Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Partners in Life

I'm not sure words can really do this one justice, but I'll do my best.

God knows you far better than anyone ever will -- including you. He knows your heart, the places that ache, the places that soar. He knows your mind, your motivations, your dreams, dreams you never even knew you had. He knows all the places that feel like gold and all the pieces you are missing. And he knows exactly who to put you with to make you whole. Not everyone gets married, but God had that plan for my life. And this is a tribute to my partner in life.

If you had given me profiles of a hundred men and asked me to pick which one would be my husband, I never would have picked the man God had for me. Stubborn introvert with an obsession for books and no innate sense of time. Okay, so maybe the book part would have intrigued me, but I would never have guessed my husband would be so different from me. They say opposites attract, you wouldn't want to marry yourself, blah blah blah, but when you think you are pretty much right all the time about everything, what would compel you to end up with someone who thought differently than you? Who reacted to things and lived life so differently than you ever would?

God used my husband to reveal Himself to me, to draw me to Jesus. God used my husband to motivate me through college, remind me of why I was there and how much I wanted that. God used my husband to support me as I taught, to hear me out when I complained about the public school system yet simultaneously encourage me to keep at it, that what I was doing was important. God used my husband to usher me into motherhood ever so gently, never judging me or schooling me, instead coming beside me to figure the whole thing out -- together. And together is exactly what we needed when life turned difficult.

They say tragedy/struggle/illness/difficulty, it will either build your marriage up or break it down. My husband and I had been together for ten years, married for five to the day before our daughter arrived. We had spent a long time learning each other, giving grace, butting heads, apologizing, changing. I thank God for all the tiny speed bumps along the way because without them, we never could have endured the crash. Instead of flying out and spinning away from each other, we turned in and wove even closer together.

My husband stood beside my hospital bed and caught my tears when they wheeled my daughter away. He drove after her ambulance and waited for hours in the middle of the night to be with her. He came home to be with our son while I chased after her the next day. And for fifty-one days following, he coordinated schedules, shuttled our toddler, entertained visitors at the hospital so that my time with our daughter could be just us, made phone call after phone call (this man who is practically allergic to the phone), listened to me ramble and talk through everything, prayed with me, helped me figure out how to be a parent to two kids who couldn't be in the same place at the same time. He held us together when I couldn't, when most people would fall apart.

God knew to make him my partner. God knew that I couldn't remain stable without his calm, logical hand to steady me. God knew that I couldn't handle all the people who would invade our previously quiet life. God knew that I needed my husband's faith to rely on and lean deep into. God knew that I would get so sucked into everything with our daughter that I would forget the rest of the world, and He gave me a husband who reminded me that there was a place outside her hospital room. God knew all the ways that I would need rescuing, and He gave me my rescuer.

In so many ways, I am not strong. I am frantic and frazzled and overwhelmed. In so many ways, my husband is not strong either. He is disorganized and forgetful and lackadaisical. But in so many ways, I am strong. I am motivated and organized and determined. And in so many ways, my husband is strong too. He is intelligent and logical and passionate about what he loves. Where we are weak, we lean on one another. Where we are strong, we hold each other up. God knows us both so intimately, in depths we will never know one another, and He gave us to each other for this very purpose.

Our disaster months gave us a chance to show each other truly how much we love each other. We died to ourselves and sacrificed every. single. day. We struggled, of course -- communicating our needs, working them out. But we stood together, and we never gave up. We kept working. We kept working because our marriage is important -- to us, to our kids, to our family. We kept working because we have faith in the Great Almighty God who would glorify Himself through us, even when it hurt. We kept working because without each other, we would break. Without each other, we could not stand through this storm.

God taught me two very distinct lessons about my marriage through this time. First, He taught me not to take my spouse for granted. He is not the right-hand-man in the play about my life. He is his own person with his own needs, and just like I never take myself for granted (everything is important when it's about "me", right?), I should never take my spouse for granted. While we were both stressed and hurting, we became so sensitive to each others' needs. I need to be that way all the time, as interested in him as I am in myself -- and more so. Secondly, I am called to open up my heart to trust big and strong. We endured a lot together and I had a lot of ooey, gooey feelings that came along with our struggles. My husband doesn't like ooey, gooey feelings but I just let them rip and shared every last one of them with him. We became vulnerable to each other, admitting our terrible-awfuls and giving one another grace as we did. This kind of vulnerability sets you up for a very big fall, but in the beautiful covenant of marriage, it is necessary. All our cards on the table. Real, real life.

The splendor of the marriage covenant is that it is a picture of something so, so much bigger. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)." The mystery of marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus and His people. He left Heaven to be with them, He spent His life teaching them how to live, He gave His life for them, and now He sits at the place of honor beside the Father and petitions on their behalf. "'For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name... with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,' says the Lord, your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:5, 8) The love that my husband has for me, powerful and true and wonderful, is but a glimmer, a reflection in a mirror of the love the Father has for His children. This love will carry you through anything you could ever imagine and will never die. This love will lift you up, fill in all the cracks and broken places, and make you soar. This love, this love that will never die, is exactly, precisely the one thing you will always need, the one thing to make you whole.

God has different plans and paths for all of us. For me, He planned a husband who would love me unconditionally and fight for our marriage and our family. He blessed me with a man who is in it for the long haul, not for himself, but for me and our children, and ultimately, for God. This picture, knowing what we have endured, how weak we are yet how strong we have become, points my eyes straight to the glories of Heaven and of a loving Protector who will love and fight and endure, faithful, until the very end.

**I had this post percolating in my mind and was inspired to share these thoughts today after reading this post by Ann Voskamp, The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men — and the Women who Live with Them: Redefining Boring -- highly recommend!**

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