This was written my beautiful bride of 8 years (today!), Alison. May her thoughtfulness bless you as she shares some of our story.
A number of years ago, Fred and I went through premarital counseling with Jim Brinkerhoff, my campus minister from Auburn. His first statement at the beginning of the session was “Marriage is hard work.” In my naïve, “I’m currently planning a wedding, getting into shape, and trying on wedding bands” phase, I felt my mind snicker. Not that I didn’t believe him, but if you love someone, what makes marriage hard work? In my short 8 years (as of today), I have begun to understand what makes Jim’s statement so true. It isn’t the lack of love; it’s the reality of life. It’s moving to 3 different cities in various parts of the country. It’s buying and selling 3 homes during those moves and starting over each time with no one but your spouse. It’s releasing your mom to the Lord and dealing with the heartache of her absence. It’s being unemployed, changing jobs, and Fred currently being bi-vocational in ministry so I can stay home with our son. It’s having 2 miscarriages. It’s delivering our precious, healthy son. It’s learning how to parent. It’s wanting more children but not having that prayer answered at the moment. It’s sleepless nights with a crying baby and exhausted days with a busy toddler. It’s wanting time for yourself and a clean house with no dirty laundry. It’s adjusting to the various seasons of your life while attempting to be the spouse and parent God has called you to be. It’s accepting unmet expectations and releasing yourself from the pressure those expectations seem to cause. It’s an array of thoughts and feelings that come from your own experiences in life and in marriage. Your marriage.
So how does marriage work? If you’ve been married a lot longer than I, bear with me. But from what I can tell it’s having date nights at your favorite restaurant. It’s Netflix Friday night movie night. It’s weekend trips away. It’s random text messages throughout the day. It’s dinner at the table as much as possible. It’s coffee, muffins, and cartoons on Saturday mornings. It’s sporting events. It’s concern for one another’s dreams. It’s a listening ear that doesn’t interrupt. It’s saying “I may not understand why you’re upset, but I understand you.” It’s being compassionate in the midst of failure. It’s holding one another accountable to the calling of Jesus. It’s speaking God’s love into one another’s lives. It’s being their biggest fan. It’s sharing your thoughts and feelings, even if you aren’t “made that way.” It’s secrets that no one else knows. It’s offering forgiveness and being forgiven. It’s being quiet. It’s laughing…a lot. It’s defending your spouse even when others aren’t. It’s saying “I’m sorry” when you’ve let them down or been wrong, even if you thought you were right. It’s knowing what’s worth the fight and what isn’t. It’s knowing that only God’s love is perfect and grace and mercy surely abound. It’s compliments and compromise. It’s witnessing another’s life. It’s marriage. And it’s hard work. Have we mastered this list? Not at all. Do we try? Absolutely. Do we fail? Of course. But not one day has passed in the last 8 years that has ever caused me to question or rethink saying “I do,” and in God’s grace, nothing ever will.
I wrote this today to express my thoughts on marriage, but more importantly, to tell others what Jim so bodly told us: Marriage is hard work. Loving another unconditionally takes more than a beautiful dress and perfect flower arrangements. Wedding days are wonderful and fantastic and certainly something to be excited about, but the days after create your home, your life, and the lives of those you bring into it. So say “I do” with joy and expectation and take your marriage seriously. Marriage is hard work, but the work is worth the joy of having a healthy, happy life with the person you love.