I wrote this a few months ago, and as I edited it to post it today, I almost decided not to. Because the truth is, when I read it, I wanted to go back and tell myself, “You’re naïve. Just wait — this only gets harder.”
This week has been one of the hardest yet. I’m recovering from a different procedure and a different set of aches and pains. But one thing remains the same then and now: His faithfulness. It’s the sliver of light on the darkest days, the ounce of hope in a stomach weighed heavy with doubt.
I’m posting it, because the person writing this three months ago — naïve or not — tells me something I needed to hear today. He will be faithful in this, too.
Throughout the 10 months leading up to my wedding, I was laser-focused on preparing every last detail — that is, every last detail of the wedding day and the marriage to follow. Imagine 10 macro to-do lists (one for each month), 40 micro to-do lists (one for each week) and 25 minimized tabs (one for each marriage column).
It was a promising strategy — except that everything I read made me want to crumple up all 50 to-do lists, exit all 25 tabs and write 25 very impassioned emails.
I vividly remember reading the same catchphrases over and over again: “Marriage is hard. Marriage is messy. Marriage is work.”
I was about to begin this exhilarating journey, diving into a grand, new love, and all anyone had to offer me was a tale of hard, messy work. The first of my friends to get engaged, I was already surrounded by plenty of pessimism about marriage at age 24. A romantic and an idealist at heart, I wanted to hear my favorite authors say marriage was lovely and life-giving. I wanted to feel excited and reassured. Yet, I just felt frustrated.
And now, here I am. Two, newborn years into marriage, and I get it. I see it. I feel it. But what I don’t want to do is just rattle off a slew of vague, discomforting words. Because hearing, “Marriage is hard but worth it!” doesn’t help all that much.
I’ll never forget my first time crying in my car, in the grocery store parking lot. Something about attempting to walk down the aisles and shop for a whole, thriving marriage felt dishonest when my half was so broken. So, on a few different occasions in that first year, I’d park my car facing away from the store’s windows, and I’d cry as hard as I could. Then, I’d go in the store, head straight for the bathroom and rinse my face with cold water. And I’d shop for our family of two, a ghost passing through the aisles.
I didn’t understand the disconnect for a long time. All I knew is what I felt. All I knew is what I wanted. All I knew was me. Later, I’d see that.
I brought duffel bags and carry-ons into our marriage, stuffed with unrealistic expectations and kidlike dreams — spewing with harsh judgments and molds that still held living people.
All I could see was an image I’d carefully etched into my mind — a masterpiece, really, years in the making: what a husband should be, what a wife should be, how a house should look, how prayer should happen, how Christ wants us to behave. And when we fell short, I felt lost.
For months, I only looked out. I was afraid to look within. I pushed and shoved until all my expectations fell on Drew. I stacked them high and heavy until he was crushed by the weight. And I was crushed by his inability to carry it.
I can’t pinpoint the day or even the month when I started looking in the mirror. All I know is once I caught a glimpse, I couldn’t un-see it: someone punctured by her sin and desperately trying to fill the holes, but instead inflicting wounds to match.
But as my reflection became clearer to me, so too did God’s grace.
In the months that followed, I immersed myself in Bible study in a way I’d never done before. The more I studied, the more I understood God’s character more clearly. And as my view of him changed, so did my view of myself, and of my husband.
My heart both softened and strengthened. I began to pray so many versions of the same prayer for our marriage that it seems etched on my heart, even now.
Though I felt the Spirit guiding my way, my old reflection was eager to greet me at every misstep. Our marriage was growing, but often, my own pride blinded me to see it. The path we’d been walking had become so familiar that it took something drastic for me to realize we weren’t walking it anymore.
In less than 48 hours, I’d be completely out, under general anesthesia, and a surgeon would remove a septum from my uterus. A septum, according to the surgeon, so severe it would likely cause infertility, miscarriage or preterm labor. A septum I was born with, created with, knitted together with.
Just a month before, I’d gone to the doctor for a run-of-the-mill infection, and I’d left with an abnormal ultrasound and a wait-for-the-call prognosis. That month would be filled with more waiting, and nerves so jagged I’d jolt every time my phone rang. And of course, the appointment, where I’d all-but faint on the table from the sudden swirl of physical pain and emotional stress.
Just a month before, we were about to start trying. I wanted to name a girl after my dad, and Drew choked on thin air every time I mentioned it. But he’d always laugh, so I knew it was up for debate. I was tapering off my migraine medications, and I’d cleared it with my neurologist.
But the month we planned to start trying was the month they’d schedule the surgery.
Mostly people told me how happy they were that they caught this early! That I was spared the pain! And I was thankful, truly. I praised God for his protection, for the blessing of early detection, and I did that a lot. But I also cried, for reasons I didn’t really understand, and I did that a lot.
Somewhere along the way, God had taken my duffel bags and carry-ons, and you know what I’d done? I’d blindly walked right up to him, and I’d taken them back. I never thanked him for taking them. No, I didn’t even realize he had them. I’d just snatched them out of his hands, like a spoiled child, and I’d stuffed them with brand-new expectations, this time for my body, my pregnancy, our growing family.
I could hardly focus on the words he was reading. All I could think about were the worst-case scenarios I’d surely be living in 48 hours. Fear and anxiety clouded my mind, suffocating the seeds of expectation I’d been watering with a perfected reality for far too long. I kept my eyes closed in attempt to keep the tears at bay.
And then he read this: “Sinful fear arises from unbelief — an unworthy distrust of God. This occurs when we fail to rely upon the security of God’s promise; in other words, when we refuse to trust in God’s protection.” (Flavel & Yuille, 2011) My husband read those words aloud to me, as I lie in bed beside him, refusing to trust the God he read about, refusing to trust the God who had already shown me incredible faithfulness.
And that’s when I opened my eyes.
I looked at my husband, my heart aching, sloshing with impatient blood. How could I have missed it? That tired, worn-out prayer that was carved into my very being — when did I stop waiting for its answer?
The luggage. I’d held it in my arms, packed so full, I couldn’t see in front of me anymore. The Lord had shaped our marriage before my very eyes.
Now, two broken people lay beside one another in bed, one drawing on the Lord’s promises to offer the other hope. One, showing the other what it meant to stand on solid ground. One, offering the other protection from the storm that swirled within.
The Lord had been faithful to me, to us, and in that moment, my fear stilled and peace took its place. He would be faithful in this, too.
The thing is, his faithfulness rarely looks like we think it will. So it’s easy to miss if you’re too busy juggling luggage you were never meant to carry. Set it down. Better yet, hand it off.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Flavel, J., & Yuille, J. S. (2011). Triumphing over Sinful Fear. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.