(An Anniversary Post)
“One day Jesus was teaching his disciples. He said to them, everyone who hears my words and obeys them is like a wise man that builds his house on a rock. When the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow, it stands, because it was built on the firm foundation. Everyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a foolish man. When the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow, the house is destroyed, because it was not built on the firm foundation.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Eight years ago, my husband and I said “I do” to a lifetime of infinite joy with one another. Oh, and there might have been something about sickness, death, and various other troubles in the pastor’s sermon, too. That morning, however, as I stood before our church in my beautiful, beaded white dress and veil, only the cliché, pure, unadulterated bliss of our shared future was on my mind.
Fast forward to ‘Year Five,’ if you have the guts. In our household, the phrase ‘Year Five’ refers to what is still remembered as our most difficult year of marriage (the term “Year from Hell” is an acceptable variant title). It truly is by God’s grace alone that our marriage survived that year of work overload, ineffective and rare communication, reverse culture shock, frequent (and lengthy) visits from relatives, loneliness due to our lack of a biblically-based support system, a windstorm, followed four months later by an ice storm (during which our son was born), and a colicky infant who, for ten months would only go to sleep if he was tied onto me. There were days when I honestly wondered whether we would ever make it through the storm.
‘Year Five’ literally lasted the entire year, roughly from one anniversary to the next. Suddenly, though, it was as if the worst had passed, and then slowly and methodically we were able to clean up our lawn. Isaiah’s acid reflux had healed and he was finally able to sleep through the night in his own bed. My husband began teaching another grade level and returned to his original workload. Our sentences became longer and less tense than, “Where’s the paci? Somebody find a paci . . . now!” We talked about all of the things we couldn’t even think to discuss over the past year. We threw out the houseplant that had died during our icy week without electricity.
For all of this difficulty, though, nothing can compare to our seventh year of marriage. This past year has been more joyful than anything the young, naïve, bride standing before the church could have imagined. I think that our joy has even been enhanced by our all-too-vivid memories of ‘Year Five.’ God did not simply bring us through those difficulties, but he eventually brought us closer together, using them for good in our marriage (Rom. 8:28). It is also clear that it was entirely by his grace that we managed to come through “monsoon season,” since we were in no position to make any wise decisions on our own (the combined effect of sleep deprivation and an inconsolable infant seriously outweighs even the most basic ability to reason). As we began picking up the pieces and got to know one another again, we found that we had grown together in our faith and in our love for one another. We serve each other better than we did in the early days of our marriage. We have found a community of believers with whom we can be more open about our struggles and successes. We have conversations that are deeper and more fulfilling, and are absolutely never, ever, about locating pacifiers (Isaiah outgrew them last summer). All of this is God’s grace. A home that might very easily have been destroyed was preserved.
I am no longer naïve enough to believe that placing all of my trust in my husband’s strength or abilities or love is enough. I have learned, though, that if we both place all of our trust in Jesus, and seek to serve one another in the strength he provides, he gives us grace more abundant than we could ever imagine. It’s not always easy and I have no doubt that even greater difficulties still await us in future years, but we can make the decision now that we will not place our faith in the appearance of the sky or water around us, our circumstances. Rather, we can hope in the one who is our foundation, Jesus Christ himself, for unlike us, his love will never fail.