I’ve thought about this blog post for a couple of months now. It’s taken me a while to know what I should write – probably because this topic seems so difficult to put into words.
It was one year ago today Phillip and I said yes to forever. It was one year ago today that we committed to doing life together. That we would always have each others backs. That we promised to be a safe place for one another. That we would be each others home. It was one year ago today that we made the covenant to love one another as Christ loves us, and put each other first.
Everyone says the first year of marriage is hard. I am sure we would agree, but the fact is, both Phillip and I very strongly believe that God used each of us to create a dramatic course-redirectionin our lives. Phillip said I was his “missing link”; that he has found his path because I was there to walk beside him. My friend Mish coined a term that I couldn’t agree with more – Phillip was the “Miracle Grow” for my soul; I came into healing because he loved me through it. Perhaps these things have always caused us to appreciate being married, even with the hard and challenging lessons that came.
Love is an extraordinary thing.
It’s true that we said yes in an extremely short amount of time. I’m sure there were a great many people who questioned our decision, who wondered how long we would last. It is also true that God is faithful, and His grace is enough to cover any and every challenge in life. We have seen that in our lives over and over again. After all, marriage is two sinners joining hands and promising to spend the rest of life with one another. Marriage is bound to be messy. And yet marriage is also bound to be glorious. After all, isn’t it incredible that the Bible begins with a wedding, and ends with a wedding?
Looking back, there are things I wish someone would have told me a year and a half ago about marriage and relationships – things I’ve not really heard before in the usual girl-to-girl or church conversations about marriage. Maybe if I knew these things before, I could have been a better wife, a better partner, a better woman of God. But life is it’s own teacher, and I imagine sometimes the lessons that life teaches us go the deepest way into our hearts.
So, today, as we look back on one year of marriage, here’s what I have learned:
1. You are never “Ready” for marriage. I know people would disagree with me on this one, but hear me out: Marriage is about loving one another as Jesus Christ loves us. Well, last I read in the Epistles, Jesus came, lived a selfless life as He walked among us, never sinned, barely slept, was betrayed, beaten, tortured, and killed on a cross. I know it may seem extreme, but who in their right mind would sign up for that? We are sinners, we are selfish, and no one is ever ready to make every painful decision or step with only one person on their mind. This is marriage. The fact that we aren’t “Ready” is simply a testament to God’s power to grow us and sanctify us.
2. “God didn’t create marriage to make you happy, but to make you Holy”. I heard this quote from my friend Sarah years and years ago, but it always stuck. In our first year of marriage, I can attest that it is entirely true. Iron sharpens iron after all. Doing life with someone forever illuminates everything ugly and sinful and selfish about you. How? You let someone in. You give another person permission to see inside the deepest parts of you, to know your fears, the things that haunt you, the things that make you fall. They are the ones to get behind your walls of insecurity, protection, and facades. On one hand, this is probably the most beautiful part of life that I’ve experienced. On the other hand, it is also the most gruesome. I’ve learned all the more that I am extremely impatient, pushy (though my siblings could absolutely attest to this), opinionated, and goal oriented to the place that I don’t know how to rest. Being married to my husband stretches me in these ways because he is my exact opposite: Patient, laid back, flexible, open, and ready for relaxation. I have qualities he needs. He has qualities I need. And that is why we are perfect for one another; we are the tools of God to sanctify each other.
3. Caring for someone else’s heart is a terrifyingly weighty responsibility. One of my favorite books about marriage ever is one by John and Stasi Eldredge called Love and War. We started reading that book together last April, and our marriage is very much built on quite a number of the books’ premises. At the end of the day, we learned that as married people, we have a crazy responsibility to care for one another’s hearts. We also have the very terrifying responsibility to allow one another the permission to care for each others hearts. Phillip never felt like there was anyone in life who really cared about him or his heart, so it actually took several months for him to let me “behind the walls”. From a young age I took on the choice to care for other people’s hearts quite intensely, but it took me a long time to believe that Phillip really wanted to care for mine that way too. As we were reading Love and War one day, we both were taken aback by the direct nature of this quote: “Without you, your spouse will not become the man or woman that God intends him or her to be, and the Kingdom of God will not advance as it is meant to advance. Your spouse place the most vital role in your life. You play the most critical role in your spouse’s life. No one will have a greater impact on your spouses soul than you. No one has greater access to your spouses heart than you. This is a tremendous honor…It is a sobering truth isn’t it. You are on holy ground. You matter more than you thought.”
4. It’s ok to admit you drive each other crazy. I drive aggressive. For me, reaching my destination is the goal. So I drive to get there. Phillip on the other hand, drives like a grandpa – ok maybe not a grandpa YET, but he is certainly the most law abiding driver on the road. For him, the journey is the destination. So he drives to enjoy the journey. This is why we are perfect for each other – on the road and in life. This is also one of the main reasons we drive each other crazy. I don’t remember the exact day we realized it. But the first time Phillip actually got mad at me was because he felt like I was endangering his life as I whipped out and made a u-turn on a street with traffic oncoming (in my defense I t.o.t.a.l.l.y. had plenty of room). I had to apologize and tell him that I do value his life very much and I would do my best to make him feel that way when I drove. It actually hasn’t been until recently that I realized how much anxiety I get when Phillip is driving. In my mind, I think, “why isn’t he in the right lane to turn yet?” or “if he would only move over from behind this bus we’d save some time” or “does he actually enjoy staying behind the slowest drivers on the road”. For my dear husband, he wasn’t in the right lane because he was admiring a sports car next to him and forgot that he had to turn; and yes the bus is in front of us but we are turning two streets down so there’s not enough time to pass it on the left; and we aren’t in any hurry so why stress about being behind a slow driver? Each of us has become comfortable vocalizing these moments of “you drive me crazy”. And while irritating on some days, on other days it’s also actually special. I know it sounds weird, but those are the times that I really feel that I’m loved – because though I drive Phillip crazy, he won’t stop loving me.
5. Marriage isn’t supposed to force you to give up your dreams; Your dreams simply become about “us” rather than “me”. Honestly, I didn’t actually know if I would ever get married. Most of my friends from back in the day know that I claimed I never would get married. There were two reasons I felt this way: I thought I would be forced to give up my dreams and relegated to kitchen duty for the rest of my life (I’ve never enjoyed cooking; was always sad we couldn’t live on bread alone!). I also thought that I would lose myself. That’s a weird one, I know. But my dreams were such an intrinsic part of me, I didn’t believe anyone would ever truly accept me for me, and be ok with those big dreams too. As it turns out, Phillip loves my “dream big” mentality. He says I have enough vision for the both of us. And it actually is a good thing too. Because Phillip enjoys the here and now. He doesn’t like getting bogged down by the possibilities, he just wants the best decision. So I’m the one who weighs, and ponders, and sometimes worries, and he’s the one who takes the top three and makes a choice. It actually is amazing. He sees my dreamer / visionary nature and loves me all the more for it.
6. The hardest part about marriage (for me): Suddenly, 1+ 1 = a TRILLION factors. I can’t stress this enough. Phillip and I both agree that this is one of the most difficult parts about being married. Single life is simple. It is so. so. so. simple. If I had $200 in my bank account before my next paycheck, and I wanted a purse, gosh darn it I would go out to Target and get a purse! If Phillip felt like going out to Red Robin every day of the week, there was no one there to say we should eat at home and save the money. Life is so simple when you are single; If you feel like doing something, you just go do it! Nothing could be further from that freedom than marriage. Now I am not saying that this is an awful and burdensome thing. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so darn complicated. Especially when you think about moving. It’s really hard for me to stay in one place for a good chunk of time. “I’m a hopeless wanderer” by Mumford is probably a theme song of my soul. I don’t like settling down. I’m sure there are issues there I simply haven’t surfaced, but I can honestly say I consider moving somewhere else probably once a year. As a single person, I could up and move at the drop of the hat. I could take the road for months and be no worse off. Being married – yeah that changes drastically. Now, I can’t just act on my gut intuition for myself – I have to consciously think about how every single aspect of a move would affect Phillip. And then how the move affecting Phillip would affect me. That’s been stressful and really difficult for me. However, would I give up my adventure partner for the easy road? Not in a million years. “’We’re in this together’ is one of the strongest cords that binds two hearts together.”
One year ago today, we eloped.
I can say with complete confidence that marrying Phillip is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have never been more grateful for anyone in my life.
We are both so grateful for the friends and family who were willing to love and accept us even in the midst of the shock, and disappointment that our rushed marriage caused. We have seen the grace of God showered on us through my parents, my siblings, and Phillips family as well. While we wish that we would have at least eloped with our families present (and would never in seriousness tell someone else to elope), starting our marriage with the mindset that we wanted to just do life together was as perfect as it got for us. Two really are better than one.
I am a different person today because Phillip married me one year ago. I am better. I am softer. I am stronger. I am more considerate. I am (becoming) more patient. I am more relaxed. I am more open.
Love changed me.
After so many lessons learned in just a year, I can only imagine the saint I am supposed to become after a lifetime of marriage.