Our marriage is probably like many of yours—sometimes effortless and occasionally the hardest work I’ve ever done.
I’ve been married for eight years now. The first six flew by in a breeze. We didn’t have to make it work because it wasn’t that difficult. There were romantic getaways and shared dreams, giggles and tickle fights and a growing family. We started a church and had a baby; we bought a home and moved to suburbia. Life was abundant with service and ministry and blessings. Sure, certain obstacles came our way, but our confidence in each other was high.
And then REAL life hit.
Tragedy and drama and human weakness at it’s finest. Our fragile foundation rocked and rolled like the San Andreas fault. My parents were suddenly both taken by fatal disease, Tim injured his back and faced permanent nerve damage and partial paralysis , there was spinal surgery, a long and painful recovery, and our constant battle with infertility that wove itself through every story—miscarriage after miscarriage. Add in a blended family and teenagers in to the mix and for two years we fought to keep our heads above water.
Maybe marriage wasn’t so easy.
Maybe it took work. Hard work.
Fortunately, I married a persistent man who never, ever, gives up. Week after week he showed up at the counselor by my side ready to tackle the broken parts of him and us and me. And even when I was drowning in sorrow and weary, he never let go of my hand.
While I wish certain outcomes were different, because I sure miss my mom and dad (and all the babies I won’t meet until eternity), I don’t regret the journey it’s forced us to travel. Pain brings out our best and worst traits. My husband has seen me unraveled and paralyzed with fear and yet he continues to love me. I have seen him blustering and red in frustration and yet I get up and choose only him every day.
So many people avoid pain. They run, they hide, they cope. I was a master at this.
But with a 72% divorce rate in Orange County, I don’t really think this strategy is working out too well for most of us.
If I learned anything from years of therapy it’s this…don’t avoid the pain–do the opposite–lean in.
Pain has made our marriage better. Adversity overcome together creates the glue of relationship. Pain forced us to restructure our boundaries, to surrender to one another sacrificially and to leave our selfish natures behind for something better—a relationship built on rock and not sand.
Every day we can either deposit love or steal life from one another. It’s a choice we are all given.
Today I sit here and write after another failed pregnancy, and a heartbeat that slipped away, with tears and sadness, and a surgery to remove the remains of another sweet baby. One more soul added to our little tribe in heaven.
But I am content. Not because it doesn’t hurt—oh boy it does, but because I’m facing the pain with my best friend at my side. The friend I have fought for and who fights for me on a daily basis.
I am what we call in our family “happy/sad.” The sad is obvious, but the happy is because I have fallen in love with my husband all over again through this yucky experience. I am crazy about this man who shares his whole heart unabashedly and shines his light so bright it makes the dark not so scary for me. He holds my hand and whispers prayers when I need encouragement, he points me back to God when my faith wavers, and he makes me laugh through my tears. I can only hope I will choose to fall in love over and over with this same man for the rest of my life. I want more than anything to focus on the good and not dwell on the bad, celebrating the smallest victories and offering forgiveness quickly.
The problem with marriage is that it’s not easy.
We have to choose one another every day in spite of the pain and the brokenness of our humanity.
I’m so glad we didn’t give up on the mountain of hard, because the greatest joy was reached only by cresting this summit together.