Opinions are in plenty and so are experiences. We all have both and are rarely short on either. I have often heard the opinion that marriage is hard and will only grow harder until sometime after the halfway point, or further still, when the synergy may still be a struggle, but not more than the thought of going through life without one another. I am married to a man whose first spouse got the itch and am the child of two parents who got it too, so I know marriage isn't a cakewalk for everyone. I know ahead of us there will be dark and hard days, maybe days when I wonder what I've done and who I've hitched myself to for life.
A conversation with the man I'm hitched to happened over the kitchen counter the other afternoon. I chopped vegetables and he, the one who can't multitask if his life or the lives of others depended on it, spoke truth to me. It seems I have a constant, pulsing fear, lurking somewhere between certainty and faith, wisdom and the future. I fear that, like those in our lives have done, we will come to an impasse someday, cite irreconcilable differences, refuse to make up, and we will have encountered the Hard Place so many talk about so often.
We came to marriage quickly, three months from first date to wedding date. We came at it surprised, bewildered, happily, and not at all anxious. We came at it not with hopes and dreams of tomorrow, but with what we had built up until then. There's no way we could have envisioned what the next two years would bring (every manner of richer, poorer, sickness, and health), but the future wasn't our focus. Today was. And yesterday was. I could look behind me and him and see years of failure, frailty, fear, and faithfulness. I could see tested faith, submitted lives, broken hearts, and the fellowship of the local church. It wasn't what was ahead of us that determined our path, but what had come behind us.
My pulsing fear that there is a shoe—or more likely a steel-toed boot—about to drop on us and that our marriage will go through eons of difficulty and opportunities for affairs and abuse and all manner of sin against one another, is a future focused fear, and not a past-proven faith. We came to one another with histories behind us, men and women who had poured into us, loved us, disciplined us, and when we came together with surprising speed, no one was worried about our future because our past had proven us.
I'm thinking about this today, again, because I read an article today about being unequally yoked and, though I agree with the sentiment, that sort of article can leave unmarried folks feeling like, "Okay, but what?" What do I do? Where is this mythical creature of wit and beauty and chemistry and Christianity? Do they even exist? And if they do, where can I meet this unicorn?
It's a very lonely place to be an unmarried Christian in the church today. It's very easy to slip through life unnoticed, your history unfolding with no one's eyes on it, your life taking place with no one to reflect on it but you. And when the time for marriage comes, it comes with muddled emotions and confusion and disappointment and a flurry of passion and wedding planning, but little to no consideration of the yesterdays that led you to that place. I've been there, friends. I don't talk about it often on here (because it was a shared story), but I got caught up in the tomorrows, the plans, the hopes, and the future, with little consideration and insight on the paths that led us there. I'm grateful God saved us both from marrying one another and led to the spouses we have today, but that history threaded through became part of who I was standing across from Nate on June 25, 2015.
I want to live free of a fear others have put on me by saying "Just you wait," or "Those dark days are coming," because I don't think they have to come and I don't want to spend all my time waiting for the steel-toed kick. I want to be faithful with today—not to an outcome, but to the Word of God. Faithfulness in my singleness looked like submission to my leaders, joyful service in my church, faithful relationship with others, and a willingness to accept correction, and faithfulness in my marriage looks very much the same.
If we had come to marriage with patterns of selfishness, an inability to listen, a need to be heard at all cost, arrogance in the face of rebuke, an unwillingness to submit to one another and others, and no history of serving anyone but ourselves, yes, our marriage would be hard and it ought to be. God will sanctify us and sometimes he uses marriage to do most of it. But, I think, if we let our whole lives be one stream of sanctification, when we come to marriage, marriage itself can actually be a sweet gift. Not our defining gift, but a sweet one just the same.
I don't want to live as those the other shoe was going to drop. I want to be faithful as long as it is called today. Hard things may come, but many hard things already have come, and my sweetest spot is still next to the man who comes home to me every night.
If you're single, planning and hoping for tomorrow, but struggling to live in today, I know it's hard, and I'm praying for you. My best counsel is get into a local church and press yourself into the hard places. Get eyes on your struggles, sins, and patterns. It will be hard, but if God gives you the gift of marriage someday, those years of sanctification working up to it will not be wasted.
If you're married and your marriage is hard, I am so sorry. Living side by side with someone in unreconciled differences is painful, really painful. But those differences don't have to be irreconciled, or unreconcilable. God is a reconciling God, but he always doesn't start with bringing broken things together, sometimes he just starts with just one broken heart being reconciled to him. I hope today, whatever you're responsible for, whatever angsts you're holding onto, you'll turn them over to Him, trusting him.
If you're married and your marriage is strong, that is a gift, and a rarer one these days. I want to encourage you to rejoice in that, even publicly. Sometimes I struggle to be public with my joy because I know there are so many others who haven't got it, but I want to balance out the scales of "Marriage is the hardest thing you'll ever do." It doesn't have to be, but I don't hear very many people saying it. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Praise your husband in the gates. Don't be surprised if your house begins to fill up with unmarried folks, wanting to learn from you because most people just talk about how hard it is, and it's hard to want to learn from those folks. Shout the goodness of God in the gift of marriage to you.