Sunday, September 28, 2014

I must say...

My friend and I were at the park the other day with our gaggle of children. A woman with one little girl started chatting with us. As we talked about birth order and number of kids and ages, she throws out that she's one of thirteen. There was a number of biological siblings and her parents fostered 35, adopting quite a few. They ended up divorcing and after remarrying, her mother had more children.

"Wow, they got divorced after all that? Why?" My friend asked.

"Well, when you get married at 17..." was her reply.

My friend did stick up for us and the fact that we're both happily married after having tied the knot at a young age(I was 18, she was in her early 20s, but met her husband as a teen). If getting married young was a reason for divorce, it seems every generation but ours would've had a high divorce rate. It's OUR generation, the one that puts so much ahead of marriage that has the high divorce rate.

Age has nothing to do with it. I'll give her that a seventeen year old's brain hasn't fully developed. I'll give her that people's desires and priorities and hopes change with age. I'll admit that I didn't know a dang thing about marriage on the day I said, "I do." But who does? If I'd waited until 25 or 30 would I be any wiser to the woes of marriage? Would I understand that this man, to whom I have promised  everything, could drive me to homicidal tendencies simply by the way he peels a hard boiled egg? Would a few years mature me enough to be patient with this man? Would the wisdom that is so desperately needed to avoid marital conflict come with time, pre-marriage?

I don't believe so. I was the same selfish person at 25 that I was at 18 and still am today. It is only by God's grace that our marriage is still intact. It hasn't been easy. Just Sunday, in fact, I had an out of body experience in which I clotheslined Sean over something trivial.

I had gotten up early and picked out clothes for all four boys(7:00, church starts at 9). I had them dressed and fed with plenty of time to get to Sunday school(8:00, church starts at 9). I think they'd even brushed their teeth(8:15, church starts at 9). I told myself not to nag about time, and why should I have to with so much to spare(8:30, church starts at 9)? As I'm shuttling kids out the door(8:40, church starts at 9!), Sean enters the bathroom. I still needed to touch up my curls, which only takes a sec. Waiting, waiting, still not nagging, surely he'll pop out any second...

At 8:55(Church! It starts at 9!!), out he walks, not a care in the world and I give him a look, "What shoes should I wear?" he asked. In my head I was thinking, "There's going to be a domestic...on the way to church." I give myself credit for not saying it out loud.

All that to say: no counseling, no books, no amount of time in the world can prepare you for marriage. It's something that can never be mastered. It can't be conquered. It can't be perfected. No marriage is unique. No marriage is better or worse than anyone else's. Human beings are selfish and sinful. Marriage is a constant test that we fail every single day. It takes effort and hard work and commitment from both. Marriage requires massive doses of forgiveness. Patience would probably be a good idea. Being snarky and sarcastic doesn't help a whole lot...You'd think I would've learned that thirteen years ago, but no. I still have to relearn that every day. It all comes back to God's grace. I know the 18 year old Chrissy and 21 year old Sean could never have made this work. I know the current me and the current Sean could never make this work, but God. He is using this union to shape and mold us into something amazing; sanctifying us along the way.

I must say, in defense of my dear, sweet man, that I am not always a peach to live with. It's true. I pass myself off as a meek, humble, submissive wife, but I give that man so much crap. I live up to my birth order. I act like a spoiled brat from time to time. The red isn't just for show; I have the temper to back it up. Now, if your beloved doesn't make steam come out of your ears from time to time, look inward. If you think you don't drive your husband to drinking, there's probably a bigger problem.

Disclaimer: I say most of that totally joking. I think marriage is awesome and I couldn't have landed with a greater man than Sean. We have changed and grown in our marriage, but more importantly, we've changed and grown in our relationship with God. When you're right with God, you're right with most everyone else. When we slack with God, our relationship suffers.

All of this makes me think of something I read this week by C.S. Lewis: "The thing I am going to try to explain in this chapter may be ahead of me. I may be thinking I have got there when I have not. I can only ask instructed Christians to watch very carefully, and tell me when I go wrong; and others to take what I say with a grain of salt as something offered, because it may be a help, not because I am certain that I am right."

I know I don't have marriage figured out. Believe you me, I know it. For instance, when Sean dropped our biggest kitchen knife on the floor today and I blurted out, "I so would've laughed if you'd cut your toe off." It's times like that I realize I have a way to go. But since I typed this post up a week ago, I made it to this Sunday with no nagging or yelling. We were even fifteen minutes late, just like last week. Today, though, when Sean asked, "What shoes should I wear?" at five minutes to nine, we both cracked up.

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