It’s a bit unromantic, I guess, to write about our messy marriage on the same day we eloped 37 years ago, but messy is the only story we’ve got.
We’ve been messy from the beginning. John and I married in Mr. Coyle’s living room the day after the justice of the peace buried his wife. That could have served as a forewarning, but we were in love and blind. We shared our condolences, then our vows. A neighbor came over to act as our witness. We consummated our marriage at Tremont Inn in Columbia, S.C. I like to think it’s one of God’s favors that the motel still stands. We rode through its parking lot several months ago and reminisced.
The day after our wedding, I returned to my parent’s home in Conway, S.C. to finish my next-to-the-last semester at what was then a campus of the University of South Carolina. No one found out we were married for six months.
What happened over the next 36 years belongs in a novel, but I prefer Facebook and fairy tales.
Weird, I know, but I’m grateful for the role social networking played in our marriage. Facebook’s the place where, in the middle of arguments, loneliness, and depression, I made up how I wanted our relationship to be. I think a lot of us do that. And who knows? Maybe it helped. In front of my online friends, I shared our best memories, showcased our best moments, and wrote about us like we were living happily ever after – not to be misleading, but because that’s what I wanted more than anything.
Even weirder (since John’s only been on Facebook maybe a dozen times to my two million), this morning he posted a sweet and much appreciated sentiment, which I’ve actually contemplated doing for him since I have his password. I’m thankful I waited on him.
Friends left the kindest notes to congratulate us and even said we set a good example of marriage for our son and daughter. I’m not so sure about that. I am sure, though, there’s little I’d change since recognizing the beauty in our battles. Oh, sure, I often say, “If I had known this, I would have done that.” And John says the same. But we didn’t know this and we couldn’t do that, not until we had some life-changing experiences under our belts. In our case, quick learners that we are, it’s taken 37 years.
But like I said, there’s not much I’d do differently. If we hadn’t entered into holy matrimony while fighting our personal battles, we never would have grown up like we have, we never would have wrestled so hard to get better like we have, and we never would have begged God like we have – begged him to take first place in our lives because our marriage came up short.
Our marriage’s battleground transformed into our personal sacred grounds even though we’re not quite sure when it happened.
This may not sound sentimental and affectionate and gratitudinous, but, let me tell you, I’m feeling all these things and more. This is our most significant year yet and our most special. We’re living our happily-ever-after because we’re asking for God’s help, we’re accepting our brokenness, and we’re healing in spite of our mistakes. Best of all, we’re doing it together. That’s new for us and it feels like a fairy tale.
We have words for weathering the storms for anyone who wants to read on, and especially for our kids if they ever tune into my blog:
- Love each other. Obvious, right? That is, until you realize you don’t know what love is or you don’t like what the other person’s doing. My friend Betty shared the best definition (it’s one of acceptance) I’ve ever heard, “Love is the act of me letting you be who you are and you letting me be who I am.”
- Forgive each other. This is easier said than done when you’re always right, but maybe you’re not always right.
- Forgive God. It’s not his fault when we abuse and suffer consequences as the result of our free will. Okay, so maybe it’s partly his fault because he designed our world this way, but we choose.
- Change what we can. Blame, bad habits, and distractions are easy, but they get us nowhere. Change is hard and it takes us wherever we want to go.
- Stop staring at each other. Dr. Orlo Strunk, a marriage counselor who taught counseling classes at Webster University, said, “I wouldn’t have a job if everyone looked at their own part in a marriage, then did something about it.”
- Look at each other right. When we do watch one another, make sure it’s with the admiration I saw in her father’s eyes and the love I saw in her soon-to-be husband’s eyes when our daughter walked down the aisle on her wedding day.
- Pray together. I kind of cringe typing this one because it sounds preachy and self-righteous and cliché, but it’s anything but these things. We’re finally humble. We’ve been on our knees at bedtime for about a year now. Remember I said it’s been our best year so far – it’s a little bit because of our willingness to do what’s uncomfortable and a lot because of God’s grace.
To John ~ I couldn’t find the perfect gift for our day, so I wrote it. I’ll love you forever. A song for us, Broken Together by Casting Crowns.