May 19, 2015

six months

Nine years ago my still-teenage self was bumping down a country road in a friend's Jeep. She was telling me about a good friend's failing marriage. As we bounced along, she explained how it was difficult for her to fathom the devastation of divorce, because in her marriage, "every year gets better." I knew she had a joyful marriage, one that set a bar for me, reminding me that it was possible to be truly be best friends with the one you married. I knew her marriage was, as she always says, "rooted and built up in Him". But that "every year gets better" phrase never left me, because I did not understand. Every year, better? How so? 

I heard the same thing from a wise woman in more recent years, who told me of early conjugal struggles, and her mother's advice to wait it out because "it only gets better". She told me how it proved true in her marriage, that indeed, it was better now than before. I heard, but I still did not understand.

I have often seen how when my friends are dating, engaged or newly married, their lives receive a lot of attention, on social media or otherwise. But around the time of the birth of the second baby, the fanfare dies down and life settles into more ordinary things. Marriage days are punctuated by less-than-romantic trips to the laundromat because there is no clean underwear, or another late night cleaning up and taking out a stinky bag of garbage after guests leave. Then maybe babies, with their strict schedules, spit up and strong lungs. The glamorous Photoshopped wedding and honeymoon photos in exotic destinations eventually are replaced by grainy camera phone photos that show gained weight and receding hairlines. I wanted to believe my friends, but I still wondered, how does it get better as time goes by? The beginning is what looks so fun.

A picture from the day before our wedding.

Six months into my own marriage, I am starting to understand. Our wedding was memorable, and our honeymoon was fun, but can I admit something really boring? As far as our marriage goes, I like this week or last week better than I liked my honeymoon in the mountains. That's because, as I was told, each month, our marriage truly gets richer, deeper and better.

Marriage keeps getting better, because the longer we live this covenant, the more...

...days I've seen my husband's faithfulness in going to work, fighting the thorns and thistles of his particular job, providing for us. 
...times he has patiently wiped up my splashes around our small European kitchen sink and put on his rubber clogs to walk through the kitchen, rather than padding around in wet socks. 
...he has quietly brought a cup of water to my bedside, jumped out of bed to shut the window at night, or sorted (step one) and washed (step two) a pile of sticky supper dishes. 
...meals he's accepted with thanksgiving, not complaining about the meals he doesn't like (pasta with blue cheese sauce and toasted walnuts will never again be on our menu) and the more he's praised the meals he did like (thank God we both like Asian and TexMex).  
...he has graciously listened to my rambling thoughts, and contributed his insight (which is why he doesn't need to read this blog post, because he's heard the rough audio version!) 
...comfortable and safe we feel together, and the more good memories we've made together.
...prayers we've prayed together, the more Scripture we've read together, the more people we've served together. 

Marriage keeps getting better, because the longer we live together, the longer we've loved one another, the more we've forgiven one another, and the better we know and understand each other. Knowing that my husband has promised to live with me in this way until death do us part, gives me the security and serenity that allows our relationship to build on this history together, and grow better. We are learning better how to please each other, and how to build each other up.

But most importantly, the fact that our lives are not centred around devotion to "us", but around devotion to the One who made with us a better covenant, better promises...this allows us to always move toward better, the longer we are married. When we are concentrated on bettering our relationship with God, our marriage is automatically bettered as well.

My husband works in a profession that is technical and mostly male-dominated. When he announced his upcoming wedding at work, there was little conversation about it. If anything, he was told that marriage was not necessary in order to live with a woman. But in contrast, the few women in his office took up the typical feminine role of gushing about our snowy wedding photos and organizing a wedding gift when he returned to work after our honeymoon. One of the ladies asks him occasionally how I'm doing, if I'm settling in well to European life and learning the language, or if married life is OK. Recently she asked my husband if marriage is what he expected it to be.

He smiled when he told me how he responded.
"No, it's not," he told her. "It's better."

And that's why we didn't just count down to our wedding, now we now count up. This week we've been married for 181 days, or six months. I was correctly informed, and now I'm beginning to comprehend, how a God-centered marriage only gets better. 

This same principle applies to any godly, committed relationships in which we find ourselves. Have you noticed that the people who are commonly found criticizing their family, friends or local fellowships are generally the ones who are investing the least in those relationships? The ones who constantly complain about the church leadership or their mother's attitude are not usually the ones scrubbing toilets, forgiving offences, offering others the more prominent positions, quietly slipping off to start on the dishes, sacrificing their Saturday morning sleep-ins for another's good, lingering after the service to encourage a hurting person, or praying together.... They can't experience the joys of a covenant life that keeps getting better, building on shared history, growth and goals, because they aren't living the covenant. The wonder is this, that the God of the better covenant enables us to live our earthly covenants in a way that gets better the longer we live them.



But now Je'sus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.
—the writer to the Hebrews 

Two are better than one, 
because they have a good reward for their labor.
Solomon

4 comments:

  1. Happy six months, Julie! I remember very clearly the six month mark and here we are at almost four years! What a blessing that marriage can get better and better as we seek to love Christ and grow relationally together as we grow in Him. That "newly married feeling" can come and go but much better than that is a deep commitment and love, proven over the course of time.

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  2. Stephanie, Thank you! It is always encouraging for me to hear from people who've lived out marriage much longer than us, and hear how it can indeed keep getting better. When we live by His design, we realize how glorious it is; when we don't, we find marriage problematic! It's no wonder then that our world is largely abandoning marriage, because they've abandoned God, and therefore can't understand how marriage works!

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  3. Popped over here from Stephanie's blog and you have lots of good food for thought here. :)

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  4. Elizabeth, Thanks for dropping by :)! Julie

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