My Marriage Did Not Save Me

img_3715Here I sit, about to write a piece on marriage. Who’d have thought that would happen?

Certainly not me.

My first marriage lasted 14 years before it unraveled beyond repair. There was a lot of hurt and pain, sorrow and loss, not something I wanted others to know. But that story isn’t for here, nor is it fully mine to share.

Here I write about my new marriage, this second one. It’s only been four months and twenty-nine days since it began, but I have to be honest . . .
It’s been good.

Wait, what?

Yep, it’s good but don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect. Come hang out for a while and you’ll see. We each came to this marriage with a U-Haul full of baggage where we were more likely to trip and topple over each other’s bags than describe these early days as good.

But they are, and I’m grateful. Apparently, the joy seems to live on my face because others are noticing. I keep hearing things like: you look so happy. Or you don’t look so sad anymore.

Life was really tough until a few years ago. I endured such sorrow and heartbreak there were days, months, okay—years when I wasn’t sure the breaking would end. And not only did I not know if it would end, I had no idea how it would end. And if it did, I wondered who would ever want to deal with these leftovers, these tiny bits I had left to give.

Leftovers and broken pieces. Hi! Want a date this life-in-the-middle gal? Yep, that’s a U-haul back there. We’re a package deal but you might get used to it, or try and ignore it like I did. I didn’t know what to do with my mess, how in the world would I invite someone to draw near where they might cut themselves on every piece?

And then there was the loneliness. It was there all along, lingering near the fringes. Crying myself to sleep, wondering if life would ever be good, the kind of life described in the Bible. Will I see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? An abundant life? I wanted that. And I wanted what my friends had—to be married to their best friend.

I used to laugh about that. Well, more of a cynical chuckle, really.  Surely, they’re lying. There’s no way they’re really best friends. That’s just what Christian couples say. I lived so long with life outside my door looking vastly different than life behind my door, I wondered if life behind their doors was actually anything like mine.

Perhaps you can relate.

Life crushed my tender heart, and in the squeezing temptation poked and prodded at my heart to seek out someone to make me feel better, to fix my woes, and tend my wounds. It whispered that I could only be whole as part of a couple. And I started to believe the whisper.

So when that magical day arrived and I met someone online. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. We exchanged pleasantries and quickly learned we had much in common, more than seemed possible. The fairy tale romance began and my prince finally came and saved me from this life of loneliness.

Hold. the. phone. That’s not exactly what happened.

Yes, I met a wonderful man who is kind and gentle and funny. But he didn’t save me. My relationship with Russ is restoration, but not salvation. Only Jesus saves. Russ is more like the icing on a yummy cupcake than the ingredients that created the cupcake in the first place.

Okay, he’s more than frosting, but you get my point.

Before I married my sweet husband (see what I did there?), I did a whole lot of work on my own to prepare to become his wife. I didn’t want to believe that whispered lie that I would never be whole on my own. I longed for wholeness and healing, to be free of the weights of my baggage that wore me down because I wanted a healthy relationship this time around. Marriage is hard enough without that U-Haul truck of stuff dragging us down.

I’m learning that marriage takes intentional work to create a safe place for each to succeed and fail, a place where unconditional love reigns and hope resides.

But when we drag in our past without seeking healing—all those feelings of abandonment and betrayal, bitterness and anger—we are headed right for disaster.

In our early days, I told Russ that I didn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend.

Poor guy, he had no idea what he was getting himself in to.

I used to freak out. A lot. I was scared. What if he hurts me?  I was uncomfortable. If he really knew me. I was insecure. He’d be better off without me. I was filled with doubt. This isn’t going to work.

I started to tell him that it was just too hard, that I wasn’t sure I could get past my own hurt and brokenness to give him anything. I figured maybe I should just walk away.

He told me I could do that, but he would simply follow me.

Sigh.

I know, right?

When he said that, I realized this relationship might be worth the risk. But there was work for me to do. First, I turned away from the whispered lie that I was not enough on my own, and turned toward the One who makes me whole.

No, it’s not Russ’s job to fix me. If I relied on him, disappointed would reign because he is, after, all, human. Prone to mistakes and blunders, just like me. Not because he’s mean or hurtful, but because he’s broken, too, and needs his own healing. No, I had to do the work and purge my junk so I could make room for what was to come. The good stuff.

I didn’t want to stay broken.

I didn’t want to be bitter.

I didn’t want to live leery of other’s intentions, especially his. Especially if there was any hope of a future together.

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I leaned into those broken places and embraced my heartache, trusting God to be faithful to His Word and His character. This wasn’t entirely new to me; it’s been my way of life since my daughter died. While it hasn’t been a perfect process, there’s been healing, deep and abundant healing. I’m stronger now so when those whispered lies return to tell me I’m not whole on my own, I simply tell the voice to shut up and then I go kiss my husband, who is my best friend.

No, my husband hasn’t saved me. But he has provided a safe place for me where healing still occurs, for me and for him. Oh, and the kids. But that’s a different story for another day.

russ-smile

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