtrack to cheer you on? This EP is a voice for marriage that counters our culture. Put in on while you make dinner...and maybe you should dance.
We walked through valleys
We walked through mountaintops
Looking for rivers
Once we almost stopped
But we kept on walking
We felt the hunger
We felt the pain
Thirsting for water
Praying for rain
I'm glad we kept on walking
Here's to today
Here's to tomorrow
Here's to our love, from which we will borrow
Here's to forever
To you and to me
Here's to chasing the sun
The best is yet to come
-Us and Our Daughters
There is a King toward which creation hurtles in anticipation of redemption. And is He not the same King who can work redemption every morning in the vulnerable and valuable covenants that are our marriages?
Indeed, this is the better story. Not the leaving, but the staying. And in the staying, His goodness and mercy shall well up thick around us. The best is yet to come.