I haven’t blogged about marriage in a while.
Because we are still trying to figure out how to make a marriage work in the hard times.
The desert moments. Difficulties, struggles and challenges of life.
I never imagined how different our marriage would look after the unbelievable amount of change, transition, and life that has happened over the past years of missionary life.
From this picture in October 2012… the time that marked our end in full time ministry stateside to that of missionary status.
At the time of the above picture, we had already been married 11 years, had 3 children in 3 years, pastored at 2 churches, moved 3 times, discovered sickness, walked the death of a brother and learned a whole lot of life as a young married couple.
Then, to this picture in November 2015… a picture that marks our first months of settling in Senegal. Just three very short years later…
But from one picture to the next, so much has changed.
I’m not sure how to mesh the two…
We are the same.
Yet so very different.
We’ve traveled a million miles from the faces in that first picture.
Struggled. Lived. Survived.
Run a marathon in our journey and in reality.
We’ve learned so much. About each other. About life. About failure. About success. About slowing down and speeding up. About ending the day still in love… even when we don’t feel it. About talking when we don’t want to. About being silent when we want to scream. About parenting when the day is tough. About working together when everything is seemingly pulling us apart.
This process has been incredibly life changing… imagine what that does to a marriage. How that impacts two people trying to walk it together. With grace. and compassion. All while not even knowing how to have grace for ourselves let alone another person.
The heart stopping feeling of a text that changes everything about the difficulty level of life. So thankful for safety yet fully aware of the impact this will have on the settling in process.
The heart pounding moment when a slammed door means a locked gate. And the whole family is on the wrong side of the gate.
The heart gripping moment when passports are lost… to be found once more.
The heart breaking moment of seeing your spouse wade through the weight of too much pressure.
The truly heart sick moment when you realize that your quick decision, your trying to help, really just made things worse.
And truly not knowing how to help either of you through this situation let alone what you know is coming next.
The fun and the joy and the tears of seeing beautiful things happen, promises fulfilled, calling realized, and journeys lived.
Amazing joy. Because there is SO much great joy and fun in the midst of it all!
There are deep life-changing, marriage-impacting paths of this new life. this new reality. this life in the desert.
Learning how to make marriage work is not easy.
The frustration of not being able to do and accomplish the things that need done.
The huge learning curve of language, culture and new ways of life.
All walked together. In tandem. tout ensamble.
I think we love each other more than we ever even dreamed. I think our love is reaching depths we didn’t know existed. We feel for each other in ways we never did before… walking in tune to the heart of another person.
Yet, we are at a complete loss sometimes how to help or encourage because it seems our efforts to do so make it worse or cause unintended hurt.
We have to watch and wait while God does His thing.
We have to push through the tangle of words, the daily mix-ups, the stress and the personality changes. We have to learn how to navigate the impact of all of these things on who we are and how we handle life. We have to learn how to do that together.
And how to make a marriage work on a pressure-cooker time frame.
Because if something is left alone or left undone… the next problem will arise whether we are ready for it or not.
A fireworks explosion of sparks from the ceiling fan in the living room
A broken door
A lost key
A shattered cast iron skillet and a new crack in the tile floor where the two collided.
And these little things become HUGE things because someone has to fix, find, or do without.
We know the emotional cost, the financial stress, the personal discomfort and great impact this will have on us all.
So those faces in the first picture had marriage somewhat figured out. They had a rhythm of life in motion, a way of doing things that worked, roles settled and schedule arranged.
Nothing. Every single day is different and requires a new set of skills for the task. We both must jump in and figure out quickly who is doing what whether we know how or not. Personal weaknesses become alarmingly apparent and hindrances quickly float to the surface. And we must love each other through it all.
We must speak in kindness, be flexible with joy and take the waves with strength.
We need Jesus. moment by moment.
We need each other desperately.
We need things we don’t even know how to ask for… and we see needs we don’t know how to meet.
We see what God is doing in each of us and we rejoice that He has chosen us to walk this growth process together.
Truly, we do.
But that doesn’t make the walking easier. No way through but through. Just keep going. Seek Him in it all.
What if God created marriage to make us holy? What if God created this missions process to do something dramatic in us personally? to build strength we need down the road? to create a testimony of faith that will impact the nations? What if He is working in ways we never would have before imagined, ways we don’t know how to handle? What if?
Yes. And I see the challenge in the second picture.
A deeper love…
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
I am learning that the marriage of two people in the process of laying down life and learning to live a different way is more difficult and more wonderful than I can explain right here.
Seeing Jeremy lay down what he wants for me, knowing what it is costing him to do so.
The inner battle to lay down what I want for him… knowing with everything in me I want to do it but also battling the inner selfishness to let go and make what he needs happen.
Both of us deeply desiring to lay it ALL down for the Kingdom, while floundering to grasp the magnitude of the task, the multitude of things to learn.
Living the process ourselves all while married to another person trying to live the process too.
Remembering that our marriage testimony will speak to the nation around us in ways we can’t yet fathom or see. Knowing that how we treat each other, our interactions with each other are seen and heard. Knowing that God is speaking through our marriage being lived out here, in THIS desert.
Knowing that marriage can make or break us.
And wanting ALL of it to make us into something amazing. Praying that we can find our way to new heights together.
Trusting God for how to make a marriage work in the desert something beautiful and deep and full. Knowing He is faithful and He will do it.