“We realize it’s not about what we get out of our marriage but about what we become in our marriage.”Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
A year after we were married, Rob wrote a piece for MarriageTrac about our rocky adjustment to wedded life. He and I were both independent and more than a little stubborn; and, like all young couples, we fumbled our way toward wedded bliss. Many times, we discovered to our dismay and dislike that marriage pinched. No one told us it would involve so much self-sacrifice. I chuckle as I read those old words of Rob’s now. We were just kids back then. Our brains were barely done growing. We had no idea what we were doing!
Now that Rob is gone, it would be easy to gloss over those tough early years, to only remember the prettier picture of our marriage matured by time. When I think of our early marriage, I cringe a little when I remember the awkwardness, the petty arguments, the hurt feelings, the “me first” attitudes we both had to shed. I’m embarrassed to say our marriage was sometimes messy.
And then I remember that perfection was never our goal. In that first year full of foibles, we also read Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage together. And we chose this question from Thomas’ book to guide us as we developed our relationship: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
As I reflect today on what would have been our eighteenth wedding anniversary, I can say with full assurance that my marriage to Rob made me deeply happy. I loved our life together. I see that it sanctified me as well. The years of iron sharpening iron, the wearing down of those rough edges, the commitment to love each other like Jesus loved us.
Through almost two decades of marriage, I learned to love someone wholly other than myself. I learned to put his interests before my own. I learned to listen rather than speak, to support rather than critique, to serve rather than seek to be served. I was — and am — no saint. My attempts were marked by all of the sinfulness in my life that still calls out for redemption. I never reached perfection in my marriage. But perfection was never the goal. That’s something only God can do.
On their anniversaries, some husbands tell their wives, “You’re still the same girl I married.” I hope that Rob wouldn’t say that of me. After all of our work in the trenches of marriage for all those years. After the beautiful, though imperfect, pursuit of holiness together. After all we endured as our love formed into something that would last. Instead, on this day, I hope that Rob would say, “You’re not the same girl I married. I love the changes I see in you.”