“If we could just have one year, just one year, where it wasn’t hard – maybe then it would be easier?”
I said it one night late, wrapped in our white comforter, both of us with books in our laps. “Our anniversary is coming,” Josh had said. “What should we do? Nine years.”
We decided dinner was good. And we’d be going to counseling the day before, which we do every month. We went to a bookstore and bought each other presents. We didn’t feel the need for much more than that this year. But as we talked about it – the almost-decade of being married, the more-than-decade of being together – we couldn’t help but look at the year after year after year of good-hard. Goodness blended with difficulty. Even as I tried to write this post I had to stop to wipe poop off the floor for my potty-training toddler, pick up Magnatiles and separate a sibling fight; Josh’s voice rumbles in the office as he compares insurance prices and talks to the company accountant. Like all young Christian couples, the dailyness of life poses a challenge to our unity.
But the year 2022 felt like it almost killed us. I thought it couldn’t feel harder than being separated a total of 6 months of our first year of marriage for work, or moving to Pennsylvania while 37 weeks pregnant, or moving back to Michigan from the Pennsylvanian town we loved, or Josh losing his job the day after we signed our mortgage (while I was pregnant with Eva), or the torture of navigating his second job, or him leaving that job while I was 6 months pregnant (again), or crying through years of a seemingly incurable autoimmune disease, a broken leg and wheelchair, hurts and betrayals and struggles and pain.
Back in the bedroom, we sat in the stillness, the rush of the sound machine filling the silence.
If we could just have one year without pain.
But we can’t. No human can; no married human can. Life spills out ahead of us, a long road of uncertainty with a few sad and certain things: the ones we love will die, the trials will still come, and somehow we have to be strong enough to bear it. At least, that’s where my pessimistic mind wants to go.
I want to be jealous. I look around at other couples and make up stories in my head – their life wasn’t as hard, their losses not so grievous, their betrayal not so deep. I think, we had it worse. But that’s a lie, because everyone born into this imperfect world is touched by that imperfection. We all carry hurts and we all pass through trials – some are just less visible than others. What we do in those trials, and who we become (the plural “we” of marriage) has the power to be a witness to this wasting world.
Today we have been married nine years and in those nine years have experienced soul-deep, crushing disappointment. The long road of uncertainty has dealt us blows we did not and could not anticipate. Whether by circumstance or personality or both, marriage has not been easy for us. A quick scan through the last eight years of anniversary posts (below) will tell you that.
But we are still here. And there are still certain things; certain things aside from death and taxes:
- God is still kind, and good, and present;
- The home has incredible value and this is where we are shaped;
- Marriage matters, and it is worth fighting for.
We cannot rewrite history and take the easier path. We cannot guarantee a life without trial and pain. We cannot end the uncertainty, but we can fix our eyes on the certain things. The thing I am most grateful for in our marriage is a spouse who, through all of this, has not wavered in seeking God. Though we have hurt one another, struggled to communicate, linked arms against the onslaught of loneliness and exhaustion, at the end of the day we have fought FOR each other. It has not been easy, it may never be ‘easy’ for us. But we will still be here, fighting for the vow that was made. Fighting to build something better out of the wreckage of generational sin. Fighting to partner with God’s vision, not the world’s.
The world told us to give up: give up on marriage and on one another. They told us: If it takes this much to communicate, if you can’t understand each other, if you don’t feel attraction the way you used to, you’ve fallen out of love.
They talk about falling out of love, but nobody talks about climbing back up. Nobody tells the truth: You might “fall out of love” in your marriage, but you can choose to fall back in. It won’t be an accident. It won’t happen by osmosis. The falling is really a jumping – a conscious choice to take the risk in loving someone who has hurt you and will hurt you again, in life circumstances that are less than ideal and probably always will be.
Falling back in love is a risk and a choice. Josh and I have chosen it over and over in nine years, over and over when we should be a statistic. I hesitate to share that. Shouldn’t Christian marriages be the best there is? I think so. And we’re on that road. But for those reading this who wonder why marriage feels so hard – that’s your selfishness dying (as our marriage coach once said). These thousand tiny deaths to self are building something better, if we will just stay faithful, stay trusting, and believe that God can do a work we could never do.
If you’re like us, friend, you may never have a year that isn’t hard. But the marriage being realized through your pain and sacrifice will be better than you’ve ever dreamed. Goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life – even the hard ones. (Psalm 23) Even when the world feeds you lies about your marriage; even when your own anxiety-ridden mind believes those lies. God will reprogram your heart, reignite your hope, and redeem your relationship. We are proof it is possible, and we pray that for you.
For encouragement in connecting and communicating, check out our free “Weekly Marriage Check In” here.
Every year for our wedding anniversary I write a post to commemorate the day. I can’t believe we are nine years in! The past posts are below.
- Year One: Five Things I Learned About Respect in My First Year of Marriage
- Year Two: Marry the Man Who Stays
- Year Three: To the Woman My Husband Should Have Married
- Year Four: What I Lost When I Got Married
- Year Five: Ten Things I Learned in Five Years of Marriage
- Year Six: The Covenant That Kept Us
- Year Seven: It Takes More Than Two to Make a Marriage
- Year Eight: The Constant I Have is You