The little white church where I was married twelve years ago has since been annexed by a local school district, but I stopped by there earlier this week on my way home from work. To reflect, and remember.
I remember my dear friend and groomsman Ian, with his ten-inch Afro. I remember the bustling assembly of friends and family that packed the church to capacity. I remember quickly abandoning the uncomfortable dress shoes after the ceremony and taking all the “official” wedding photos in stocking feet. I remember the reception, during which time our friends took advantage of the distraction to vandalize our car with streamers and shoe polish.
When most people think about marriage, I find that most tend to think about the pomp and pageantry. A friend of mine whose marriage I officiated once told me that he Googled “marriage planning” in preparation for his forthcoming nuptials. But the results were focused almost exclusively on “wedding” planning.
I doubt many young people, when idly fantasizing about the future, look forward to all the countless trivial frustrations that accompany a marriage. You probably won’t sell many tickets to a lighthearted romantic comedy that shows two bleary-eyed people arguing over household chores or their in-laws at 2 a.m. No doubt such “reality” would hit a little too close to home for most.
Somewhere between the passionate infatuation of the wedding night and the deep serenity of your golden anniversary are countless instances of bickering and strife.
It’s one of those things you can’t really prepare for, you’ve simply got to experience it yourself to really grasp. This can easily prompt even the most committed couples to consider parting ways, and some do… far too many do.
One instance comes to mind, fairly early on in my marriage.
My wife was upset over some manner of disagreement between our respective extended families, her in-laws and mine. I was torn and unsure of what to do. One part of me wanted to tell her to ignore the drama, to just “deal with it” and not let it bother her. Still another part of me wanted us to just pack our bags and relocated to an obscure village in New Zealand.
I wanted to “fix it” to fix the situation with a logical plan of action and coordinated execution. But sometimes you can’t fix it, sometimes you just have to hold on to each other through the storm.
Times like those made us realized that we needed to communicate with each other better, and also understand that we were no longer children of our parents’ houses, but were starting our own household.
Facing dilemmas in marriage is a fact of life and many times there are no clear answers. But remember, the dilemma is a gift. Because when you’re at a standstill, in a disagreement or lacking resources, you are put into a place of dependence: dependence on Jesus. And this is the best place for any couple to be.
A minister once told me that I could never change a single person. That I can influence, I can guide, I can cajole and even persuade… but I cannot change someone. Only God can do that.
“No marriage is perfect,” he said. “Because it involves people and no person is perfect, but some people are perfect for each other.”
Sunday afternoon my wife and I marked twelve years of marriage. I can’t say that she has changed me as much as our marriage has changed me, our marriage is not perfect, but it’s perfect for us… even though it still needs work.
Though wedded these twelve years, we have yet to achieve anything resembling marital perfection. Our marriage is a mess, but it’s a beautiful one.
Indeed, our love story is still being written, and I feel like we’re just now getting to the good part.