It’s been seven years of learning to listen to love’s loud message through his quiet, strong, dependable actions. A cup of coffee on a long afternoon after a sleepless night of feeding newborn twins around the clock. His quiet absorption of venomous words spoken rashly. Words of “I forgive you,” spoken as soon as my stubbornness softened to remorseful regret and repentance. Light bulbs changed; garbage taken out; air filters exchanged for new ones; month after month after year after year. Home improvement projects of old floors turned new and showers replaced and woodwork of an old home restored. Bracing himself for another desperate call of a mom in distress and offering the peace of his presence and his words and his prayers. His willingness to listen, to learn, to love through all the twists and turns of our seven years – some planned for; others not so much.
A perfectly imperfect marriage forged through that shaky first year of a wife learning how to be a counselor; of a church imploding; in a claustrophobic one-bedroom apartment; and two seminary students working two part-time jobs to keep afloat amidst the financial strain. Raging selfishness and two stubborn people learning to add our strength to one another instead of fight to win against each other.
Two graduations – a move from Pennsylvania to Virginia – new jobs; new responsibilities; new life in between us. The day we learned with disbelief that what God had birthed within my womb was TWICE the planned-for new life. The scramble to adjust accordingly; to find our first home. And then the shock of bed rest and premature labor at the fragile time of 25 weeks. Ten tenuous weeks of trust and hope and prayers and work on the home that would welcome these two new lives. My steely man turning tender as he held our newborn daughters. Tears of joy and of frustration and sleeplessness of those first months as parents twice-over.
And then a settledness. No major changes in our lives for the past three years, but a deepening and absorption of all the transitions in the four years prior. A developing into the husband, father, pastor he is becoming in Christ; and the wife, mother, counselor/writer that I am becoming in Christ. Christ as the One who keeps us connected in these disconnected years of raising little ones; of nurturing one another and two small daughters; of helping to build the Church and our city.
It is Christ, the Perfect One, who has kept together our imperfect marriage when it’s frayed with our sin and brokenness and burdens of life. It is He who has loved us perfectly when we have failed one another amidst our imperfection. It is He whose perfection is our hope for many more years and decades of imperfect love and marriage and parenting and ministry to come. His is the Perfection we hope to reflect more and more with each year – a Perfection that comes as we admit our lack thereof; a Perfection that comes as we are being perfected into the image of the Perfect One through our marriage; a Perfection whose glory we will imperfectly reveal in our love for each other.
I close with a quote from my favorite marriage book of all time, The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason:
God’s love is, in a sense, the courage to go on living in the face of our sin, in the full knowledge of who and what we are.