My husband and I love one another deeply. He is truly the friend I did not have until we met, and the ally that strengthens me continually through his steadiness and gentle loyalty. He is a man of strong character and faith. I am better for his place in my life, finding the longer we are married that we are a healthy balance for one another.
Marriage is a good ordinance from a good God. I see this more now than I ever did as a newlywed!
But marriage is like any other relationship, in that it has seasons -some which are smooth, and some which are more challenging. If the past 13 years are an accurate assessment, it would seem that each year we settle into one a valley or town in our relationship. These are the periods in which we do not connect well and seem to have a more difficult time than usual living with understanding and grace.
These are the seasons in which we are grateful that marriage is founded on a staying commitment that is not tossed about by feelings of love – because the stick-with-you promise is the love.
The simple reality is that marriage is committed work, and sometimes we tire of hard work.
The Bible identifies our underlying issue as one stemming from a theology of sin: our world is eclipsed by it, and sin now dwells in the deepest corners of our hearts, pulling us into ourselves. Thus, his heart is more easily focused on his needs, and my heart is steered in the direction of my needs.
And we hold on to our individual desires for dear life.
In general analysis of the past 13 years, the biggest heart issue that hurts my marriage is this:
Sometimes I fight to love a man that does not exist.
In the valleys of our relationship, I stand in front of Pat and I see a shadow behind him, a vision of who I want him to be. And all the while I say quietly in my heart: I will love you when you are THAT man. I will accept you fully when you are THAT man. I am angry with you for not being THAT man. See that shadow behind you? I love THAT man!
The problem with my vision is two-fold.
First, it is founded on untruth – the lie that perfect human love can be sought and found, and tied up neatly in one person. This belief denies sin’s pervasive reign and rule on this earth, tempting me with an unrealistic view of one man’s ability to measure up and deliver. This lie I believe exhausts my marriage if I do not identify it readily.
The second problem with my vision, is that I begin to justify my lie. One lie always leads to another. As I commit to belief that perfection should be found in my spouse, I begin to blame him for not meeting my expectations -my unreasonable expectations.
But married vows are based on the premise that perfect love will never be found this side of eternity. The vows we speak on the day of our wedding when all of life’s bumps lie ahead, are made public to ensure that we know and others know, that we are all in.
Countless untruths circulate about married love, particularly the lie that only the one who meets your every need, want and desire is worthy of your love. But healthy marriage cannot be based on continued thoughts of self-advancement. Real marriage requires tremendous reserves of humility, grace and mercy. It requires depths of compassion, kindness and desire to elevate the needs of another above your own. It requires a very different temperature of love than that which our misled generation states it will.
Someone has beautifully said that marriage is a process of falling in love time and time again, but always with the same person. And how true! Marriage is an overall cumulative climb toward the strengthening of the foundational relationship in society. In the weaker moments of my marriage or yours, the reminder that a perfect mate is not the goal, is helpful. Til death do us part means loving through every bit of weakness, with a firm foundation of: “ I am with you in this. I will stand by as God works in you, as He works in us”. This is the stand-out beauty of committed, married love. This is the victory!
And this is the truest blessing of being hand-in-hand with one man forever: we are learning through falling down, to fall in love repeatedly in new ways, with new resolve.