This girl. This smile. This great and tender heart. This one who lived under MY heart for nine months and came out smiling. How does this happen? How does that tiny baby grow from someone whose every facet is familiar to you, to a woman, apart, mysterious, moving away toward her love and her life? How do I describe what she has meant to me? To all of us in our family? How do I let her go?
Well, you just do it, obviously. I have no desire to chain her to my side, to own her, to keep her a child. That would be a tragedy and a sin. Like caging a wild bird and trying to feed it food it was never meant for. She is already flying, calling out with her glorious song, building her own nest and protecting it with all her strength. She knows what is needed.
In two weeks she will marry and start a new life. I know she is ready, I know she has found the best of men, they have found each other, honing in as surely as a compass finds north. It is all very very good. No buts.
I guess I could end it here, couldn’t I? I know they have the tools to make a life together, and a happy one. I know they will ask for help when they need it. I know we will not be shut out of their life, but drawn in, in the most gracious of ways. So I guess I will content myself here with sharing the little I know about making a marriage work.
1.) There will be times when you are filled with anger and bitterness and be so tempted to berate and demean your partner to someone else, or make sarcastic jokes at his/her expense. DON’T DO IT. Honor each other always with your words. You don’t have to be fake to do this. After all, keeping your yap shut is always an option. But when you speak cruel words, even if they feel true at the time, they are out there, never to be retracted, and they poison the air around you. It never helps.
2.) Keep private things private. Be the best of secret keepers.
3.) Be unfailingly civil to each other. Be as polite as you would be to a person wearing a crown. Civility is a lost art in our culture. Familiarity is not an excuse to be rude. On the contrary, one should excel in all times in graciousness of speech. It will save you so much grief, and pave the way for every interaction.
4.) Serve your spouse with all your heart. When you are willing to be the giver you will be given to in return. Creating an atmosphere of generosity in your relationship not only benefits you but is of unmeasurable worth to your children. They will learn to be givers too.
5.) Be each other’s best friend. Make your partner the one who hears things first. Be the safe haven for all of each others’ news, the good, the bad and the ugly. Be the most trustworthy of confidantes. There are many things that wax and wane in marriage. But the friendship that is possible there is of the most glorious kind. It grows and grows as the years go by and becomes the rock on which all else stands.
6.) Don’t ever separate your life into mine and yours. You are one. You are one in ways that you can’t even comprehend. Ways not of your making, mysterious ways, ways of the spirit. That is what you get when you make those vows. And that is what you break when you break them. It is not a diminishing of either of you, but a strengthening and a glory.
7.) Don’t buy into our culture’s cynicism about marriage. I know we have talked about this, but it bears repeating. It is a cynicism borne of disappointment caused by unrealistic expectations. Marriage is MORE, not less than what our culture wants to make it. But the standard that has been raised by the culture has ruined our understanding of that truth. Marriage is not about endless lust, perfect bodies, no problems or issues, a partner that never requires anything of you. It is about the careful tending of another human being and being tended to in return. It involves planting, watering and fertilizing,weeding, hoeing and harvesting,. Not a continual bowing down at the altar of perfection and completion. When a whole culture embraces a childish and unrealistic idea about what marriage should be, it is doomed to failure and disappointment. Be a farmer. You already are.
8.) Find a community. You need others. Choose people who will hold you up, hold you accountable, and honor your partnership. Your love needs a community to uphold it. I am not sure our marriage would have been as successful as it has been without a community of similarly committed families to show us the way. It made a huge difference. It showed us what was possible. It helped us to never give up.
9.) Laugh. Life is full of humor and absurdity and we, most of all, are not to be taken too seriously. Don’t laugh at the other’s expense. But learn to see the humor in things. It may take a long time. It took us a long time. But laughing together is one of the richest components of our life together.
10.) Ask for help. From God, from each other, from others. It is another lie of our culture that we should be able to do it all on our own. There is so much help available! Ask. Ask. Ask.
“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”
“All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership.”
“It is a full time job being honest one moment at a time, remembering to love, to honor, to respect. It is a practice, a discipline, worthy of every moment.”
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
“But marriage goes in waves. You’ve got to be patient. People bail and give up on their marriages way too early. They just don’t put the work and the effort into it. You’ve got to suck up your ego a lot of times, because that can be a big downfall.”
“A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”
Ok, and one funny one!
“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”
I love you, Emily, child of my heart.