The Everyday Miracle of Marriage

Five years ago almost to the day, I sat on a park bench with my husband just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The weather was perfect, the setting idyllic. We had just completed an incredible kayaking trip and hike. Denali was off in the distance, and if you’ve seen it, you know that there are no words to describe its beauty. I should have been struck speechless with awe and wonder.

But I wasn’t.

My marriage was not in a good place, and I couldn’t see anything else. It was as though I was viewing the world through blinders. My husband and I were physically on the same trip (ironically for our anniversary), yet in every other way, we were miles apart.

***

Our tenth anniversary is in a couple of weeks. We took a trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona, to get away, to remember, to celebrate. This isn’t where either of us thought we would go if you had asked us five years ago, but then again, this isn’t where either of us thought we would be five years later. Quite honestly, I didn’t think we would still be married.

Grand Canyon

***

grand canyon 4

Our sweet neighbors will have been married for 57 years later this summer.  My grandparents were married for almost 50.  My parents just hit 35.  These long, successful marriages seem like miracles to me.  And they are!  But so is ten.  So is every day past ten and every day since July 11, 2009.  It is miraculous that God took the two most opposite people on the planet (quite literally, we are polar opposites on both the enneagram and Myers-Briggs personality tests) and brought us to a place where we are not just still married, but we actually really like each other.  Somehow we opposite humans sleep in the same bed, raise small humans, and have built a life that we love.  The miracle is in the everyday motions of walking hand-in-hand toward this long road that leads to heaven … together. 

Just as I couldn’t see the beauty of Alaska, our eyes can be blinded to these commonplace miracles of which marriage is one.  My counselor told me that many people see this and other anniversaries as just another day.  (More on why everyone should go to counseling in another post.)  It is and it isn’t.  Knowing that the sun rises every morning makes it no less spectacular to watch.  Technically, the day of our anniversary won’t feel any differently than the day before did, but it’s a huge milestone for us.  We made it, and amazingly, we are better than we have ever been.

grand canyon 2

***

While we were in Arizona, we hiked all the way down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a single day. We didn’t plan that, and the park rangers don’t recommend it. We had intended to hike seven miles and actually did close to twenty. Going all the way down was difficult, but it didn’t feel terrible. Coming back up was brutal. I have run marathons that seemed far easier, and my muscles have never been so sore in my life as they were the next day.

Looking across and down into the canyon from the top was spectacular. Everyone says that pictures can’t capture the vastness of it, nor the colors, and all of that is true. We watched the sun set at the Grand Canyon the night before our hike and saw it rise early the next morning. Both moments took my breath away. But I didn’t cry until we looked out at the canyon from the top for the third time, after we had made it all the way back up from our hike. Its vastness and beauty were all the more impressive after having been at the bottom.

colorado river

This is also the story of our marriage.

No one recommends hitting rock bottom and sticking your feet in the Colorado River, as it were. They advise you that it can be done, that people do make it back up, but most do not. Because we are crazy or stupid or naive or maybe a little of all three, we didn’t listen. And somehow, through time and outside support and lots of conversations and prayer and ultimately the grace of God, we took every grueling step back to the top. We made it, and not a day goes by that I am not surprised and immensely grateful that we did.

Andrew, here’s to ten or twenty or fifty more … together. Oh, and let’s not hike the whole thing again.

I got married young.

This past weekend, we got away to an Airbnb for our eighth anniversary.  I'm 29, and we've already been married for eight years.  You do the math on that one.

Here in Oklahoma and where I'm from in Texas, marrying young isn't a complete anomaly.  Even so, my husband and I often get bewildered looks when we talk about how long we have been together.  {Apparently, they let babies get hitched in the South.}  

Everyone seems to have an opinion about what age is appropriate for marriage, but I don't think there is a black and white answer.  Age is often proportional to maturity level, but not always.

I was still in college when I married Andrew.  Looking back now, that seems crazy, but it's really no crazier than getting married and being in "the real world" would have been.  We had dated for three years, and we just knew that the time was right.  I'd like to offer a few reasons why, for us, marrying young was the best thing we could have done.

1.  Sex.  In light of our culture today, I realize that our decision to save sex for marriage is rare and strange, but it was important to us.  If we got married, we could have sex.  So we did.

2.  We knew that we would never be ready.  There are always more goals to accomplish, more places to travel, and more items to cross off the bucket list.  If we waited until the "right time" to get married, we probably never would have.  There is no "right time."  We didn't throw caution to the wind, but we also knew that we couldn't delay our decision until our uncertainty was 100 percent gone, because that day would never come.

3.  Our commitment to love each other, regardless of the situation, has held us together.  This particular reason stands out to me above all the rest.  When we were dating, we always had the choice to break up with relatively small consequences if things weren't going well (and we almost did on multiple occasions).  In 2014, five years after our wedding, we both believed that our marriage was not savable.  The shaky foundation that we had built up to that point completely crumbled, but we still had this piece of paper, this ceremony that our pastor had performed before God and hundreds of other people in which we had promised to love "till death do us part".  Initially those were not good reasons to try to reconcile our differences, but they were all we had at the time, and they are what kept us believing that divorce was not an option.  In the three years that we have stayed married since that horrible year, I have become increasingly more thankful for the vows that forced us to fight through those dark days to the peace and friendship that we enjoy now.

4.  We could have spent forever searching for the perfect person and never found him or her.  I am not naive enough to believe that I am the perfect wife for my husband, and neither is he the perfect husband for me.  We are both seriously flawed.  We fight.  We make each other angry.  He leaves his dirty clothes on the dresser.  I compulsively throw away important papers.  He forgets to wash his dirty lunch Tupperware.  I don't empty out the vaccuum cleaner when it is full of dog hair.  He farts too much.  I cry too much.  Another man might not annoy me in the same ways, but he would annoy me nonetheless.  I didn't marry Andrew because he is the perfect man for me; Andrew is the perfect man for me because I married him.

5.  We do more fun things because we are married, not less.  "Life as we knew it" didn't end when we said "I do".  Left to myself, I'd stay home alone and read books or write all day.  Left to himself, Andrew would play way too many video games and watch every Netflix documentary ever made.  Living together allows us to open up our home to others and be hospitable when it's easier to be lazy.  Having combined incomes provides more opportunities for adventures.  We never have to worry about finding dates to weddings, parties, or showers.  We shoot guns, see movies, play board games, watch car races, go hiking, run marathons, attend concerts and sporting events, look at Christmas lights, host dinner parties, and the list goes on.  We do those things because they are more fun with a best friend than alone, and because we push each other toward spontaneity rather than boredom.

6.  Burdens are cut in half when someone shares them with you.  The last eight years have brought more heartache than we ever expected, but Andrew has helped me through everything.  He cannot remove the circumstances, but he can listen and encourage me through them.  My first year of teaching, surgeries, infertility, and the loss of loved ones have all been easier because my husband has carried part of the load.  Likewise, our joys have been multiplied.  I'll never forget finding out about both of our girls and can't imagine celebrating the gift of life without my partner.

7.  We have become more independent because we are married.  This seems counter-intuitive, but it makes sense.  Being married has allowed us to make more decisions on our own and to become financially independent, things which would have been delayed had we continued living with parents or roommates.  "With great power comes great responsibility," but I actually enjoy being able to plan our meals and buy groceries, pay our own bills, own a home, have separate health insurance, and make the decisions that define adulthood.  We are our own separate family unit, and this has been a blessing rather than a curse.

8.  I'm not the first person to say this, but we get to grow old together and grow up together.  We spent our first year of marriage in a dumpy duplex that backed up to a high school parking lot, we drove an old car with a huge dent in the side, I was still finishing school, and we budgeted like crazy just to make it through student loans to the next paycheck.  But we were happy.  Now that we've been together for over a decade, I have gotten the privilege of witnessing my teenage boyfriend become a man, my precious husband become a father.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this:  Marriage doesn't require a huge savings account, perfect jobs, or a fancy house.  It requires two people who are committed to making it work.  Our story may look much different in twenty years, but the main characters will always be the same.

I got married at 21, and I have no regrets.