By the time you read this post, my husband and I would have completed seven years of wedded bliss. On the 17th of February 2009, we pledged our lives to each other before God and family. I don’t know where the years have flown. I still remember how starry-eyed I was on my wedding day. And I remember feeling like the bottom had fallen out of my world when we had our first fight. Oh, and I definitely remember thinking I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. Of course, we soon made up and all was right with the world again!
Ruth Bell Graham once said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” And oh, how many times I had to learn this the hard way.
I entered marriage believing all the stuff I’d read in fairy tales. But all the happily-ever-after stories never tell you practical things; like how much to cook for a hungry man, for instance. Just in case you’re wondering – it’s a lot more than you’d anticipate (and leftovers will only transform a hungry man into a grumpy man)! Finally my husband had to sit me down and gently explain that his portion should be thrice the size of mine. Just imagine the shock on his young wife's face! But yes, men really eat like that. And yes, it’s normal.
Our first year of marriage was a minefield. At every corner we either seemed to be in a fight or inching our way to the next one! At the time, I always went to God with all the complaints I could lay against my husband’s door; but, looking back now, I realise I probably wasn’t the easiest person to live with – with my million unrealistic expectations coined during a misspent youth of reading cheesy novels and watching corny movies.
Expecting my husband to come back from work and stare soulfully into my eyes and say, “You complete me”, was probably too much to hope for, but that didn’t stop me from expecting. I would be disappointed, which would lead to irritation and, finally, a fight. All the while, my clueless husband would have no idea why he suddenly had a raging virago on his hands, when all he’d expected was a little downtime in front of the telly and a hot meal! As Ruth Graham also wisely put it:
“It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.”
We look back at that first year now, and laugh at our childishness, yet that year taught us more about true love than anything else. It taught us to forgive and forgive again. It was a mirror to our own weaknesses and foibles. But it also showed us that we could become one. There would need to be pruning and it would be painful, yet it began the process of welding us together – two parts of one whole.
Marriage also taught me that when life hands you lemons – you have a partner to make lemonade with. Like each family on earth, we’ve had to face our share of personal tragedy and heartache. Some seasons have been tougher to deal with than others. The loss of a parent, the loss of health, the inability to conceive and the loss of job – we’ve experienced it all over the last seven years, and are still experiencing it. Yet, through it all, I’ve seen God strengthen the cords of love binding us to each other. It is not something we can take pride in. It is purely the mercy of God.
If not for Him, we’d have probably drifted apart, angry with each other and with nothing in common. Yet, when I look back at the last seven years, I see a life filled with love and laughter, a life of togetherness, of drawing closer to each other during the hard times and finding strength to encourage and love each other sacrificially with each new day. I love this man more today than I did eight years ago. From Graham again:
“Love deepens with understanding, and varying viewpoints expand and challenge one another. So many things improve with age. Those who abandon ship the first time it enters a storm miss the calm beyond. And the rougher the storms weathered together, the deeper and stronger real love grows.”
I’m learning that a lifetime of loving will still leave me unprepared for all that marriage entails. Yet true love – the kind that flows from the Heavenly Father – is a living, growing thing. It is not an ideal to be protected in an ivory tower, but a transforming strength that doesn’t shy away from getting down and dirty. It breaks the selfishness that encircles us and fills us with the power to see our spouses exactly as they are – faults and all – and love them enough to lay our lives down for them. It may chip away at our defences and leave us vulnerable, but it also slowly eliminates our own flaws, removing the dross.
That is the kind of love we should write sonnets about!
Photo Credit: Unsplash