I read a post on the internet in which a writer talked about her divorce, the packed boxes, and the pain and brokenness that comes from separating a life. I sucked in air at her beautiful agony. I think I held my breath until the end. I hoped for a happy ending, a but God, a to be continued.
But sometimes it’s none of these things.
Maybe life will go on in brokenness and God will work in the fragments because He is so good. Maybe we are being redeemed day by day and I still hope that the boxes will be unpacked and sorted and they’ll settle and find their home together. I don’t even know them. I met her once, this blogger with kind eyes. I’ve read her story the way we often do on the internet and feel participatory in the outcome. At the very least in the journey. I whispered a prayer for them and I felt like crying.
I can’t help think it’s a mistake to think it’s new beginnings and rebirth, however painful, instead of the death of a sacred thing. But mostly I felt like crying because I could have written that post ten years ago.
We’ve had a rough week of marriage. We clash and bruise and pull back. Where my temper used to blaze like wildfire, I simmer now, stew on the silences, pull to the furthest corner of our bed and turn my back like a fortress. Sometimes words seem like too much effort after all these years.
Sometimes it comes in patches and I remember how different we really are. I remember how we were kids, I was a fresh-faced teen hovering on the brink of a womanhood that would overtake me with children and duties and loneliness. He was broad-shouldered with sun-kissed hair and the bluest eyes.
I believed he would be enough. But he never was, not from the very beginning. Maybe he believed this too. Maybe he had no idea what he was getting into. In fact I’m sure of it.
I find the years take their toll and those broad shoulders carried burdens when I was bedridden and sickly, when depression clutched my soul and I whispered prayers into my damp pillow as tears slid down my cheeks and pooled at my matted hair. And for a while he would whisper how beautiful I was and stroke my back like a temperamental child, but eventually he gave up.
And it broke him a bit. How unfixable I was. This wearing down of life and the daily siren of a 6 am alarm clock to jolt him awake to black skies, the frozen winters where his palms would split like broken ground and the paint would etch itself into the cracks from the construction of a life held together by shut off notices and paychecks never stretching far enough and so much back-breaking work. He labors methodically, faithfully, and he smiles less and drinks more.
And the boy who became a man under the pressure, I didn’t know him at all. We grew up side by side but not together.
And even though I don’t know the writer’s full story, how can anyone ever know the full story, I could have penned every word about aching loss and mistakes and the misery of a marriage gone sour and stagnant on my tongue. And so I mourned the loss of her marriage today. I ached with it because I know that place.
There is only that. I can’t say anything formulaic as to why even when there are hard weeks there is also the space his body fills as he pulls me to him. And I fit there. The whole of me in his arms being made complete year after year, fingers draped across those shoulders. I can’t explain in 12 steps how to go from the brink of divorce to the fullness of 16 years and the anticipation of a lifetime more.
Only God in the seams reinforcing glory could ever explain the way a man and woman make love last a lifetime.
We are a partnership built of sorrow and grace and joy. I know now what I never knew as a girl, these things are not opposed. We find our filling in God alone and only then in each other. We are never enough.
My mind has been tempted with all the ways I chose poorly, or he did, when we said I do and committed our lives without having any idea what that meant. But we know now.
We know we said our vows once but we say I choose you every day. I will never stop choosing him.
We are students of forgiveness, ever learning to say sorry and always make grace in love. We make beautiful amends. We choose and I won’t lie and say it’s easy because so many days it’s not.
But sometimes we make it look easy. Sometimes I ease my shoulders back into him and he wraps his arms around me and whispers in my hair and I giggle, just like that girl. Sometimes, he watches me, his eyes trailing me across the room as I hoist children and laundry baskets and my ordinary life and his grin gets wide and boyish again and I know those looks. He still believes I’m beautiful. He still sees something in me I need reminding of.
Sometimes I welcome him home and I’ve memorized every crease in his brow and I know when he needs me to rub the ache from his shoulders. I trace the corners of his frame and I feel the tension ease up and I know then we’ve built a whole life together.
We don’t fit, we were never right for each other. Not for one second. How can two broken people in a sin-stained world do anything but make each other bleed? Only grace, only God. I don’t know any other way and this way is hard and demanding yet so full of beauty and joy I cannot contain it.
It is a gift and a trial and I accept it as both.
I set my face towards God and pray in the silences when the days are hard and we are blistering edges rubbing and chaffing and pray for the worn places, the paths walked through the years together. The making of our love. This week we celebrate 16 years of marriage, and I thank God for all of them, even the ones we almost quit.
I can say with confidence, To be continued…