Tomorrow Chris and I will be going out to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary, the weekend being more conducive to such things than a Monday, when the actual date falls. We are inaugurating a “competitive anniversary” tradition by engaging in the sport of bowling. Say a few prayers for him, as he’ll surely need encouragement after getting pounded into the ground.
I can’t believe that it’s been 7 years. Some days it feels more like 70, but today I wonder where the time as gone. Probably flown away to the same place that missing socks go, I suppose. It seems like just yesterday that I was anxiously clutching my father’s arm as we made our way from the dressing room, out to the garden and past the motorcycle accident (I kid you not) up to the doors of the chapel. I’ll never forget how he patted my hand and told me that we could leave and go get a hamburger if that’s what I wanted to do. The offer was tempting, but I moved forward.
I’m glad I did.
We don’t have a perfect marriage. In our first week together we had a fierce argument and I hid in the bathroom, sobbing. Not too long after I asked my mom if I could come home. She said no. I didn’t think that was very fair.
There has been agony. Adjusting to living apart from my family for the first time. Learning how to make a new home with this big, gregarious guy in 450-square feet of harvest gold and pumpkin orange awesomeness. Both of us sick our first Thanksgiving. Waking up on Christmas morning to the awkwardness that is establishing new traditions. Extended family tension on all sides. Chris’ descent into depression. Buying a house we couldn’t quite afford. Losing close friends. Leaving a church. My own struggles in the area of mental health. Broken down cars, overdrawn checking accounts, surgeries.
There has been fun. Locking myself out of the house in a snowstorm and having to wait for Chris to come to my rescue. Watching him compete in a hula dancing contest at a work function – and winning! Thursday evenings with popcorn and the NBC comedy line-up. Our failed experiments with short hair. Chris running, full force, through the fence he’d just finished putting up. A family of birds building a nest in our kitchen vent. Our dogs: Bugsy’s “cookie dance.” Blue’s obsession with the ball. Benny’s need for perpetual petting. Regular trips to thrift stores.
There has been sweetness. Taking walks together at dusk, not saying much of anything. Discussing our days as we make dinner together. Flowers for no reason. Little notes of encouragement. Pondering Scripture together. Praying. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets. Secret (or maybe not-so-secret) glances across crowded rooms.
This relationship, this togetherness, takes a lot of work. A LOT. We don’t agree about everything. Each of us is convinced that the other is wrong most of the time. If we ever buy another house, it has to have a larger bathroom. There’s some passive-aggressiveness on occasion. He snores. I steal blankets. But in the hustle and bustle that is life, I am thankful to have a husband who makes this marriage a priority, who inspires me to make it a priority. There are days when we both think, “Really? You’re still here?” but those moments pass. When they don’t pass quickly, we talk about it. And usually end up laughing.
I have a great deal of respect for Chris. He works hard. He has a genuine desire to live a godly life and to be a positive influence on everyone he meets. He has a fabulous sense of humor. No man I know dresses better. He likes to learn. He builds things. He cooks (major bonus) and he doesn’t complain too much about doing housework. The sadness that dogs his days moves him to choose joy. He takes my innate pessimism and spins it to the bright side. Encourages me to have fun when all I want to do is yell at someone. And he never eats the last of the chocolate.
Seven years of hope, sorrow, laughter, struggle and growth. We are not the same people who made that covenant before God on June 17, 2006. We are…better, I think. Stronger for having experienced some intensely difficult things early in our marriage. Gentler with each other, less expecting of perfection. Possessing a deeper understanding of the reality that love is often more a choice than a feeling. Blessed.