Is there really forever?

At Nic and Nikki-the-Lurker's wedding ceremony, David-the-Artist-Pastor said..."The thing you will hear most today is the word perfect.  Doesn't she look perfect?  Aren't they a perfect couple? The flowers are perfect..." 

He then went on to inform the couple that there would come a time when things would not be perfect.  When they would even question if they should be together. It seemed an awkward interjection into the ceremony that was for a marriage just starting, but if you've been married longer than three years, you know this to be true.

Marriage isn't perfect.  Sometimes it isn't even just okay.  Yet there are expectations that it should be.  We have years of hollywood programming that tell us it must be so.

The reality is that we can't stand to live that open.  We get injured and we withdraw. Not all of our needs are met. We get resentful of our spouse's weaknesses and are blind to our own. We grow and become...and not always together.

Worse, nothing in our culture is designed to make marriage a success.  Demanding jobs. Demanding hobbies. Hours worth of activity that lacks engagement on a heart level.  It doesn't take much to move from being soulmates to being all about the business of being married.  And the drift happens so slowly that we can scarcely perceive it.

And most of us settle for that. We think it is what it is.  And that is exactly the time that someone else will come along who will remind our hearts we want more.

I heard Tommy Nelson say to a room full of pastors once that it starts like ping-pong.  He says something, she thinks about what to say next.  She sends an e-mail. He composes a quippy response. The only way to stop it is to refuse to return the serve.  Heart lines get crossed long before the physical ones do.

Yet another set of friends this week filed for divorce. And I have wept for what that means.  My friend, Lynette-the-Cowgirl, says "We are all just one decision away from being homeless."  Divorce breaks the home and shatters the community of which the people are part.  And the couple never realizes the full impact of any of that until they walk through it.  The pain sends ripples far beyond just the two of them.

John and I haven't divorced, but we do know what it is like to have your marriage flatline and come back from it.  Not only is it possible, but you can gearshift into something better on the other side.  If you end your story and start a new one with someone else, you never get to that place because it requires decades and not months.

For my friends who are married, is your marriage in a good place?  Do the two of you touch?  When is the last time you talked about anything real? Shared an inside joke? Called because you missed each other and not because you simply should touch base? When is the last time you shared your weaknesses?  How long is your list of things you are angry about?  Can you confront where you need to confront or is that simply too exhausting? Can you forgive and "keep no record of wrongs"?  What is the dream you share together?

You are the only one who can create forever.  You and a heavy dose of loving your spouse like Christ loves.  The hero always lays down his life for others.  The villain chooses for himself.   Your friends can't help you.  They can only mourn the loss if you don't make it.


Bruce Campbell said...

well said.

Ashley said...

Cathy- I love this post. You are spot on in explaining that neither party can fathom the devastation.. Absolutely true. Most would probably compare it to Hell on earth. I would. But there is one perspective that I see missing in this post: it takes two to decide to commit to bringing the marriage back from a flat line, and sometimes that just doesn't happen. You can't get to the other side if your spouse won't commit to the journey with you. Beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post :)

D Herrod said...

Great post. There was a time several years ago I didn't think we would make it. Looking back I think after the struggles things are actually better than they were before.

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Maira Gall