"To know and be known..."
"I am scared of me. But I want to be known and loved anyway.
Can you do this?...I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again.
I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love."
|| donald miller ||
A little over a year ago I wrote a post about why I didn't regret getting engaged young. I got a lot of positive feedback from it but I also received a few comments with the opinion that I couldn't correctly make that statement having not yet lived out the consequences of being engaged young. Simply getting engaged young without experiencing being married young didn't give me enough insight to not have regret about the way my life was unfolding, they informed me. At the time, I'll admit, my feathers were ruffled a bit and I thought they were just rudely being negative. After all, when you pour your heart out in a vulnerable blogpost you hope that everyone will be encouraged by or heartily agree with what you've written. These days I'm not quite so offended by the two cents of those few cautionary commenters; not because I have regrets now, but really because I think they had a point. I could say I didn't have any regrets but I hadn't really experienced very much of what I could have regrets about. Even now, a year into marriage, I'm fully aware I haven't even skimmed the surface of what married life has to offer. However, I'd like to say (with a little bit more informed opinion) I still don't regret getting engaged or married young. The following is a sampling of what I have learned in my first year as a wife. Once again, I'm putting my heartfelt vulnerable thoughts out here hoping that it will be an encouragement to those who read...but this time I'm not so naive to think that everyone will completely agree with it. Not every young (or middle aged, or old) bride will feel the same as me. I'm sure I won't change any single person's mind if they have decided to get married (or not to get married!) This testimony is singularly my own...and I'm very thankful. :)
I became a Mrs. two weeks before my nineteenth birthday (and two and a half weeks before Trevor's twenty-eighth.) Our age gap alone has always made our relationship, to others, a bit unique...but for the most part it doesn't effect us as much as you would think. In fact, I have found that any "struggles" that it has seemed to be the cause of are usually more fears, insecurities, or misconceptions in my own mind. He's lived a lot of life that I haven't and that has tempted me, from time to time, to doubt that I am fitting for him. There's so much I haven't experienced, so much I don't know, so much I haven't had to think about...will he resent that? The Lord has been extremely kind in calming my fears anytime I have them by allowing Trevor to pour out a larger measure of grace, love, and acceptance...even when he doesn't know what I've been feeling. (This is why it is such a blessing to have a Heavenly Husband guiding and leading my earthly husband.)
Despite our age difference, marriage is something we're both learning for the first time. This has been a huge comfort...and it makes things fun to be on such a steep learning curve together!
Seeing each other nearly everyday during the time we were dating and our engagement is another unique quality to our relationship. Our first disagreement, him seeing me with greasy hair and no makeup, misunderstandings, intense times of prayer and forgiveness, me cooking for him, him getting close to my family, getting familiar with each other's daily routines....there was a lot we experienced before marriage that not all couples do. Therefore seeing each other everyday wasn't a dazzling new thing for us that some people look forward to marriage fulfilling. He had often spent the day with my family until long past bedtime, then he would head home (to his house one street away from ours) to get in bed to sleep for a few hours before coming to see us the next day. I am personally grateful for how close we were by the time we got married. I felt like I could confidently say, "I love him. I know him. I choose him. And only him."
Now don't get me wrong, there are still "surprises" in learning each other in marriage. But there hasn't been anything in our day to day routine, life, or preferences that really throws us off guard or makes us think, "Woah! Who is this person I married?!"
The most shocking thing for me in marriage is how much another human being (who you didn't grow up with/aren't blood related to) can know you fully and yet still love and accept you. We will never be entirely known by another human because only God can see the depths of the human heart, but marriage is perhaps the deepest way humanly speaking that we can know and be known. It has shown me the rawness of real intimacy. What would otherwise be overwhelming shame, fear, embarrassment, or disgrace has been a comfortable exchange of ourselves. Speaking allegorically, marriage for me has been like inviting someone into the untidy home of yourself without hesitation because you know they won't judge you when (not if, when) they find that deep dark thing hiding under your couch, or that quirky jumpsuit in the closet that you've always tried to keep hanging behind the cuter button ups and sweaters, the dirty dishes in your sink, or the crooked pictures on the wall you forgot to dust. It is terrifyingly freeing to watch him come in curiously and excitedly get familiar with all he finds....no matter how flawed or polished. I marvel wide-eyed watching him, as it were, seek to lovingly, delicately come alongside me to help "clean my dishes, or dust my frames" and smile kindly and affectionately at my "quirky outfit".
Do not be deceived, marriage is not all about blind acceptance. Loving unconditionally is a daily choice, an answer to fervent prayer for grace. Getting married doesn't automatically make you or your spouse easy to love. Those major acne break outs, hideous "stay at home" hair days, morning breath, all manner of physical unsightliness, weird habits, emotional outbursts, irritability, lack of prayer, guilty pleasure playlists, prideful tendencies, shameful procrastination, ugly discontentment, disgusting meal fails....basically the whole spectrum of physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental "yuckiness" is increasingly made bare and it is incredibly humbling to watch another human-being sacrificing their own will and daily choosing you for all that you are...and aren't. He knows me. And he's constantly knowing me more! He is not in denial but instead fully aware of my imperfection. There are specific things that come to mind I never thought I would have to let a husband know that God quickly brought to light early on and I watched His love clearly displayed through Trevor responding to such things with, "I love you still, I love you even if, I love you in spite of." He tells me, "I know you're not perfect, but I love you. And I don't fake love you while thinking in the back of my mind about all your failings. I really love you! I guess I don't dwell on things about you that I don't like. Because there's so much about you that I do like!"
That kind of love wrecks me. Daily.
In turn, loving someone back in that way is ground breaking. Just as I have let him in, willingly, trustingly, uncomfortably comfortably -- he has invited me in to know him as well. Trevor, though a dazzlingly wonderful man in my opinion isn't always easy to love. He has plenty of idiosyncrasies and short comings which, without the grace of God, I'm often tempted to not immediately forgive him for. Marriage is not just about "sucking it up" or "turning a blind eye" all the time. It's about consciously staring directly at a person's myriad of faults and saying, "I have been forgiven and loved so much; I will do the same for them." It's not about pretending like you're married to a person who is on the brink of perfection. It's about knowing all their bad along with their good and seeking to show them true love to the glory of God. Such a task can be difficult, like any other task in life. But I believe it is also one of the most beautiful, rich, and satisfying thrills this life has to offer.
A fascinating aspect about learning to love every part of a person is that you come to find yourself smiling over and enjoying (or at least being able to tolerate) a particular trait in your spouse that someone else might not be able to stand! These are the times that the Lord makes it clearer and clearer that He has not only fashioned you before time for each other, but He is daily conforming you into a more harmonious pair. Trevor and I have a ton of differences that can cause tension or harmony depending on how we handle certain situations. I've learned its a lot more enjoyable to treat differences as an opportunity to learn from another person, to grow, to change...rather than to be upset because you don't see eye to eye on something. Delight in uniqueness!
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is to stop comparing myself to other wives, stop comparing Trevor to other husbands, and stop comparing our relationship to other couples' relationship (comparing myself to other wives being the most reoccurring stumbling block of the three.) Our first six months of marriage were very full of traveling and wedding work for me. I had a lot of shooting and post-shooting work to do and cooking gourmet meals, keeping the house spotless, and sewing throw pillows just didn't fall into the category of things I had time to do. Every time I saw another young wife indulging in all these sweet housewifely things on social media I cringed and felt like a complete failure. It wasn't until, in a tearful fit of self-pity and pouring my heart out that Trevor said, "But I like that you have pictures to edit. I love that you're doing something that makes you happy. I'm happy housework isn't the only thing on your agenda. I like you having something to do." Suddenly I realized that my life had nothing to do with those other wives. Just because we were eating Panda Express again while other people were Instagramming their impressive looking homemade delicacies, I wasn't disappointing my husband....I wasn't disappointing anyone but myself! The Lord has since provided us with a schedule that isn't quite as busy and I'm continually learning how to balance keeping a home and a business a little better. It was a wise person who said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Its not a matter of "the grass is always greener on the other side" but rather "The grass is greener where you water it." Yes, there will always be lives that look better than yours and there are things you will suffer that other people won't. But it is just as true that the people whose lives you envy have struggles you are not aware of and, in turn, you have joys that they will never have. Rejoice with those who rejoice! Weep with those who weep! And be thankful for the story that God is writing just for you. It's so much more wonderful that way. :)
A friend of mine recently asked Trevor and I, "So, you're a year in now...what has been the most surprising thing about marriage?" It took us a good while to come up with an answer and the real conclusion was, it was surprising how normal it seemed. How in a very little amount of time it felt like we had always lived life together! Waking up in the morning to your best friend's face is pretty magical the first time but its shocking how quickly it becomes second nature. Its hard for me to really remember what it was like to wake up alone! (Also, to clarify, that doesn't mean it's any less wonderful as time passes. It is one of my favorite parts of life and, Lord willing, I don't think that will change.) This belief that marriage will suddenly be the most fabulous, fairy tale life that you could ever imagine is a bit far fetched. But, in my opinion; dance parties in the kitchen, tickle fights, strong arms to hold you when you're crying (or better yet someone to take your hands and say, "You're hurting. Let's pray."), inside jokes, letting your walls down, forehead vein showing laughter fits, pajama days -- basically being fully yourself with someone is a lot more satisfying than any romantic movie or princess book I've ever come across. It's like the difference between a real human and a Photoshopped magazine cover. We might be tempted to think there is more glamour in the polished figment of imagination parading as reality but deep down we know there is much more value and true beauty in the flesh and blood, living and breathing, striving and failing, loving and longing human being. So it is with marriage. It's not retouched, flashy, smoothed out, cleaned up...it is raw and ragged but it has a loveliness all its own.
Marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the church after all and He certainly doesn't choose us because we're the most beautiful maiden in all the land that happens to be a diamond in the rough, just waiting to be found by Prince Charming. We are the Wicked Witch, the Evil Step-mother, the Villain and He sheds His love abroad on us, redeeming us, and covering us with His own beauty (righteousness). The most fulfilling part about my marriage to Trevor will never be me getting emotionally supported or him getting pampered, it will never be us getting physically satisfied or being financially stable. If he is not ultimately leading me closer to Christ, and I am not doing the same for him then our marriage - no matter how adorable, fantastic, exciting, physically pleasing, monetarily successful, etc. - we are failing. That is the weight, the gravity, the responsibility of being bound to another person that cannot be taken lightly. We are not promised marital peace, healthy children (or any children for that matter), a beautiful house, substantial bank account, easy relationships outside the home...we are promised unmeasurable joy in Christ. And if both of us are living in light of that, marriage - no matter the circumstances - can be one of the most blessed avenues to bring God glory. Forgiveness is everything! Humility is key! Which (drumroll please) is also true for single life.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!"
- Philippians 2:3-8
We are grateful for the mercy and immense pleasure of being able to live with the love of our life. We don't even pretend to have it all figured out because, frankly, we're not even close. *crying laughing emoji* We still haven't learned how to share a suitcase...but we do share entrees at restaurants! He still hasn't totally kicked his gas station pizza habit from his bachelor days, but he definitely appreciates home-cooked meals now. Sometimes I believe we've figured out the sweet spot between feeling close yet sleeping comfortably (because falling asleep in each other's arms sounds a lot more romantic than it is in reality. Suffocating heat, boney appendages, and cutting off of circulation kinda dampen the flare.) He doesn't always understand why I express myself in lovey posts and often over dramatic/poetic tributes but he loves my heart and appreciates my thoughts when all is said and done. He has to remind me to brush my teeth before bed if I forget because I'm tired just as often as I have to remind him to put away his dirty dishes because he got distracted. I haven't fully wrapped my brain around all his business lingo, but I have come to realize he's smarter than I'll ever be and he does what he loves. I've learned he often prefers lots of "cheek smooches" to real kisses but he's learned to try to balance it out for me. ;) We still stay up late talking and sleep in way past sunrise and regret the decision every time. We are learning how to plan dates despite how spontaneous we tend to be. We haven't experienced what it will be like to be parents together yet, but we dream and talk about future little Rubys often. We know there is so much we are clueless about...we feel like we're diving in but in the grand scheme of things we've barely dipped our toes in. It isn't all rosy but it certainly isn't bleak. It isn't easy by any means but I think hard is too strong of a word. We don't always get along, we fail to love each other more than we succeed sometimes, but most days the end balance of the whole ordeal is so GOOD. We dazzle and disappoint each other daily. We are learning each other a little more each day. We are learning marriage a little more each day. We are learning Christ a little more each day.