Just this past week, Rob and I celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary. I remember the day he proposed. It was his birthday and he kept insisting that the one thing he wanted to do was get on top of Blackcomb mountain in Whistler BC. After taking two gondolas, a bus and another gondola, we arrived! The view was panoramic! Incredible! It felt as though we were on top of the world. Just as we copped a squat, a man on a loud speaker piped up “The mountain is closing in 15 minutes.” Rob starting sweating and I couldn’t figure out why. He said “let’s pray!” So I prayed and thanked God for him and his life, it being his birthday and all. Them Rob prayed and thanked God for me and all that I am in his life. Then he asked that all too crazy question, “Will you marry me?” I said, “Shut up! Shut up!” Then he got out a ball of socks….
In that ball of socks was a ring and then and there, he asked me to be his wife. I said yes and that’s all she wrote. 15 years later we found ourselves celebrating our anniversary. Rob surprised me and made reservations for high tea at the Empress in Victoria, BC. As a family we walked into this place that has steeped tea for the likes of the Queen of England. The kids were all dressed up because they had known about this special surprise. In the midst of the tiers of scones, cupcakes, gingerbread, cucumber sandwiches and tea , I felt this fidgeting on my right leg. I thought Rob was trying to tell me that someone in the room was to be looked at. (This under the table nudge over our 15 years usually means ‘look up’.) I scanned the room and couldn’t figure out what he was talking about and then I look down and there was a ball of socks….
This time Rob had made a charm bracelet that told a story of all that we had shared from one ball of socks to the other. He would hate it if I admitted it, but he was tearing up like the Queen herself. That made me tear up. We have traveled many roads, fought hard, grieved deeply, misunderstood one another chronically, celebrated like crazy, laughed our pants off, disagreed and didn’t agree to disagree and changed and changed and lived 15 lives in 15 years. When I think about this journey, I have learned a lot from and about marriage. Here are a few of the things I have learned….
1. Marriage is not for wimps.
When you have to live with another broken person and collide daily with all of your collective wounds, fears, habits, insecurities, beliefs, and desires, you are bound to run into trouble. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying through their teeth or naive as nuns. Marriage is not easy and if you are looking for easy or happy, it’s not here.
2. Marriage is a crucible.
And let’s be honest who chooses to get in a hot crucible? When I have to learn to argue peaceably, my stubborn heart is challenged. When I have to respect the idiosyncracies of another person that might drive me absolutely nuts, God helps me realize my way is not the only way. When we don’t agree on how to parent or what to do with our money, we have to navigate those conversations with love when we really tend to plow through them with irritation and anger. Marriage is the crucible God uses to shape us as individuals. We can run from this character shaping or we can see it as, just that, and allow God to mold us and make us into who we are made to become.
3. Marriage is a mirror.
When you interact with another broken being for life you can do one of two things. You can look at your spouse and point the finger at everything they are doing wrong, which I am really talented at doing. Or you can turn the finger around and point it at yourself. You can yank the plank out of your own eye, as Jesus would challenge, before you pick the speck out of your spouse’s. You can begin to see yourself and what and who you are really made of. Rob brings out in me who I really am. And very often I don’t like what I see. I often see a selfish, messy, dysfunctional, irritated, easily annoyed, nag of a woman. When I walk past this woman in the mirror, I can choose to stop and really look at the reflection that looks back at me and allow that reflection to say something. It is this reflection that God uses to invite us to become more like Him. What I often see in this mirror I wake up to and go to bed with is that I don’t love like I should. It is this very mirror that could actually make me a more loving, giving, selfless, beautiful person in all my relationships, if I truly allow God to change who I reflect.
4. Marriage is a spiritual discipline.
For centuries people have practiced spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, meditation and the like. I see marriage as a discipline. For me, what I have learned is that I have to choose this. When I don’t like Rob, I, I have have to choose to love him. When I want to get in my car and never come back , I choose to stay. Why? Because that is how God loves. God loves me even if He doesn’t like what I am doing. God will never leave me or forsake me even if I am being utterly senseless. Marriage is a place I choose to live into because of my commitment to God and to who I know He wants me to be. Jesus calls me to love like crazy. Jesus calls me to sacrifice greatly. Jesus calls me to give til it hurts. I don’t see Jesus telling me to do what makes me happy, to find pleasure from anything offering it, to choose me first or to give up when the goin’ gets tough. Sure I might want all of these things, but I choose marriage as a discipline in the same way a marathon runner chooses to run miles upon miles even when they don’t want to. And this discipline is spiritual because there is no possible way that I can stay married without the Help of God. I need God’s patience, God’s strength, and God’s Grace because God knows I don’t have enough of it on my own.
5. Marriage is a gift.
As I sat in the Empress sipping on tea and eating Crumpets (said in a British accent), I felt overwhelmed by what Rob and I share. It is a pure gift. It was perfect that we were with our kids. Sure there wasn’t making out, red roses and poem reciting. But present at the table, was what God has shaped, formed and made. He has held us together. He has made this little family. He has provided. He has taught lessons. He has changed us as individuals and helped us learn how to change together. He has given us sweet moments in the midst of tough ones. This, my little family, is my Heaven on Earth. It is what reminds me of God’s Goodness, God’s Presence, God’s Care and God’s Love. I don’t want to live without this gift and though it be a hot, hot crucible, though it be a mirror with an often ugly face staring back, though it be a discipline I sometimes fight, it is the gift from God that I never want to be without. Who I am today was not who I was 15 years ago. The better part of me is better because God has used the man who gives presents in tube socks to chizzle, challenge, mold and sculpt me.
From one ball of socks to another, I continue to learn and I pray that never seizes. Along with you, married or not, we will face things wimps cannot handle, but we have access to Who it takes to handle whatever comes our way. Along with you, I am in a crucible and the crucible will leave me better. You too, don’t run. Stay and be shaped. Along with you, I can choose what is hard because in it’s end, it is so worth it. Along with you, the hardest things, the experiences that challenge your core, those are life’s greatest gifts. Along with you, I will keep learning….