Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marriage - the story

(Here's Daniel setting the table for our romantic anniversary dinner for 8.)

And we don't look very happy in this photo (my husband looks much more like Sean Connery in real life, and I'm actually about 30 lbs lighter than this photo makes me look - stupid camera), but at least the cake looks good. And it was.

Yesterday was my 28th wedding anniversary.


Not in the fairy tale unreal way, where time has magically flown by amid sparkly, scrapbook-worthy moments. Although there have been many scrapbook-worthy moments (very few of which have actually made it into the scrapbooks.)

Marriage, for my husband and me, has been a journey in sanctification.

We're happy we've been on this journey together; We do not want to be on it with anyone else, but it's been long and uncomfortable and if truth be told (and that's what the blog world is for, isn't it?) it is taking us much longer to get to our destination than we ever dreamed it would.

I'm about to finish a book that has impacted my thinking, about my marriage in particular, in a way that surprised me. It's called A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz). The basic premise of the book is that we are all characters in a "story". Some of us have safe, boring stories. And some of us are so busy living the story that we don't know the plot.

Marriage and having lots of kids has made our story un-safe, and un-boring......and Hard.

The book has hundreds of quotable passages; I love the way the guy writes, talking to you out of his own experience, so you don't feel "preached at", but you end up hearing a sermon just the same. Here's one such passage:

"I realized how much of our lives are spent trying to avoid conflict. Half the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier. Part of me wonders if our stories aren't being stolen by the easy life."

Well, if all it takes is an un-easy life to keep your story from being stolen, then mine is very, very secure.

I have several friends in the midst of divorces right now. Friends with marriages similar to mine.
No previous role models. Erratic, sometimes unbiblical teaching on the roles of a husband and wife. Dysfunctional backgrounds. High hopes. Unrealistic expectations. Hard, long, overfull days.

Miller spends a good deal of the book talking about how joy rarely changes a person, unless it's the joy you feel when a conflict is over. And he speaks of how conflict is what really changes people. I bet Job would agree with that. In speaking of Job, reportedly the oldest book in the Bible, Miller says "It is a book about suffering and it reads as though God is saying to the world. Before we get started, there's this one thing I have to tell you. Things are going to get bad."

Marriage, and it's accouterments (children, home upkeep, giving up any personal space/rights), has changed my husband and me. Or maybe revealed more of what we really are.....Which is people that needed lots of changing. And at times things have gotten bad, mostly when we resisted the change.

The mistake would be in thinking that when things look bad, God is taking a break from writing the story.

We are indeed characters in a story, but the story is not primarily about us. That lesson was learned slowly in our case. I think my husband and I both came into marriage expecting that we would each be the "main character" - and we supposed we were being benevolent by letting our spouse "co-star" with us. And the more we demanded "star" treatment, the more the story stalled. If we were a reality show, we would've been cancelled :)

Turns out the story God is writing is way bigger than the characters. It's a story where He stars and gets all the glory, and the so-called stars go through all kinds of conflict and hardship and suffering - - - and in the end.......Well, I hate to spoil the ending.....But I'm pretty sure it has a sappy- happy ending. But the characters look Way Different than when they started.

And we try to remember that "the reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of the story is about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle."

After all these years, we've realized that as our marriage is focused on the ending (the final ending, which will not take place in this life) vs. a comfortable story, we are more content characters. And we persevere by faith in the writer of the story.

And unlike our friends that are getting divorced, We stop wishing for an easier story.

Happy Anniversay, dear husband. Even though it's not the story I thought I was auditioning for, I plan on being there till the finale' (and don't tell the National Enquirer, but I have a huge crush on my co-star!)


brite said...

Good post. Pastor Skogen was often using that idea of God writing your story, and I know he'd read some of the D.M. books. I'll have to put that on my list of books to get. Sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for, and congratulations (to both of you!) for persevering.

Ashley said...

You have a wonderful story and a beautiful family :)

Shepherd said...

Great post. I have heard lots of good things about that book ... going to try to steal it from a roomie.

Anonymous said...

BEAUTIFUL family and wonderful story. I was glad to have been there in the beginning and to get glimpses of your continuing story through your blog, that I just discovered. You are both such an inspiration.

becky (your fbco office neighbor)

sally said...

Thank you, Debbie, for sharing from your heart. I could pretty much sign my name to it, too, for after 28 years of marriage I catch myself thinking, "I never would have imagined we would be where we are." What a blessing that our lives are being molded and shaped by a loving God Who knew the Beginning, knows the End, and is guiding us in the middle. The hard part is the day-to-day Trusting and Resting in Him. How thankful I am that He is Faithful!

lea said...

my. favorite. post. ever. wish i had written it.

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog. What a sweet story and I am so glad that I got to be around for the beginning and to get glimpses of how your story has so beautifully unfolded. Your family is beautiful. God has blessed you richly.

becky (your fbco office neighbor)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen said...

Ya'll are sweet for leaving such great comments.

Whoa! Lea! You just paid me the highest compliment....Wishing you had written it. (We both know you're a better writer than me - and we both know you're the one who gave me the Miller book to begin with....)

And Becky!!!! So glad you dropped by. You were indeed there at the beginning when Bo swept me off my feet (or was it the other way around? I still remember some disgruntled single Baptist women who thought I should have given them a fair shot at the "new guy".)
I deleted your comment with your email address in it, so you don't have to worry about any of my fanatical readers spamming you.
I have such power now that I am moderating my comments :)

busymomof10 said...


This was a profound post, full of faith, beauty and plain, hard-core reality! I love the story that God is writing for you and Bo and your beautiful, colorful family! (I hope you take time to share it in a book someday!) Thanks for letting us peek into a chapter or two of your lives! Very inspiring! Alan and I will be up to 27 years next May. Hard to believe! As the writer you quoted so eloquently said, we definitely have more of a story because of taking the path less traveled. It has been arduous -- a steep, rocky climb at times, but made a little easier by those who chose the path less traveled before us. Thank you for your example and your encouragement along the way!

May God bless you and Bo abundantly!

One of your greatest fans,

Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen said...

Elizabeth, I appreciate your comment, especially in light of how you can empathize with the complexity of a story FULL of competing characters :)

Happy early anniversary to you!

busymomof10 said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! Just wanted to let you knowt that I responded to your comment on my blog.

jodi said...

happy anniversary! it's a good picture!

no new underwear?
or bandanas?

heh heh.

miss you-

Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen said...

Are you trying to make sure I don't make it to my 29th anniversary? You're gonna get me in trouble, girl, if you start telling all my secrets.

And you're lying about the picture.
But I miss you, too. More than I can put into words!

Dayna said...

Wonderful! (I'm late getting caught up.) Happy Belated Anniversary

Nadiel de Marins said...

Congratulations for your family! God bless you! I'm Nadiel and live in Brazil

Nadiel de Marins said...

God Bless you! I'm pastor in Brazil and your history is a praise to God!

laura hinely said...

Even before I read your post, I thought about getting that book today. I was just at a study last night and read a chapter from the book that really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing your perspective, too!

Anonymous said...

It is an amusing piece

Laura said...

I'm just now catching up on blog-reading. I love this post immensely! Scott and I just celebrated our 15th and we also know too many couples who aren't making it. Although it is heartbreaking, those broken marriages are a good reminder that we are not immune and have to keep our relationship a priority. I am blessed by your encouraging post!

mommyx12 said...

I love it. Romantic dinner for 8! I was thinking romantic dinner, what's that? We too have been married 28 years as of last Sept. 09. Congratulations.