Jan 18, 2016

Year Six

"A sacrament--like marriage--means living a life better 
than your natural instincts, so that you're modeling God. 
And God never gives up." 

We were so young, so very young, even though it was only six years ago.

Neither of us knew how to be married. You were foolish and reckless with my heart and left us with a pain that fused together bitterness and regret. I was inexperienced with being a good wife, and left us with a lot of burnt, processed freezer food and a beautiful new baby who cried approximately 23 hours each day. We were supposed to be in that newlywed bliss that we assumed would follow the tiny ceremony in our apartment's dining room with the creeky wooden floor, the breezy sheer curtains we hung for the occasion, and the windows that overlooked a brick, snowy Illinois Street. After we came back from an Italian dinner we could not well afford, we both thought the hard part was over.

Our relationship has been on the brink of breaking many times, and both of us know this well. Marriage is hard, but we have had it harder than many, I think. We've spent much of the time wondering how the bills would be paid, but they always were. We spent time wondering how God could fix our hearts, but He always has. We spent time wondering if we'd make it another year, but we always do. Most would look at six years as a drop in the bucket of marriage, but we know better, you and I.

And here we are, only a little way down the road of the journey. Since those rings were exchanged, we've named a little girl and a little boy, staying awake countless nights for them, learning with them, growing together not just as two, but as a family of four. We've changed jobs- you both in the civilian world and with your military promotions, and me from my secretary's cardigans and heels to a mother at home. You've learned how to fix the car that breaks every few months, and I've learned how to feed us all with recipes that are filling, albeit simple. You're a father who reads bedtime stories in silly voices, and I'm a mother who cries the night before every birthday they have. I barely recognize your baby face and my bleach blonde hair in the few photos we have from our wedding day. Every day is a step towards something better- not shiner, or more impressive, but tarnished with the age of experience and persistent hope. I'm proud that we didn't let go.

I don't think there will be an itch in year seven, because we've only just begun to be married. We've started over so many times that it seems more like our first anniversary. No one can truly say their vows with the full weight of their meaning, not really. It's in the every day that we learn those things-what it really is in the "for worse" part, and what it can really be in the "for better". No one can grasp the hurt that can occur, or the deep laughter, or the common experiences that sew everything together. The beauty of it is that these years, full or lean, cold or warm, crumbling or solid, have all sewn us together, even when we weren't aware.

One of my favorite quotes is this: "Love is a battlefield, love is a war, love is a growing up." (James Baldwin) Six months after you came home from a war, I married you. And six years later, here we are, still fighting for all things good, and growing up into the kind of people who never give up.
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