I’ll be the first to admit: I am not an overly emotional person. When my oldest son asked me why girls cry so much I really didn’t have a good answer for him since I personally don’t like to cry, especially in public. But every once in a while I get lost in nostalgia thinking about the past.
Today is one of those days.
When 16 Years Feels Like 16 Minutes
Today is a special date for me. It was 16 years ago that I walked down the aisle, escorted by my Dad, and said, “I do,” at a ceremony officiated by my soon to be father-in-law. At the time I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, but I wonder if anyone can fully understand the commitment that is marriage.
And it is a commitment. It’s saying yes for the rest of your life. Yes to spending your time with them. Yes to building a life together. Yes to cooperation and giving in and working together. Even when you want to spend time on other things. Even when you want your life to go a different direction. And even when you don’t want to cooperate, give in, or work with that other person.
It’s not always easy and it’s not always pretty. We were both young when we got married and over the last 16 years, we have had more than our share of ups and downs. More than our share of good moments and bad ones. And more than our share of moments where we truly wondered if it was worth it.
But it was and still is. And always will be.
Building A Life
We literally had no plan when we got married. None. No idea where we were going to live, what we were going to do, or how we were going to make it. We just got married and moved a few hours away. The job he had been promised fell through and instead of starting college I started working. It did not take long before we realized this was a foolish endeavor and we returned home. Still no real plan mind you. Just trying again.
Dreams, and jobs, and reality didn’t always line up. Neither did our ideas of what life should be like. Rather than working on it together, we just sort of did our own thing. We were blessed with two beautiful children but that didn’t improve things. We moved, a lot, because we bought into the idea of the grass being greener elsewhere, even though it never was.
Things were building and escalating (and not in a good way) when we moved yet again. This time though, it was away. Away from family and friends. Away from what we knew. Far enough away that we were either going to make it together or fall apart.
We managed to survive those years. Made new friends, some of whom it seemed like we had known forever, and even had a third child. I truly believe it was both stubbornness and location that kept us from breaking completely.
And of course, God.
Holding On To Wrath
I have a bad habit of holding onto grudges and remembering faults. Forgot to take out the trash three years ago or pick up milk that one time? You can bet that I will recall that. Worse, I would use that. I would hold on to that piece of information, that silly oversight, and keep it stashed away pulling out that little nugget the moment my anger exploded.
It was not healthy. And not a good place to live. I was yoked to my own sin and utterly refused to give in, repent, ask for forgiveness, or give it. I was so focused on what I saw as his short comings and faults that I refused to look at my own. I felt justified by my actions and worse, had no intention of changing. I was up on my soap box and not coming down.
It took a while, but slowly, the anger subsided. It cooled and dissipated until it went completely out. Today when hubby or I offer details of those years people are shocked. Looking at us now you may not be able to tell.
But that’s the thing. Looks can be deceiving.
I’m not saying that we are frauds. Rather we are a culmination of experiences, choices, decisions, and beliefs. We didn’t just walk out of that church 16 years ago and sail smoothly off into the sunset. Those moments in life, those trials and challenges, made us who we are today. Sure, they tore us down and hurt us, but they helped build us up as well even if at the time we couldn’t tell.
The Threefold Cord
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks of working together, of helping one another, and of strength in numbers. Verse 12 states, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Three. Not just two, but three. And that really is what we were missing all along. Getting married in a church, being a member of a church, or attending church when you feel like it is not enough. The biggest lesson we have learned is that if this marriage is going to work, if it’s going to survive, then God needs to be a part of it. We cannot do this on our own.
It hasn’t been an easy road back. We’ve had to make some changes. And we still have changes to make. Every day is a new opportunity to do better and be better than yesterday. To say yes when you would rather say no, to help out when you would rather not, and to be kind when the anger is threatening to rise up.
To give grace just as we have been given grace.
A Braid Rather Than A Twist
Today we have been married for 16 years. We are raising our four children the best we can and guiding our family. There is a mutual respect that was missing for many years. A mutual understanding that we are both doing our parts individually and together. An understanding that sometimes things will go badly, but it doesn’t mean the whole things is ruined.
Today there is an understanding that we are not in this alone, but together. And stronger because of it. There are things that he can do better than I can, and things I do better than he does. We each have our areas of strength and that balances each other. We are quite different, an odd-couple perhaps, but for us, it works. Not because it’s easy, but because for us it’s worth trying to make work. It’s worth getting over hurt feelings, past mistakes, and moving forward. It’s worth continuing to build what we started all those years ago rather than letting the world tell us it’s OK to tear it down. And every day that gets easier because as they say, “love is blind,” but more than that, love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
And it’s worth having that third cord. The cord that takes two that may only be able to twist together, but with a third, it is transformed into a braid with strength. A braid that is bound together and not easily unraveled.
As for me, I have no idea what the future holds. Only God knows that. What I do know, is that many years ago I made a promise, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, to stay. And I am glad that I have my husband beside me as we continue into the unknown together stronger because of our past, united because of our future.