For Better or Worse

My memory is weak.  It’s why I feel compelled to write as much as I do.  I want to remember it all.  The emotions.  The doubts.  The triumphs.  I want to capture all those fleeting moments and stuff them into a neat little descriptive paragraph.  I keep hoping that this would keep the memories as fresh today as they were years ago.

Smartypants has a pretty good memory.  And his approach is polar opposite.  Whatever is worth remembering will be remembered.

I suppose he may be right.

Our wedding anniversary is coming up.  Seven years.  Seven really great years.   I still think back to the days of our engagement.  The wedding planning.  The outdoor wedding.  The honeymoon.   When I said “I do”, I meant it with all my heart.  But I really had no clue what I meant at all.

Marriage changes you.  Life does too.

The romantic dates are fuzzy recollections now.  I don’t remember our vacation trips all that clearly anymore.  But what I do remember….  The times he went out of his way to drop off some coffee while I was on call at the hospital.  The way he squints his eyes and raises an eyebrow when he’s about to point out my hypocrisy.  The firm conviction in his voice when he told me to apologize to someone even though I didn’t feel like it.  The warmth of his hand coupled with the helpless look in his eyes as I writhed in pain during childbirth.  The giddy joy that replaces our fatigue at the end of the day as we laugh over the latest antics of our children.  The silence after an argument as he sits beside me deep in thought.  The comforting way he sometimes reaches over and holds my hand while we sleep.

I do remember what matters.  They are random snapshots, but they speak of all I need to cherish about us.

This is my husband.  For better or for worse.  Thick and thin.  Joy and sorrow.  When he makes me happy.  And when he frustrates me.  Gifts are nice and sweet words do matter.  But without commitment, marriage unravels with unsettling ease.

Seven years.  We are still so young at this.  Whether young or old, these lessons in what love looks like in real life continue to challenge and surprise.  Marriage does not teach me how to simply “love” better.  If it were so straightforward, marriages could be saved with a quick list of do’s and dont’s.  Instead, marriage points me to a painfully humbling but transformative truth:  I need a Savior.  Not some weak self-designed god that serves to make me feel better about things when I need it.  Or some sentimental concept that’s brought out only on special occasions.  No, I desperately need a Savior because I am just that broken.  I need the kind of Savior who authored and embodies love.  One who is personal and relational enough to give a care about the state of my marriage and the authenticity of my faith.  One who demonstrated sacrificial love perfectly and fully.

Tim Keller wrote in his book, The Meaning of Marriage:

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.

The Gospel transforms marriage.  It transforms us as we continue to wrestle, question, and grow in our faith.

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

Love never fails.   1 Corinthians 13:4-8

It takes a lifetime to grasp the immense depth of this kind of sacrifical love.

Smartypants will fail, hurt, and disappoint me along the way.  I will fail, hurt, and disappoint him.  It is inevitable.  It is what happens when two people become one in marriage but instead try to bargain a 50/50 arrangement.  Or more often than not, when both of us try to claim an extra 1%.   Or when life simply takes its toll.

All the focus and energy has been diverted towards parenting these past several years.  It’s a season of fatigue, lack of conversation, interrupted sleep, and crappy dinners.   It’s easy to make excuses for our behavior, our priorities, and our general lack of attention.  Seasons will come and go, and children will grow and leave us, but through it all our marriage shall remain.  Without a doubt, investing in our marriage must take priority above all these things.

Amidst the constant humdrum routine of barely maintaining our sanity, I hope we persevere in practicing daily forgiveness and intentional sacrifice.  I hope our hearts never grow hard and proud over the years, but only more vulnerable and sensitive to each other.  I hope we never forget to laugh at ourselves, fine-tuning the balance between the high ideals and deep humility.  Most of all, I hope we never run to each other more than we are running to God together.

For us, this is only possible as we both trust and look to the sacrifical love we receive at the cross and the empty tomb.  Christ remains the cornerstone that holds up our marriage, celebrating in the daily victories and healing the hurts with overflowing mercy.

Christ replaces our “I do” with His “it is done”. 

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5 thoughts on “For Better or Worse

  1. I really enjoyed reading this and could definitely relate, especially to being in this season of parenting. My husband and I were just discussing the other night that in our 6 1/2 year of marriage (yay 2005 weddings!) the majority of it has been spent parenting young, energy consuming (sucking), wonderful children. It is way to0 easy to put our marriage on the back burner while dealing with what seems to be more urgent. Not good. And too easy to neglect practicing daily forgiveness and intentional sacrifice. Thank you for the reminder.

    I just borrowed Keller’s book from our church library and am really looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the excerpt. And Happy Anniversary!

    • Hi Janna! Congrats on nearly 7 years for you two as well! Let me know how you like the book… I haven’t read the book yet, but am planning to get my hands on it. Love Keller’s other books.
      It’s incredible how exhausting parenting is, huh? I keep trying to step back and reassess what areas I’m getting too caught up or drained by so that I pick my battles a bit better and prioritize errands/chores more effectively. Otherwise, there’s just nothing left in me at the end of the day to converse with my husband. As much as I enjoy this whole realm of social media (FB, pinterest, twitter, etc), I’m also trying to figure out where the limits are and set some clear boundaries for myself. It’s hard. I’m not the most disciplined of folks. 🙂
      Thanks for reading Janna and sharing your thoughts!

  2. Love this! Congrats on your seven years. We’re still only at 4. Newbies. I agree with you, marriage must take a priority, but it’s soooo hard with all the demands of the littles in this season. we’re trying to figure it out too, and trying to tap into God’s grace more – for all of our sakes.

    • Adriel, Sorry for such a late reply. I hope you get this… I can’t even imagine all you two have on your plates. Going from one to two adds heaps of joy, but it sure is exhausting. All the more so when you are also extending your lives in ministry. We’ve definitely had to reexamine where our energy and time goes once the second came along… still working on our priorities and sorting out the different demands. Thankful for God’s grace that continues to surprise and refresh all the different parts of our lives. Congrats on your 4, going on 5, years! It really is amazing isn’t it??

      • yeah, it’s tricky to balance it all. definitely a big learning curve. but it’s making me remember and recognize and lean into God’s GRACE like never before. and that’s a good thing. 🙂

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