covenant

I was a single mama going to the University of Michigan.  It was the summer of 1988 and I had decided to take a poetry class to squeeze in some extra credits before autumn.  When I saw him for the first time, I never dreamt he would be “the one,” as I eavesdropped on his conversation with a college classmate about how his wife had left him, hiding their child and giving away all of his belongings.

Nine months later, as he was scraping the ice off of my car windows with my son’s duplo blocks, asking me to go on a date with him, I didn’t think he would capture my heart like no one had before or has since.  But five months after our first date, we were pledging our hearts and lives to each other in front of a small gathering of our families and friends.

He made me laugh.  He wrote and played me songs.  He was beautiful and smart and gentle.  He commanded the attention of almost every room he entered.  We would, on the regular, talk ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  Being married to him was like repeatedly having the best sleepover, EVER.

Most of the time.

Marriage is hard.  It’s the place I first faced how selfish and manipulative I can be.  I was really good at making that stuff look like selflessness and sacrificial martyrdom, but in recent years, I’ve had to look long and hard at my junk and be more honest about my part in the unhealthy layers of our marriage.  Marriage is where we often discover the very best and the very worst of ourselves.

I’m ofttimes saddened by our culture’s one-dimensional fixation on and celebration of longevity, or endurance in marriage.  Frequently I am told how awesome it is that we’ve been married almost 30 years, especially when we experienced infidelity and physical abuse in the earlier years of our marriage.  I’m proud of us for choosing to lock arms and stay married.  I’m incredibly grateful that Our Pappa gave us the grace, love and determination to get to this point.  BUT, the thing that has made this all worth the humiliation, exhaustion and complete brokenness of the last ten years, has been finding truth and seeing ourselves more and more as Our Pappa intended and through that journey, we continually choose each other and Him.

ruth-1-16

I don’t believe He wants us to settle for “sticking it out.”  I believe that no matter how long we’ve been married, we are to continually reach for more within ourselves and our relationships.  I believe marriage is one of His favorite vessels for character refinement.  As long as we push against Him when He wants to grow the parts of us that need growth, we will have greater strife in various areas of our lives.  When we begin to uproot those hidden “ugly” parts, satan will usually show up to discourage us, so neither road seems like a joy ride, really.

When I came to the end of myself and what could’ve easily been the end of my marriage, this old, often miscredited, quote, along with the abundance of grace my Honey generously extended to me,  spurred me on to cast off the old, comfortable, unhealthy habits in exchange for new and incredibly uncomfortable new practices.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

I’ve found that as I’ve aged, the reality of tomorrow not being promised has become much more undeniable.  I take my days less for granted than I once did and I want to make the most of the days I have left here.  I see myself stretching for who I am meant to be, willing to do the hard work of submitting to My Pappa’s desire for my purpose.  Occasionally, I struggle with the regret of time wasted in my Stepford years of the insanity (see definition above), although, ironically, as time passes, I see more and more what a waste of time all of that is and that satan is usually behind this distraction.

I’m in a season of joy in my marriage, after facing a painful growth hurdle.  My Honey still makes me laugh more than anyone, except perhaps our kiddos who have inherited his comedic genius.  He plays me songs.  He’s even more beautiful, smart and truly gentle than he ever was in our early years together.  His elevated beauty is not only outward, but deeply inward, born of brokenness and humility.  He is wise now and smart in the ways that matter, caring intensely for others beyond himself.  When I watch my big bear of a man tenderly and unashamedly interact with small children or regularly care for precious people Our Pappa puts in his path, I can’t help but love him a little more.  When he gets out of bed in the middle of the night or earlier than he planned to somehow rescue one of our beloved children, or I come home from work to find a room or two cleaned, laundry folded or dinner made because he sees this as a partnership without score-keeping, I’m pretty much the happiest girl in the world.

I’ve little doubt we will be blessed more seasons of joy and more of pain as we age.  But, the beauty of working toward personal growth in Christ is that it overflows into our marriage and every relationship, really, so when we go through the hard seasons, we are more resilient.  We are tuned into Our Pappa’s voice, so satan’s is muted or at least, muffled.  Our love for one another abides, not just putting up with or casting aside, we are enduring together, all three of us, reaching for the marriage that Our Pappa has envisioned all of these years, knowing with our endurance comes breakthrough and growth and another season of joy.

The first step is always admitting you have a problem.  It’s hard to do if you struggle with martyrdom like I have, too much of my life.  The truth is that even if it looks like you are the “good guy” in your marriage to everyone else, you aren’t.  You are wounded and broken in ways untold, and asking Our Pappa to help you heal and grow is the best way to love your husband or wife, your children, your friends, everyone else and most of all, Your Pappa.  And if you are not married or not married, yet, then I promise, you will not regret getting healthier on an emotional and spiritual level even a little bit.  Choosing to be in a relationship with Him is the most important covenant relationship you will ever enter into.  Regardless of our marital status with another human being, our covenant with Him should be just the motivation we all need to stretch with all of our might toward the goal of becoming who He calls us to be in Him.

I have an extreme fondness for trees.  Their makeup speaks to me on a spiritual level.  I don’t mean new-agey, or like I think I was a tree in another life, but I’m drawn to their beauty, especially their roots.  This is the part of the tree’s complexity that no one can see.  The roots are what supports the tree, what gives it life, health, vitality, yet they are unseen.  When my husband and I choose to humble ourselves for our marriage, for one another or for Our Pappa, our roots grow deeper, stronger and I envision them wrapping around one another, his, mine and His, forming an unbreakable cord of three.

I never imagined that I would find myself here, about to celebrate 30 years of marriage to a man I love more deeply and in ways I couldn’t understand in the beginning, now with five precious, amazing children raised because of and in spite of our parenting.  I am battle worn and bruised, but more myself than I have ever been.  I have spent more days as his bride than not; more than 10,000 days and nights as his Mrs.  I have spent almost as many days and nights following My Pappa, seeking to understand how unconditionally and deeply He cares for me, His beloved daughter.  I know full well the direction my life was headed before I entered into covenants with my husband and My Pappa.  When I remember this truth I can’t have regrets.  I know I’ve wasted not one minute, because while the pruning seasons have been painful, they are even more necessary if I am to walk more and more fully in who He has called me to be.  

 

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