Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Notes on A Marriage

Cory and I hightailed it up to Michigan on Sunday to belatedly celebrate our 15th anniversary.
We used to get away together more often...back when life was different in lots of ways. Upon reflection, we've only had one night alone in the past 18 months where we weren't sick as a coupl'a hound dogs.

Summary: We were long overdue.

For two nights, we stayed up late, slept in late (our dream schedule!) ate fantastic food cooked by NOT ME, read books, strolled around, held hands, took selfies, ate snacks, took naps, adventured, and generally had a blast together. We also hot-tubbed.

The first night we talked about the kinds of things that require mental energy reserves and zero interruptions; important things like mission and little kids and big kids, community, church, the jailbirds. We'd caught a breather, so we regrouped and dreamed without restrictions, our faces barely lit, feeling bold and gutsy in boiling hot water under sheets of stars like the ones in the movies.

Just before my face started to throb (my signature "you've had enough hot tub, Martin") I flashed back to 13 years ago, sitting at my end of our blue striped couch, bawling my eyes out because I was in a mess of a marriage and I couldn't see an end.

I wanted out. Everything felt hopeless. All I could imagine was an eternity of unhappiness. Things had spiraled so quickly and I was terrified of the shifting ground. I felt unloved, unlovable, very alone. (And everything I felt, Cory probably felt double.)

Right there against the backdrop of my misery and the dingy paint job of our "economical" apartment, God shoved past my crap and told me the truth about things. "See how hard the enemy is fighting to destroy you two? Just imagine what he's scared of. Just imagine the good you'll do with me, together."

In an instant, a page turned.
I felt the slip of paper under my fingertips, heard the rustling brush of words on words, saw, for the first time in a good, long while, some white space. Room for a future.

I had no idea it was what I wanted, what I'd been looking for.

That was the beginning of this right here.
We couldn't possibly have imagined it.

We moved to DC, re-soldered our mangled commitment to each other, got jobs in politics, hitched our stars to the American Dream, went to church, payed our tithe, adopted babies, bought a farm.

I clung to those cheap-carpet words whenever I felt tremors beneath our fine-tuned life.

I decided our little ones were the "good" we were doing together.
And they were. Still are.

But I had no idea there was more.

I didn't imagine a future of loss and instability and surrender and loneliness.
I didn't dream of a little house on a shabby street, a failing public school, or that my husband would spend his days with criminals but call them his friends.
In my wildest wishes, I couldn't trace the shape of a tall kid with an ankle bracelet and a heart broken so long, he thought it was supposed to feel that way.

Back then, I thought bigger was better and more was more.
I thought Jesus kept His best gifts on the tallest shelf, so I climbed. With my husband.

It would have been foolishness to imagine that our greatest purpose, our near-tangible peace, would look like bits of broken dreams.

Wearing a ridiculous bikini, skimming the bubbles with my fingertips, staring at my man, it clicked into place. It crystallized.

This life right here, this was part of God's purpose for us, inked before the first bloom of time.
It's not so exceptional. It's not the kind of life they make movies about.
To us, it is ordinary.
It is grueling, some days.
It can feel thankless and annoying and sometimes, boring to its core.

All those gifts I mentioned, the ones I didn't even know to ask for, they aren't because we did anything right or because we're very smart in the ways of righteousness. They are grace. Only grace. The kind that makes you fall to your knees. The kind that makes you remember your depravity. The kind that makes you believe God can meet you in your darkest hour, sit down beside you on your secondhand couch, and tell you to shape the heck up. Cut the drama, already. There's work to be done, but you've got to drop that torn-up net you're holding and follow Him.

Cory and I have talked about that moment plenty of times, but it felt good to say it all again, in order.

Bubbles blurred the edges of all our words, and there we were; one set of brown eyes, one set of blues. Still locked on each other when common sense would have said otherwise.

God defies gravity, friends.
He laughs at our foolish "logic" and our made-up psychobabble. He holds our world at a scary-sharp angle and says it's level.

What feels real to us often isn't, and only when we take a hard look at His unbending love for us, His endless mercy for us, only when we're so desperate that we actually listen, can we begin to see straight.

That's the kind of weekend I had.

*These are all phone pics, the step ones and selfies courtesy of Cory.