when marriage is hard



He's standing in the hallway between the kitchen and living room. I sit on the couch, arms folded tightly, eyes daring him to say one more word. Lana is wrapped in his arms, quietly observing and some how understanding the heaviness pushing in on us. It bleeds in through the cracked window seals, sliding up the too beige walls and across the hardwood floors dusted with cheerios. It snakes around my ankle, slowly moving up to my waist, and then seeps into my chest. Then deeper still until its heavy chill is radiating through my bones. It's all I can feel. It's all that is between us. It spills violently out and suddenly I'm yelling. Yelling broken, hateful lies, and Lana is crying. I stop, trying to comfort her, but none of us can escape it. I retreat to our room, hiding from the realization that my heart is marked by much darkness.

This is just one fight in a string of many.

This is a war waged over trivialities but fought relentlessly and with a determined unwillingness to lay down our weapons.

This is my marriage.

Of course, there are bright spots. Days, weeks, even a month where it feels light and uncomplicated. We communicate easily and often. We laugh, we fall asleep breathing slowly, in synch. We look at Lana and wonder at our sheer luck. There are times when it all clicks.

But then there are times when I feel that I can't carry the weight of my heartache, or even worse my indifference, for one more second. We misread signals, dig our feet in, and sink willingly into our own broken pathos. The cycle of lashing out and hiding in shame spins wildly around us like a hurricane yanking at the roots of our relationship and threatening to crack our very foundation.

I'm heartless.

He's a failure.

We speak these lies to ourselves and to each other. We retreat from one another while frantically piling bricks higher and higher onto the walls we've built to protect ourselves. We feel a battle coming, and we retreat before the hurt reaches a depth we didn't know existed. We walk through our days tensed and waiting for the next band of heart shattering winds to suck us in.

It's tempting to give up. I want to believe that we deserve something “better”, and by that I mean easier. But beauty isn't born out of ease. Love isn't drawn with clean lines. The reward in all of this is the fighting to know and be known. Tom has been by my side for nearly a decade. He held me up during my darkest times. He sees a goodness in me that I can rarely see in myself. Isn't that worth something? We've fought through changes, heartbreaks, and victories to get here.

***

“For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You laid oppressive burdens upon us;
We went through the fire and through water;
Yet You brought us into a place of abundance.”

For a long time I looked at the splintering cracks in my marriage with anger in my heart. I cried and shouted and demanded that it shouldn't be like this. I deserved more than this paralyzing heartache.

I used our history to predict our future, to define us. Our marriage was broken because we weren't enough. We'd caused each other too much pain. I lived in that bitter brokenness, heaped it all around me. I held it against us and in doing so sealed our fate.

Then I read those verses, and in them I saw my pain. I saw my marriage. We had carried oppressive burdens of self-doubt, bitterness, and loneliness. We'd walked through the fire of uncertainty and sank into the waters of hopelessness. But then, God brought us into a place of abundance. We'd been tried and found faithful to the promise we'd made to each other and to God. Together we'd weathered storm after storm, and God's grace had brought us through them stronger.

Our marriage is not unmarked by the scars of hurtful words and nagging doubts. But it is no longer cracked, because in the fire God forged it into something new, something whole. And through that forging it became something that is able to proclaim that God's grace is bigger, that his redemption is stronger. He carries our burdens easily. He is untouched in the fire, and unmoved when the waters come rushing in. Those raging winds of dysfunction become a still breeze when God's love reaches down to calm them.


This is the “better” that I was searching for. I didn't find it in the intricate date nights. It didn't grow from constant nagging. I couldn't bully it into submission. This is the kind of love and knowing that we were meant for. This is God's version, and it's found only in His gracious blessing. It's quiet but never falters. It's vulnerable but never cracks. When it seems like nothing can save you from that heaviness, this love is more than enough.  

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