This Friday will mark ten years. Ten years since I walked down the aisle towards the man who still makes me laugh till I can’t breath. It makes me feel old, that’s for sure. But we’ll overlook that teensy detail to give it the full scope of celebration that’s due.
Sitting around Gaga’s white oval kitchen table with her plastic flower-printed placemats, twirling in her swivel chair years ago, I described one of my guy friends from college to her as one “who keeps me laughing.” She personally made a mental note to herself about his potential to be a good husband for me, and remarked, “That’s a good character trait to have in a man.”
A few years prior to that, my other grandparents, Papa and Cita, were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. My family took them to our favorite local Italian restaurant in El Paso: Bella Napoli. Over plates of lasagna, rigatoni and spaghetti, my Momma, who is renowned for her question-asking, asked Papa and Cita, “What do you think has sustained your marriage for fifty years?” It didn’t take them long to respond.
“Forgiveness,” said the bride.
“Laughter,” replied the groom.
And both went on to explain their answers.
My Momma loves approaching anniversaries for she and my dad. She says it’s more a celebration of God’s faithfulness and making it through the hard times than remembering the good times. She’s living proof. Those “hard times” look different for each couple, but no matter what, we all face them some time or another.
I can remember keenly the day, the time, the circumstances that led me to the feet of Jesus for the sake of our marriage. Life gets busy. Our rationales take over, convincing us that not communicating our true feelings or our true struggles is the better route to take than to confess to each other what’s really happening in the dark. It’s not a new lie we persuade ourselves to believe.
Nevertheless, it’s a lie.
We can try to have our windows shut as tight as they can to outside debris. Dust still has a way of creeping in even when you can’t see it. It can settle and linger and build up. So you get to work cleaning. But even in the cleaning process as the dust is disturbed, it’s disbursed up in the air as it’s wiped away, making it hard to breath. Sometimes it takes a lot more than just a dust rag; those muddied places where too much dirt has built up needs scrubbing with soap and water.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Pleading with God for help, we recognize this is a fight, a fight for our marriage, a fight for freedom in Christ, a fight for our family.
“I will fight,” he said one morning as we bustled to get him out the door for work. Breakfasts wrapped up. Lunches made. A fourth of us dressed. Ankle biters pressing in to be as close as possible.
But I don’t look at his heart. I just look at mine bleeding out, trying to gather pieces together. All of this scurrying and taping and leaking. It just doesn’t work. Hurt and wounded, I raised my voice to Matt. He in turn, left for work hurt and wounded. We’re not naïve to think our children don’t pick up on tension or tones of voices. But sometimes you’d just wish they didn’t. More so, I wish I’d refrain and choose a better time to share impassioned feelings. Matt closed the door behind him, I breathed an achy sigh, and turned to face my child’s eyes. Still in his PJs with his cowboy hat on his head, gently he murmured, “Momma, you were talking mean to Daddy.”
My children are a tool God uses to try to keep my heart soft, tender.
Heart sinking, I pulled him in close and tried to explain why momma sounded mean. I was hurt. But it didn’t give me any right to talk to Daddy that way. We texted Matt to see if he could turn around.
Life is messy. Our family sometimes has the dust residue on us from when we’re trying to clean out those dirty spots where the dust settles so easily and the cobwebs come to claim ownership. We have to go through the messiness all together.
“Daddy said he was going to fight."
Oh, precious one. Precious one who thinks that Jesus wanting to live inside him means that Jesus might be in his tummy by the pretzels he just ate.
“Not hitting and screaming fighting, honey.”
“Fighting for his heart.”
Catching my breath at the depth of insight and truth that passed through my three year old’s lips, “Um, yes, my love. That’s right. Fighting for his heart.” Such a big concept for a little guy.
Matt walked through that door into a company of softened hearts and arms to embrace.
We are a couple in process of being cleansed by the One who promises to cleanse, repair, and make all things new. There’s so much I’d rather my children not see or know about me. But one thing I will declare day to day: how much I need Jesus. How much Daddy and I need Jesus in our marriage.
As we approach our ten year anniversary this week, we are looking back at a couple of seasons of excruciating revelation and the painstaking process of cleaning mud and dirt. With thanksgiving, we are however celebrating the Mighty One who faithfully has compassion on us, cleanses us and restores us, and has mercifully granted in our marriage the gift of forgiveness.
And may it not go unsaid that He has also heaped upon us these last ten years an over-abundance of laughter!
Happy Ten Year Anniversary, Matt! Your heart it worth fighting for.