Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

Marriage–The Best Kind of Hard

I Want a Divorce

There was a time this thought visited my mind. I never said it, but I silently wished it. At the time, it seemed like the only answer and the only solution to the deep black hole of a mess we found ourselves in. But it was also a terrifying thought, one that I never imagined I would ever have. I don’t think anyone gets married imagining they might have a divorce one day. No, if you’re walking down that long, beautiful aisle, this marks the happiest moment of your life because you are thrilled you finally found the one, and divorce is really the last thing on your mind.

Yet just as soon as I got married, I immediately came face to face with the grim reality that no marriages are perfect, not in the least. I was shocked to see that divorce was everywhere and even more shocked to find I was one day considering it myself. It had been a tough year full of hurt and misunderstandings and after going around in circles over and over again over the same disappointing, enraging, and heartbreaking events and realizations, I wondered if we had made some horrible mistake.

Then everything inside me wanted out. I wanted to get out of the house, walk out of the marriage, and if it were at all possible, walk straight back to the days of being single and free. I wasn’t just trying to take the easy way out, but I honestly thought it might be better for the both of us.

The way that this thought came so naturally, however, was scary. It was as if it had been waiting at our door just looking for the opportunity to rear its ugly head into our home and present itself as the better alternative. And for a moment, I thought about it.

Thankfully, after a great deal of grace, prayer, counsel, and hard work, I stopped entertaining the idea of divorce in my home. I walked it to the door and after saying goodbye, my husband and I were able to find our footing and trek our way out of the thick of things. We’ve come a long way since then and continue to learn a great deal about marriage even now, but what I’ve learned the most is that marriage is not easy. It is without a doubt hard..really hard, excruciatingly hard, and yet, it is the best kind of hard.

Those moments and days and seasons and years of difficulty can be…difficult.  Dying to your own desires for the good of the other is sometimes like swallowing lemons and other times like a few good jabs to the stomach. Learning to love a person who is always changing can seem like an impossible feat. Not letting your mind and your flesh wander away from your first love involves perhaps more training, stamina, and mental discipline than is necessary for any extreme sport. Constantly working for closeness can be exhausting, but the moment you stop trying is the moment you start drifting. And learning to overlook offenses and to forgive quickly even when great hurt is involved can feel like a job only cut out for Jesus Himself, but we are called to do so nonetheless. Realizing the weaknesses, the faults, the utter sinfulness of your spouse and then of yourself. Illnesses, financial difficulty, infidelity, etc, all of which can rob every last ounce of joy and love that you never thought could leave your marriage. All this and a million things more are hard.

This may sound rather depressing, but there is of course the bright side and it is this. In the little experience I have had with marriage, I found that perhaps BECAUSE marriage is so hard, I have come to love Christ all the more.

I love Christ and how in the midst of imperfect love from imperfect beings, God can still show His perfect love. I love how the greatest hurts can be washed and transformed to blend into the most beautiful picture of reconciliation. I love how God can pick up all the pieces of shattered hearts and make it whole again. I love the long nights where tears mixed with pain and utter frustration turn into tears of laughter just as the dawn comes and we both know it was only God who could work such a miracle. And most of all, I love all the work, all the muck, and all the mess because when I turn around, I see that we are no longer who we once were, but we are one step closer to Christ and one step closer to reflecting His image.

I know not all marriages have worked out and not all always will, but one thing I know is that there is always hope. I have hope for my own and hope for everyone else who has or ever will find themselves in the beginning, middle, or possibly nearing what looks like the end of this really crazy thing called marriage. And I hope that when all is said and done, we will all have greater love, even greater than what we first imagined on our wedding day, and then it would all be worth it .

Can’t Escape Pain

Can’t Escape Pain

This past weekend, I attended a training to become a certified birth instructor and doula. Birth is not something too many women think very fondly about. Baby, yes, but the actual birth? Most shudder in fear thinking about the pain that is associated with it. I used to too. It is the wretched curse of Eve and every woman thereafter to have labor pains, and even with today’s meds, you can hardly avoid it even if you try.

In fact, the reason I went natural for all of my births in the first place was that I learned from other mothers that drugs and other interventions actually put the mother and the baby at higher risk for all sorts of complications that ended up causing them much more pain than the natural pains of labor. More pain? No thank you. So I signed up for the natural route and found out how to make the best of it. Then in the process, I discovered that birth can actually be a beautiful process if you know how to get through the pain.

Yet either way, natural or not, you can’t escape pain at birth. You will feel it at some point. With pain we enter this life, then with pain we leave it, and of course there is no escaping it in between either. It seems to simply be a part of the fabric of this world, woven in and out of every corner. Even with every good, there also seems to be some kind of bad making all of life some kind of bittersweet.

Then there is the pain you just can’t seem to understand why it could ever be allowed. Cancer, war, divorce, betrayal, injustice, poverty, rape, broken homes, and shattered dreams. The mother by the bedside of her child who thrashes around from the pains of chemo.The endless pangs of hunger felt by millions without food. The depression that debilitates so many and suffocates them in darkness. There is so much pain I can almost see the world throbbing from above, and while I know pain does not come from God, I know that for some reason, God many times allows it.

But why? Why would God create someone to go through life in pain like so many seem to do?

Sometimes I think I know, then sometimes I don’t, but I always take comfort in the words I tell my children in their pain:

“It’ll pass.”

This past week I spent almost every minute of every day hearing the moans and groans of agony from my daughter Kindle. She had sores in her mouth that lasted for days which meant she didn’t eat for days and she hardly slept either. Right by my side, I heard her cries through the night, making its way even into my dreams, as she and I both fell in and out of short spurts of sleep. There was very little I could do to help her, so we just had to wait for it to pass, and I kept reassuring her that it indeed would get better. One day she would wake up and the pain would be gone.

So she waited. Miserable for sure, but she was a real trooper. When day three or four passed, she finally started being able to eat a bite of soggy cereal here and there. At first, she was so relieved with even that, she would say things like, “God loves me because He let me eat.” But the pain persisted and you can only enjoy soggy cereal for so long and she started to say things like, “I will NEVER be happy again..”

A little dramatic, but who can blame her? Days can feel like an eternity for a three-year-old kid especially if they are in pain. The only thing that consoled her was to cling to me and have me by her side every second, stroking her back, her hair, her arms as she moaned. So I did and I just kept praying for the pain to be lifted as she continued to cry. All the while, I was also thinking about the rest of the world going through much worse than mouth sores. I was thinking about the little girl I read about battling leukemia and I prayed for her too with heaviness in my heart.

Then in my prayers, I know God was comforting me with the same words, reminding me this would all pass. This throbbing world will pass, and while we may not understand what happens in this world, the lives that He created, not for pain but for love, will remain with Him forever in a perfect heaven that allows no pain. It can feel like an eternity away sometimes for sure, but as I cling to Christ through the waiting, I know I too will one day wake up and find myself facing the birth of a new dawn, a new morning when I will see Jesus face to face and we will be free from this life of pain. And if this is the only thing that keeps us going, I see nothing better to look forward to than that. In the mean time, together I hope to find a way to get through the problem of pain and to make something beautiful out of this life as well.