“To open myself up to love feels like jumping off a cliff… without any sense of where I’ll land.” I expressed this early on in my relationship with Ben, in those blissful, naive days where looking deeply into his eyes made me blush and our hands were glued together, as we were glued together. I’d jumped off this cliff before, and found myself wounded, jaded, unsure of myself, unsure of love.
And yet, this friendship had grown, over miles run together, long bike rides, treks on Chicago’s “L”. We had talked for dozens of hours, about our families, our theologies, our dreams, if we should even dream. And as our friendship deepened, traces of love began to reveal themselves: a sideways glance, a deeper noticing, a gentler word, a borrowed sweatshirt. As the seasons turned in our city, the season was turning in our relationship – and I was bracing myself, because self-protection is instinctive.
“I’ve seen a lot of marriages end,” I said cautiously, the tea cup warming my hands in that frigid Chicago winter. He looked gently into my eyes, “I haven’t,” he said simply. We’d been dating several months, were madly in love, and were both inwardly contemplating if this person was going to be “my person.” I, however, was still unconvinced that this marriage idea was a good one, even though God had already said so. Wouldn’t marriage be a distraction from a life lived for God? How could I love God and love a husband, both well? Isn’t marriage… mostly hard? Did I really want that?
He convinced me I did. And I jumped off the cliff. Grace caught me.
Tears streamed down my face, as I sat rocking in the warm bath in our first apartment. We’d been married a month, and I wondered if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. We’d fought about… something… which at the time, felt huge. I couldn’t fathom how we’d gotten here, already, in such a short time. Knowing what I now know, as a 4 on the Enneagram, feelings can be extreme for me, and I was feeling the extreme. The urge to self-protect was overpowering, oppressive. But there was grace, and the gentle nudge that we’d committed ourselves to each other, and our marriage to God. I wrapped myself in a towel, and stepped out.
He kissed me on the forehead. “I didn’t know you were so upset,” he said. “Neither did I,” I admit. We sat together, holding hands, my heart opening in the restoration.
The children were bouncing, literally, on and off of the air mattress in our rented home. It had been an intense last few years, with us both in master’s programs, just scraping by with our part-time jobs, and having three babies. The squeals and screams escalated, and he caught my eye. Before there was this, he seemed to say, there was us. Do you remember that? The days of us? It’s easy to lose sight of, amidst the changing diapers, the night feeds, the battles of will, the tiny bodies currently flying in the air. I smile back, yes, us. Look at what’s come from us – look at this beautiful grace. It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful.
Ten and a half years into marriage, and we were driving up California’s Hwy 1 on a long-anticipated getaway, just us. With the Pacific constant on our left, and miles of vegetable and fruit fields on our right, we talked about the deepest parts of our souls, bared our hearts, feeling scared and vulnerable, but held and hopeful. We pulled off at a beach – again – to walk in the sand, watch the waves, breath the salty air as we considered the enormity of a life spent together. I reflected on our ten years, and my grandparents sixty. I long for sixty years. I reflect on the strength it must take to live a life with someone for sixty years. I rest in the grace I know God has provided, and will keep providing.
We spread ourselves and our now four children over two rows on the massive airplane, finally flying home after a long delay across an ocean. Our excessive luggage containing our life of the past eight months was hopefully residing in the belly beneath us, but it’s hard to be sure. Each child has her pillow, check, her blanket, check, her headphones, check. My stomach lurched with the turbulence, my heart ached with fresh goodbyes and yet anticipated the joyous peace of home. I met his eyes over the seats, the children, the ocean and continents below. Those eyes that drew me in long ago, that have held me when I’ve been broken, that have borne my deepest secrets, that have known my truest love. Here we are, suspended between oceans, suspended in time, held in love, held by grace. My heart swells; I cannot imagine another life, could not have imagined the goodness of God in this gift, in these gifts. Hard? Yes. But so good.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.james 1:17