My wife and I have now been married twelve years.
It’s a fraction of the time I hope to someday celebrate, but we are definitely not newlyweds any more. We’ve packed a lot of life into the dozen years we’ve been together. Makes my head spin to think about, really:
- We were married on December 14th, 2002. I was 21 and she was 19.
- My bride attended five schools to complete her nursing degree while we bounced around the country doing ministry. She graduated in 2006.
- I went to graduate school while in full time student ministry. I graduated in 2008.
- We had our first child two and a half years in. Then we had another one almost three years later.
- In all, we have moved to and from five different houses/apartments.
- My wife has been a nurse in a hospital, a clinic, and now in schools.
- She’s now in graduate school to be a nurse practitioner.
- I wrote three books and started blogging.
- We’ve collectively been to Mexico twice, the Dominican Republic five times, and India once.
- We started a nonprofit together and raised and gave away over $50,000 in our first year.
- My wife helped lead out in women’s ministry, worship ministry, and student ministry.
- We have had fifteen birthday parties and two preschool graduations and three piano recitals and I’ve lost track of the number of soccer and softball and t-ball games.
They haven’t all been fond memories. Anyone who’s been married long knows that. Early in our marriage I threw the checkbook and a stack of bills at my wife. She made me cry once and I have made her cry more than once. We’ve buried loved ones and been disappointed by each other and had our fair share of bumps in the road. Who hasn’t?
Marriage is like that. There are exhilarating highs and destructive lows. A decade zooms by and you realize that the person you married isn’t the same and then you look in the mirror and realize you’re not either. The only thing that drives you toward one another instead of away is the commitment to stick it out even when the going gets tough. In our case, it’s a conviction that God brought us together on purpose, not accident, and to flee from the trials of life would not only be cowardly but also disobedient.
Old gets in the way sometimes. For Kari, I’m pretty sure my habits get old. Seeing the same drooly face when she wakes up probably gets old. Her sharing her feelings only for me to try and talk her out of them using logic gets old. And I am actually getting older, with a receding hairline and a growing frequency of grouchiness to show for it.
When we focus on the “old” we really miss out.
Because on either side of the old we’re growing. Sure…life is hard. The lessons we’ve learned weren’t often learned easily. But we’re growing. I am different than I was when I was 21, and my wife isn’t any longer 19. We’re in danger of acting like grown ups from time to time these days. We’re growing. And we’re doing it together. When we fight we look each other in the eye. We hug each other a lot. We don’t kick the other to the couch when we are unhappy. We sit around a table to eat. We do halfway decent at spending time together. We worship side by side.
I’m convinced that the biggest obstacle marriage faces is the fact that most folks who make vows let the “old” get in the way of the “growing” and the “together.” It can’t be ignored — it’s right there in the middle of everything.
It’s just not the point.
Twelve years in, and the “old” is just getting started. The hint of lines on my forehead will become more obvious. My hair’s retreat from the front of my scalp has only just begun. My wife is staring into her future at one ornery old man.
I’m hoping she can see past the old and we can keep growing together. If I can do the same, then the wrinkles and the habits and the conflict will continue to fade into the background as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ side by side.