On December 29th, the Mister and I celebrated five years of marriage.
For some reason, our five-year anniversary felt more momentous than previous ones.
As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve decided it’s not because we are any more married than we were years one through four, or because we did something outrageously special to celebrate.
Not at all.
I think the occasion felt more special because over this year – really over the past few months – I’ve gotten a clearer picture of what marriage is and how its rich complexity truly does point back to the gospel.
It’s something I had been told by many before, but I think I had just boiled the truth down to the never-ending-unconditional-love-and-commitment thing in marriage, which is definitely a part of it, but this year I saw a new piece of the whole thing play out.
Obviously, a lot has happened over these past five years…
Year one, my husband was working 90-hours a week, we lived in Boston, I started working at a tech recruiting company that led to 12-hour days, we were “too busy” to be really connected to a local body of believers, we weren’t seeing each other (except for maybe a couple of hours in-between the hours of 2am and 7am), and, because schedules were unpredictable and we were rarely home at the same time, we ate out most every meal. Things were chaotic, and our marriage began to mirror that fact.
Eight months into marriage, we experienced the Boston Marathon Bombings and eventually moved to Midland, TX where we lived in my in-laws’ garage apartment. The Mister started a new job and I started grad school, and we had to figure out what to do with the mass amounts of time we had to spend with each other – something we had never possessed before. And it was far more challenging than we imagined it would be. We had less distractions, and therefore, our idols, personal struggles, and relational hardships seemed magnified.
Years two and three were filled with a move back to Massachusetts, grad school for both of us, an epic black mold situation which meant living in countless hotels and air B&Bs, an oil bust that changed our plans, my first internship in counseling, daily two hour commutes for me during the week, unforeseen medical issues, financial strain, and just generally A LOT of transitions, busyness, adjustments and circumstantial trials. (I wrote about it here.)
Year four consisted of getting pregnant, both of us graduating from grad school, more unforeseen health issues, moving back to Midland, buying our first house, my sister getting diagnosed with breast cancer, our U-Haul flooding, learning what it meant to pay off grad school debt, having a sweet sweet baby boy, and finding a church we loved. Many of these things were GREAT, and we felt extremely blessed, but in the midst of getting settled, we began to understand what getting settled really meant – it meant a slower pace, more free time, and less to think about – things I have a hard time handling well.
Out of all of the years, this past year (year 5) felt circumstantially the easiest. We had a few minor house problems and we had a family-wide stomach bug, which was awful, but, honestly, it wasn’t a rough year at all…circumstantially. On a personal, inward reality, level however, it was a roller coaster. This past year, I found myself deeply struggling with God’s character – with questions surrounding who God was and is – and those questions resulted in some backsliding in my faith. (You can read more fully about my struggle here.) I became somewhat apathetic in my walk with Christ, and began to feel hopeless in God’s ability to help me. Self-reliance became my main coping mechanism – which manifested itself negatively in my marriage.
But, I ended up on the other side of it. I made it through.
And a huge reason I did was because of my husband. In a way, he carried me through this past year. He was the one putting in all of the effort. He was the one pursuing me even though I was in the middle of a really ugly season. He was the one reminding me of truth when I couldn’t wrap my head around things, and he was the one who would patiently let me process and cry while trying to figure out where on earth I was. He was the one who pushed me to be honest with others, to pray, to seek God, and to continue to read my Bible even though it felt hard.
Obviously, all of his efforts were motivated and propelled by God himself, so the Lord truly deserves all of the glory, but still. This year, my husband carried me through.
And as we celebrated our anniversary Friday night, this is what we talked about.
There have been multiple times in our marriage when the personal trials faced felt too heavy for only one of us to carry alone, and, by God’s grace, in those times, God gave the other one the strength to help the one struggling. He gave the other the strength to support…to carry the one who needed to be carried.
As the recap above shows, we have experienced a lot in five years. We’ve walked through a lot of incredible highs and some pretty significant lows. And, in so doing, we’ve both carried the other at times, but this year, after a season of being so selflessly carried by my husband, I find myself incredibly thankful – not only for my husband and marriage, but for Christ and the way He has carried me through this life.
I can’t carry myself. No matter how “good” I try to be, it won’t be good enough because the standard is perfection, and perfect I am not. But Jesus, being fully man and fully God, was able to live a perfect life – he was able to be “good” enough because he was the only man who was ever truly and purely good in nature – and when He died He willingly died for the sins/imperfections of humanity. He took humanity’s sins upon himself and bled, offering himself up as the perfect sacrifice needed to redeem mankind from their sin and the death their sin would eventually lead to. And then he rose from the dead three days later to point to the fact that because He has power over the grave, He is the giver of life – and He longs to resurrect the lives of those who trust in Him.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
In the midst of bad decisions and a lot of straying in high school, He carried me safely back to himself. Before I even knew what was going on, He picked me up and relentlessly pursued me. As He carried me, He encouraged me and reminded me of truth, and He put people in my life who would do the same. He carried me to himself and into a relationship with Him where He continued to carry me – and support me – every day.
Because of Jesus’ death, my imperfect self has been redeemed, and, because of his resurrection, I have been given a new life – a life still marked by struggle, but a life of purpose when things seem purposeless, of joy in the midst of deep trial, of hope when all seems lost, and love even when I don’t feel lovely or when I don’t “feel” like loving others.
God carried me to the point of experiencing God’s grace years ago, and He carried me this past year – and He allowed my husband to partner with Him in that so that I might see the beauty of God’s grace play out in my own marriage.
I’m not sure where you are in your life. You may be married, dating, single, or in-between any of those categories, but if you’re feeling alone or weary, may you find rest on the shoulders of Jesus.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30