Thursday, June 7, 2012
Side By Side
Dating culture was in a major transition as I was growing up. People were still "asking people out" and you usually knew when two people were a couple, at least in my friend circles. Phrases like "hanging out" and "talking" and "seeing each other" were starting to creep in but mostly people were girlfriend and boyfriend or they weren't. Texting didn't exist, nor did email when I first started dating, so you really had to arrange things voice to voice. Much harder, maybe, but much clearer. Someone took a risk, an obvious one, and someone else either shot them down or went for it. None of this "months-go-by-and-we-hang-out-and-can-you-look-at-what-she/he-wrote-on-my-wall-and-interpret-it-for-me" junk. I do not envy younger people.
Here's the thing though. From the time of that first date until about six months into dating Reed, I was pretty uncertain about marriage. And, yes, I do realize the inherent inconsistency of dating people when you have no intention of ever getting married. I was so uncertain, though, that I even wrote a song in high school that involved me moving to Africa without a husband or children and living there forever with my dog. (It is to my everlasting horror that my best friends in high school memorized and then revived this song for our rehearsal dinner 10 years later. I have yet to repay them, but it's coming. Oh, it's coming.) Song aside, I looked at marriage as a major loss of freedom. A place where a man would try to rule me or wherein we'd be excited at first and then miserable for 50 years and our kids would know it. Why would I choose what I thought was certain misery, two messed up humans trying to keep a promise inherently impossible to keep?
Yet, there was a moment when I was dating Reed when I thought, "Hey, I could marry THIS guy." No specific epiphany about marriage in general, no hidden book somewhere that had planned out my cake, bridal gown and which song I would eventually dance to, just a small, quiet moment of choosing him. Choosing this man to commit to, to love each day, 'til death do us part. And choosing it in the face of overwhelming odds against its success, because, let's face it, we all come into this thing with a lot of baggage and having the baggage of not even being so certain that marriage is a great thing is like bringing that oversized, misshapen bag that the airline check-in counter person just looks at, shakes his head and then starts covering with mysterious stickers.
But the thing is, success is not about luck. It's not about finding that "soulmate" or "the one" with whom we'll make it all the way, it's about that choice again and again to turn towards him in the morning, to choose honesty over manipulation, to work at what's off between us, to dream together for our future and then wait expectantly side by side, to not isolate ourselves from each other when we face disappointments, to invite others into our life who can ask us good questions about our marriage, to cause our son to giggle when we linger over a kiss in front of him (I assume this will turn to embarrassment in a few short years, but so far he thinks it's fun), to unpack those huge bags a little more as each year passes and God molds us individually more into his image and, hopefully, molds our marriage into one that reflects his love to people around us.
Here's to nine years, my love! May God keep us ever focused on Him so we can freely love, serve, respect and challenge each other and do it all in the midst of tears, passion, laughter and, most importantly, side by side.