Marriage Is Made In the Trenches: An Anniversary Reflection

I could write something cutesy, like twelve things I’ve learned in twelve years of marriage. But that’s not you, and that’s not me either. Our lessons and our vows can’t be relegated to mere words on a page, tutorials left behind for some cavalier couple.

Some would say that marriage is about trips to the beach, splashing carefree in the waves, drinking frothy beverages with pink umbrellas, while our toes connect in the white pearl sand. 

But I say that marriage is made in the trenches. Marriage is about digging a fox hole and holding your breath while enemy fire looms overhead. Marriage is forged, not under the canopy of ease and starry-eyed ideals, but under the harsh red dirt of the battlefield. Marriage is when you're buried six feet under, and you're running out of ammo, and someone jumps in your corner, literally dives down into the depths with you, providing some clear and focused cover fire. And they won’t leave, not now, not ever, not without you.

Marriage is when you come to the end of yourself, and you can’t even remember your name and the essence of what lies hidden deep inside. Marriage is that someone who always remembers, even when, especially when, you forget. Marriage is the assurance that despite all your changes, the good, bad, and ugly ones, that someone sees the real you, calling forth your gifting, calling out your name, reaching for your hand.

This year in America has seen far too many fox holes and not nearly enough sandy beaches. We’ve run out of ammo a time or two, surrendering to the noise and chaos abounding overhead. But, we’ve sat together, saying everything and nothing, hand in hand, with the scars from life’s battles firmly in our purview.

We’ve untangled many knots…in our stomachs, in our luggage, in our kids. We’ve been out of breath, holding the thread bare fragments of a Three-fold Strand that still holds up, that beckons us to trust, knowing and believing it will be strong enough.

Marriage to you is the only thing that makes sense when I can’t make sense of a single other thing. It’s knowing that you share the memories and the fears and the victories and the defeats of all the continents. You know. There can be that look or that word or that experience brought up, and you know. No other explanation needed. Now, that’s freedom, that’s peace, that’s security.

Marriage looks like you waking up earlier than you need to just so you can make sure I step into my day with an awesome cup of coffee and the mantle of grace that you have already blanketed across my shoulders like a warm shroud as you’ve prayed over me again and again.

Marriage is you washing up the dishes and folding mismatched socks when all you really want to do is put your feet up and laugh for a minute or two.

Marriage looks like you doing the hard work, asking the hard questions, and not running away…not ever running away.

Marriage is giving up for the sake of the other. Marriage is making space for the other. Period.

Marriage is knowing that you win when I fly high. We get to soar together. Always together.

The most important things we can say to each other remain: I love you. I’m sorry. I forgive you. I choose you. I will never give up on you. Thank you.

Rinse and repeat.

So many words we’ve spoken to each other, some are worthy of remembrance; others we pray to forget:

2001- Can I take you on a date, like a real date where I pay?

2002- Will you marry me?

2003- I do and I will.

2004- This is our shot.

2005- Let’s have a baby. Our baby is dead.

2006- Don’t deliver on this one day. Any day but this one.

2007- Look at us now.

2008- God is willing. Our God is strong.

2009- It’s time.

2010- Is this our new normal?

2011- So long, America. Hello, Asia!

2012- When will the shaking stop?

2013- This is you. This is me.

2014- We have to keep going forward.

2015- Things will be different this time.

Happy Anniversary, My Love. With you in my fox hole, with you in my corner, with you as my partner, life is good. It’s never easy, but it is good and rich and soul-satisfying.

One day, once again, we will sit on the beach. And we will sip our dreams and our memories down like a cold Coca Cola, tasting that much sweeter for all the times we laid down cover fire for each other. 

*What about you, dear reader? What does marriage look like to you?

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