Yesterday we celebrated our 7th anniversary. It was a pretty normal day. Having just returned from a weekend away I spent the day reorganizing my life. Calendars, laundry, dishes and diapers. Regardless of the quiet of the day, I still felt celebratory, more of an internal celebration than external. Nonetheless, I, we, celebrated.
In these seven years I find so much to celebrate. First and foremost, the fact that we are still together, getting better, becoming better at loving each other. We can celebrate our children, our successes, our accomplishments. We really do have so much to celebrate.
But this post isn’t about those things. It’s about something a little more truthful, something a little more raw. It’s about our failures. It’s about the trajectory of life that attempted to rip us raw and bleeding from each other. It’s about the tears, the fights, the moments and seasons that we barely made it out of.
Seven years ago, shortly after we said our “I do’s” we caught a flight to Hawaii. All in all we had some really beautiful moments on the Big Island, but I’d be lying if I said it was totally wonderful. A few days in we were at each others throats. Me screaming. Him silent. Both of us thinking “did I make a mistake?”
To know me, truly know me, is to know that I come with a temper. I do my best to quell it, to breathe when I feel myself getting mad, to walk away, to take a moment. In those first days, weeks, months, and even years there was very little walking away. Actually there was much more head-butting, fit-throwing (on my part), divorce threatening and tears streaming than anything else.
For all the advice, the pre-marital counseling, the suggestions, prayers and encouragement we didn’t know how to be married. We didn’t know how to be one. We were so settled in our own personal identities that we couldn’t yield. In our first three years of marriage we went through marriage counselor after marriage counselor. We tried the books and the programs. We were only united in how much we hated the books, the programs, the counselors.
After three years of living in Colorado, a new baby, and a marriage on the brink of dissolution we returned to California to be close to family. Even with the family support the deep issues remained, the fighting continued though better concealed. We were just as broken, but maybe a little better at hiding it.
Then one night after a particularly ugly fight that had gone on too long we came to the end of ourselves. We couldn’t keep doing this. We came to a point that we realized we had two options, work on it, really really really work on it, or call it. I was ready to call it.
“I’m too young for this, I have my whole life ahead of me, and I don’t want to spend it in misery.”
I’m pretty sure those close to me knew where my head was, because within a day of getting to this point my Mom steered us in the direction of a couple at church that offered marriage mentorship. Although we had already failed with multiple counselors we have nothing left to lose and decided to try one more time.
We met them, they were young, cool, both divorced and both passionate about sparing young couples the pain and suffering they had experienced through their first relationships. We sat around their round table our first few meetings, my arms crossed around my body, I didn’t want to let go of the past three years of anger and resentment. I wanted to hold on to it for dear life. I wanted to run away. I wanted to start over. How could I ever love this man again? We were too far gone.
They let me sit there, meeting after meeting, angry spew after angry spew. They let me talk about it, let him talk about it, and then one night as I continued the fight they finally said this: “You guys need to put God first, or else nothing will work.”
I blew them off. I wanted to, because my anger had become my friend. But night after night those words began to press softly upon me and softly upon my husband. I wanted to fight them, resent them, I mean we were in ministry, my husband is a Pastor, of course we put God first.
The truth is, that when we were quiet with ourselves we started to see that all those hours spent in service to others wasn’t drawing us personally to God. They were just hours spent in service to others, they had become hallow, and in no means a replacement for the personal relationship Jesus wants to have with us. We had spent so much time “doing” and “performing” that we had lost track of the purpose behind it. This realization stung.
Slowly, we started transitioning. Slowly, we stopped holding on to all the hurt. Slowly, we realigned our lives with our faith. Slowly. Slowly. Slowly. That realignment has caused us pain, it hasn’t made life easy, it has cost us jobs and relationships. It has made some areas of our life more difficult. It has forced us to say “no” to things and people that we’d so desperately like to say “yes” to. Through this realignment we’re learning to say yes to our marriage first and foremost, and we’re seeing that as we do this everything else falls into a healthy place.
I would love to tell you that we’re perfect now. That marriage is easy, somedays it is, but the more truthful revelation is that life is hard, relationships are hard. We still get it wrong, a lot. When life threatens to pull us out of alignment we check in with our mentors, check in with ourselves, check in with each other. There is hope here now, where there was none before. There is love here now, where there was little. There is even laughter and silliness and snuggles and everything that was missing in those very broken days.
So, my dear friends, those of you with hearts hurting, those of you holding to resentment, those of you that are ready to leave, stop here, if you can, exhale, and please put God first. Start there my dears, and slowly, slowly, slowly watch for change.