For all the Anniversaries & Weddings: the secret to having a better marriage (or how to save a marriage)

He had hair, and I had poodle-permed hair, and it can turn out the what we thought was good hair days — was simply just a good day.

How can it already be twenty four years ago that a vow was spoken into space — and space evaporated and two became one, and how do you tell another human being with all of the moments of your life:

My home is your heart.

There have been years that rose like tsunamis, threatening to destroy us and all hopes of being a roof.

I have wanted to run. Outrun my ugly selfishness, my elusive expectations, my own bloated feelings.

I hadn’t known: Working hard can be a kind of running hard.

I’ve stood over pots at the stove, and kneaded soft dough into bread by the window, and read long and late into the night — and it’s true: working away can be a kind of running away. Turns out: You can distance yourself in very small rooms.

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And I have thought it often — after a chain of nights staring at the ceiling, our bed feeling like a growing gulf of impossible impasse —

What has made a way — is that promise that we made.

A promise made can make a way — through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Sometimes a promise holds you together when don’t know how to hold on to each other.

And one day — (or was it over a long string of weeks, months?) — I looked in the mirror and wondered if we had made it through, if we had made to the other side.

Because it had happened:

I stopped wishing he would become someone better — when I realized how deeply I wished I was someone better— and yet he still took me.

He’d pull up the bed covers every morning, and cover over my shortcomings with a long patience, and when he could have destroyed me with a handful of words, he’d reach for my hand, and only use words that made souls stronger.

No one had said that this happens with vows:

For all my worse — he still takes me — and that makes everything better.

He still takes even me. I had finally stared long into the mirror, looked into my cracked depths, and saw the ugly truth of the brokenness that lies there, and honestly — how could I not be utterly taken with the one who still takes me?

Both my man and the Son of Man.

Maybe it should have been part of our vows:

Humility is the key to intimacy.

It’s only taken me more than two decades to wake to that blaze of two-fold epiphany of humility, like the sun for the day, and the moon for the night:

Go lower
and you’ll grow closer.

And:

Share brokenness — 
and you’ll share closeness.

I reached for his bare arm in the dark, laid my scars next to his.

And that has been our healing, the remaking, the rising: realizing that every word, every comment, every act — all the small talk, all the big discussions, all the movements of the day — is a reach. A thousand times a day, in a thousand different ways, he is reaching — and does he meet me?

Meet my seeking eyes, meet my lingering gaze, meet my attentive ear — my waiting hand, my ready smile, my open mind — meet my embracing heart.

Mentioning the weather — is a reach to see whether you care enough to listen.

Pointing out something, anything — is a reach to point out if you have some time, any time.

I listen to farm reports and play-by- plays of tractor engine overhauls and he listens to synopsis of books, chapter by chapter and leadership is listening and love is listening and really living is listening.

How we receive each other’s reach — eventually determines if we ever get to hold each other’s heart.

I make him coffee and we make time, (and it has to be made), to simply listen and linger. Find a seat on the porch. Watch the zinnias, the tomatoes, the sunflowers grow. He sits more. I ask more questions. We find each other’s eyes. Steam rises from the coffee. Sunflowers reach for the sun.

The together life is messy and it is hard and it is broken and we are all that — and there is no perfect and there is no easy, and when I think that, it can be hard to breathe.

But — when I think this? When I rest in the essence of marriage being only and simply this — there’s the unhurried rhythm of hope:

Marriage is a long reach in the right direction.

Turning in the right direction — can start to turn things right around.

The sunflowers keep reaching for the light.

Keep reaching for each other’s hand — because marriage is a long reach in the right direction.

Because for us what matters, is not that we chose someone perfect — but that we chose and we are chosen.

Because the truth that’s changed us is this:

The act of being truly chosen, is what makes us act more the way we always truly hoped.

Chosen simply for being— makes us become more how we want to be.

And he reaches over and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear.

And I smile, we smile — and how do you tell another human being with all of the moments of your life:

When the world is a storm, you are my safe.
When the world is a desert, you are my drink.
And when I don’t know where in the world I belong, you open your arms and whisper: Here.

 

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