When Marriage Was Not the Vacation I Imagined

I heard a line the other day in a spoken word poem that really resonated with me: …because dating feels like vacation and marriage is a job.

You could not have convinced me that this was true while Austin and I were dating–or even engaged!! I just know that marriage would be 10,000 times “better” than dating.

Don’t get me wrong, it so is. But it is a much different kind of better than I expected. One that is endlessly joyful. One that is endlessly hard. One that takes more work than I could have ever imagined.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We sat on the couch in the aftermath of our first fight. We had only been married one month. ONE month! I had never been so mad at him for saying the things he did. I had also never loved him more. My heart had never felt these things–not within my family, not when we were dating, not ever. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We stood in our living room after two weeks slam packed with mourning. The first week, I sat at my grandfather’s deathbed every day while my husband drove two hours back and forth to work. The second week, we processed. We lived in my Papa’s home without him. Now we were back home. We were alone. I was angry with sin and death and he was on edge, unsure of how to speak to me. Could I be comforted? How do you comfort your wife when you have never had a wife to comfort before?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I sat on my kitchen floor while my husband sobbed on our bed. He mourned the loss of this relationship he held so dear. I mourned the fact that had we not gotten married, this relationship would still be intact. I had never seen him like this. I had never felt so one in mourning and simultaneously, so alone. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I laid in bed after kissing my husband goodnight. One year ago, when we had only been married a month, that good night kiss felt new and exciting each time. It was the beginning of the best time of our lives. Now it was routine. Our love hadn’t changed–if anything, it was stronger! But the kiss didn’t feel new and exciting unless I dwelled on it. Is this what marriage is like?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Each of these thoughts has been felt with every part of my soul since August 6, 2016. You see, when marriage happens, real life happens. You are combining your hearts. You are becoming one in every sense of the word. You feel the same and new all at once, and it is great when everything around you is great.

Then the storm hits.

Once you are facing something together, you have two choices. You can let the wind and crashing waves knock you down and keep you from walking further into the blessing of marriage.

Or you can walk together on the water toward Jesus.

There is one easy answer, and it is not the second. Here are some reasons why.

The hurting hurts worse and the loving loves harder.

I hit on this so often, but I think it is worth reminding (myself, at least) about once every week. Emotions are heightened18301557_10209090094506416_469224149126652777_n in marriage. When you give your whole self to another, everything is more. The love is more intense and the little jabs hurt like deadly wounds.

That is what intensified our fights initially.

With everything, I questioned his choice to marry me, even if I didn’t voice it.

You see, the enemy works hard to attack where we are exposed. 

He is constantly whispering into my hears my greatest insecurities. He only married you because of the timing. You’re not good enough for him. He will eventually see you for who you really are. 

Neither of us will ever be able to perfectly comfort the other.

I didn’t expect this one. In the first six months of our marriage, my grandfather lost his battle with cancer, and Austin lost a relationship that meant the world to him. We were both hurting in the midst of each of these storms. Yet neither of us knew exactly what the other felt like. It was so weird.

I felt as one with Him.

But I couldn’t feel what he was feeling. I couldn’t mourn with him in the way I wanted to.

We wanted nothing more than to comfort one another, but the tests didn’t wait for us to learn how to pass. They just came with no warning.

The sparks take intentionality.

Marriage is like any other relationship in one way: it is far too easy to get used to. You learn the other like the back of your hand. You know when their day has been bad and good and when someone rubs them the wrong way. It is easier to talk down to them.

It is also easy to forget that the physical part has to be just as intentional as the emotional part.

So here we are at the crossroads of treating a marriage like a vacation or a job. We can simply leave–mentally or physically–because the waters begin rising, or we can stick it out. We can fight and work and remind ourselves that the enemy is where the battle begins. If you’re ready to fight, start with the most basic thing you can do as a believing couple: go before God together.

Pray with one another. Pray over one another. Set reminders on your phone throughout the day to lift the other up.

It is really hard to grow apart from someone you are actively interceding for before the Father. Then allow God to speak to you together.

I always find it funny that so often, my quiet times are filled with my own babbling. The next thing I am asking you feels a little hypocritical because guess what? We have never done it.

We should be opening our Scripture together. We should be reading them aloud. Then sitting in silence. Do it for five minutes of for thirty minutes or for hours on end. Let’s open our hands to the heavens and ask God to speak to us together as one under His authority. Let’s allow Him to remind us of our spouse’s worth by the blood of Jesus that we might have more patience.

Finally, we have got to stop placing false expectations 12650796_10205769890983403_1164935111516144634_n.jpgupon our partners. The week I was walking through death with my grandfather, I almost expected Austin to know what to say and how to say it every day. He didn’t.

As he has walked through his own loss, I have stumbled over my words more times than I can count. I have miserably failed when I was trying to comfort him and trying to love him well. Do you want to know why? Because I am a sinful, fallen human who is not yet completed under the new heaven and new earth.

I have false understandings.

I have more pride than I know what to do with.

I am stubborn.

I am often well-meaning and often sinful within that “well-meaningness”

I am unforgiving of those who hurt him and sometimes down-right mean.

I am also in the process of being made holy under Jesus’s blood. So is he.

Here is the point of this whole post: Marriage is the most sanctifying experience there is. We (and the person we like most in this world) become ultra-aware of our shortfalls. Then there is all this work to do!

So my dear sisters who are wives, pick up your marriage and walk toward the fire. Walk toward the hard work. For in the fire, God sustains. God heals. God redeems.

My dear sisters who are fiance’s and girlfriends, do not expect everything to become perfect when you get married! He will be just as sinful then as he is now! Plus, he won’t be able to hide it anymore–and neither will you.

My sweet single sisters, a marriage is not the thing that will fill you once again.

The only One who brings fulfillment, the only One who completes anything, is Jesus Christ. He won’t let you down. He won’t forsake you. He will only love you. He will be the only one who can comfort you. He will be the only one you will never get used to!

This is the marriage that is worth waiting for.

Our husbands here are great, but they are people just as we are.

Take heart, beloved. Earthly marriage is not the end goal. Jesus is. It is not a cake walk. But it is a beautiful blessing that takes work and effort and the love and grace of Christ. It is like any other good gift God created: something that was meant to point to Him and Him alone.

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