(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!)