Most often on my blog I share my heart on motherhood. For quite a few months, my heart has been stirring about another topic. Marriage.
I believe it was Valentine's day when I first started feeling this desire to share on marriage. I kept seeing advertisements and social media posts about love and relationships and it got me thinking about love. What love really is and what is isn't.
I read these words on a Valentine's Day post by Ann Voskamp:
"None of us ever know whom we marry. And falling in love never made anyone angels… it’s only made it clear how far we’ve fallen. Who we say ‘I do’ to — is not who we roll over to touch twenty years later. The challenge for the vows is to fall in love with the stranger to whom you find yourself married.
The vows are a vow to make the stranger you marry — come to intimately know love everyday.
This is the only way we become married to the right people."
My husband and I will be married for 15 years in September. The time has flown by. Many of us have ideas of marriage that begin at a young age. I grew up in a home with two very loving and committed parents. My husband did the same. We are blessed to each have parents that have been married over 40 years. There are many commonalities between our two families: both mother's stayed home full time with the children, both homes had 4 children, both of us were raised in the church. When we got married I thought that all these things in common would mean the picture perfect life for the two of us. There were many things I didn't realize and perhaps, didn't even think about. I had this strange idea when we got married that strong, loving couples would never argue and they would never hurt one another.
Our marriage has not been picture perfect. And to be honest, I don't think there is such thing as a perfect marriage. I believe our marriage is one that will last forever through the good and the bad, filled with an unconditional love and commitment, but it isn't a story of "happily ever after". Over the last five to ten years we have seen many of our friends get divorced. Marriage is not easy to begin with, but the military life brings its own set of challenges. It seems that many people are in love with the idea of the perfect life, including the perfect marriage. No matter how hard you try or plan, it will never be that way. We get married and then experience the reality of living life together. We begin to experience the realities of life's hardships and then we see each other through a different lens. For many, it is easier to walk away when life gets hard. A long lasting marriage takes work, commitment and sacrifice. Some people never realize that "the grass isn't always greener". Perhaps, they don't see that other couples have normal arguments and problems to work out. I remember when we first got married, thinking we were the only couple that ever struggled. Our society in general has this idea of EASY. Easy is not the answer to a life of joy, and easy is not the road to a forever marriage.
Our marriage would not have survived the past 15 years without Christ at the center of it. Our life together has been through so many highs and valleys. We have endured moves, new life, miscarriage, loss, sickness, war, and more. Life has not been easy. It has been full of blessings, but not without heartache as well. I know that there are circumstances that marriages simply cannot survive. Circumstances that are too much. I understand that and my heart aches for so many that have been through this. But I feel that sometimes we get lost in this idea of what love is and should look like, and when it isn't this way, we feel we have failed.
My husband will be the first to share that sometimes his delivery of words is not the most graceful or kind. His expectations for our home, meals, and other daily routines are some times different than my own. Many times I have felt that I wasn't appreciated or doing enough in his eyes. Many tears have been shed under our roof. There were times I got in my car and drove off, without any destination, crying out to God and asking Him why? Through the years, I've seen my husband grow more patient, more appreciative, and more loving, through really giving his life and pursuits to God.
I have my own shortcomings as well. God has shown me areas I also need to continually work on. I want to exhibit servant hood as Christ did, not only to my children, but to my husband. I want to live selflessly. I want to show him love that never fails and never gives up. I want to encourage him. To show him I desire him and love him for the man he is. I mess up and fail as a wife many times.
But love -- true love, is all of this. It is all of the scars and battle wounds of living together for years. Love isn't a romantic dinner alone. Love isn't a dozen red roses. Love is enduring these valleys of life. Love is getting to know someone for who they really are and loving them just the same. I've sat in the store reading the cards for Valentine's day and thought to myself, that's not how our love looks. That's not how our life looks together. That's not how I feel. It's okay to let go of that idea of love and romance. Its okay to embrace the messy, the less than ideal, the loud, the behind closed doors. Its okay, because all of the hard is what has made our love become something more than an attraction to one another. That is what has defined our love.
We were studying relationships in our life group class at church and listened to part of a sermon series by Andy Stanley, an Atlanta based pastor. He said, “Do everything in your power to become the person who the person you’re looking for is looking for. That’s your best chance for success relationally.” These words can be applied to couples already dating or married. Are you being the type of person you want to spend forever with? Are you treating your spouse the way you want to be treated? I have not always been this person. Not by a long shot.
On our wedding day one of the readers read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. These words mean so much more to me now, almost 15 years later. I want to live out these words.
I share this with you today because I want others to know that a love built on growing, living, and being challenged together, can be so much better than "the white picket fence". I will often share how much I love my husband and how grateful I am for his love and the sacrifices he makes for our family, but I want everyone to also know, this doesn't come without work. I once read that falling in love comes easy, but staying in love is the challenge. I thank God for His plan, for bringing my husband and I together to create the family we share and I pray we will share a lifetime more of memories together.
I will leave you with these last words from as sermon my husband recently shared with me.
The goal of a Christian marriage should be a model to the world of God's love for us.
This really is a beautiful way to think of marriage. It isn't easy to live this way daily, but the wonderful things in life are definitely worth working for.