On December 29th, the Mister and I celebrated 3 years of marriage.
I have always found it helpful to imagine life as though it were the never-ending training grounds for a marathon. I know this sounds weird, but just hang with me for a bit. As I run through life, there are easier moments, those moments on flat and smooth ground, and then there are moments that are dreadfully difficult, when it takes all that I have and all that I don’t have to persevere. I like to call those moments “the hills,” and my theory is that I grow when I run them. Although my life is easier and more enjoyable when I’m running the flat land, I know it’s the hills that make me a stronger “athlete.”
I think you get my point.
When I got married, I thought marriage was going to be easy. Obviously, I figured the Mister and I would fight and get in disagreements, but overall, I thought it was going to be this magical land of never-ending movie nights, flowers, fun trips, and exciting dates. When I envisioned married life, I never really thought about the big decisions, the struggle for work/life balance, or the bills. Others had told me to set realistic expectations, and I thought I understood, but I really didn’t “get it” until I got into it. Overall, I thought marriage was going to be flat land. I thought it was going to be a light jog with an easy breeze in my face.
Over the past few years, the Mister and I have faced a lot of hills.
When we first got married, I had to sorrowfully learn that marriage was not all about me. It was not about how well I was being pursued, or how I felt, or what I wanted to do. That was a hard hill to run up, and I’m pretty sure I got upset more than a few times. Eight months into marriage, I learned that the unexpected can happen, and sometimes doing the right and healthy thing means giving up worldly wealth and “success.” That hill was interesting, and perhaps one of the most trying for us as a couple. Moving across the country three times in two years was also challenging, and I lost my breath multiple times in the process.
We have even had a lot of hills this past year. We’ve had unexpected surgeries, a tuberculosis scare (false alarm), an epic black mold battle, multiple situations which have caused us to re-evaluate plans we thought were certain, and health issues which have made us press pause on some things we hoped to be able to do.
I’m not sure anyone anywhere enjoys “the hills” of life, but I have to tell you, this year I’ve been extremely grateful for them.
This year I have seen the fruits of past hills and have seen the beauty in the present ones. I have seen how our communication has improved; how we both have grown in humility and in our readiness to seek and offer forgiveness. I have seen our appreciation for one another expand encompassing the parts of each other we used to find annoying, and I’ve seen us grow in our support of each other as we have had to make difficult decisions. Although we have both had our not-so-pretty moments, I have seen us let go of control knowing that we are not responsible for who the other person is. All we can do is love each other – care, support, encourage, serve, pray for, and delight in each other – and work on ourselves along the way. Most of all, we have both grown in our recognition that we cannot run through life, and live the way we want to, on our own. We have both come to realize that in order to have the marriage we want, we need help. We can’t do it on our own. We need community, we need each other, and, most of all, we need the Lord. Only He can change our stubborn hearts. And He continually offers us grace.
I’ve been running hills my entire life. I’m pretty sure we all have.
The funny thing is, as much as I hate the hills, each hill leads to another hill. As soon as I get over one hill, I can expect to experience another hill over the horizon. In fact, the way I face the hill in front of me helps to determine the hills I will face in the future.
There have been times in my past when I’ve wanted to take the easier route. I’ve wanted to take the side road instead of the hill. I’ve wanted to take the flat lands.
For example, in college, I was tempted to enter into a relationship with someone that was not right for me. My desire to be in a relationship was strong, for I craved the comfort that came along with having a boyfriend, and I liked the guy a lot, which made the decision even harder. However, instead of taking the easy route, I took the hill. I talked to my friends about it, and by God’s grace chose to remain single. (Believe me when I say, there were plenty of times I took the easier route…plenty of times…but I figured I needed to supply you with an example of the opposite.)
The hills typically suck.
Running the hills this year has not been any more fun than running the hills I faced in the past, but this year, more than any other year of our marriage, I have been thankful for the opportunity to run them with my husband. Our marriage looks differently than it did year one. We have had a few things taken away from us, and we have had to give up many of our hobbies because of health issues, but in the midst of it all, we have been able to bank on God’s love for us and His purpose in our lives. We’ve been able to rely on our mutual desire to serve God and grow in Him. We’ve been able to rejoice in our imperfections, for it has reminded us of our never-ending dependence upon our Creator. By God’s grace we have learned to love each other more and have grown in the way we express it.
I guess what I’m saying is this: The hills are awful, but I have come to believe that they are worth it.
It is worth the sweat. It is worth the tears. And it is worth the struggle. Lace up your tennis shoes, stay hydrated, and don’t give up.
I’m not sure what hills the Mister and I will have to face in the future, but I know that our marriage is stronger today because of the hills we have faced in the past. Although I wish we did not have to face some of the hills we faced, I am thankful.
“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1