And the dailiness of loving a person can wane. The reality of what it really takes to love can take its toll. There is a cost to this together-living. This messy, gut-wrenching, mirror-imaging, love.
Do we ever really know what we are doing ... if we are loving just right? How to really let love in, how to really make it grow? I have come to the same conclusion year after year: this love is a mystery.
We crash and we burn and little souls rub up against big souls and each soul in this house is just a singular disaster living among other disasters, always trusting the One who makes masterpieces out of mess. We need extra grace to make this love-life work.
We have spent ten years learning how to say "I'm sorry, will you forgive?" Ten years learning how to fight well, fight for US and not for self. Learning not to say "don't worry about it," but say instead, "You did hurt me and I do forgive." Ten years learning a vocabulary of respect within a dance of grace. Ten years learning how to take inventory within these walls, courageously throwing out what must go and fighting, at all costs, for what must remain.
Ten years learning that love isn't a feeling but, on many days, is a sheer act of the will. We get busted up in this school of love. It can be brutal at times.
Ten years realizing that the word 'submission' is not passe, not cause for cringing; this handing over, this getting lower, is cause for cheering really. Because what is true love without the laying down of a life?
I find it so very uncomfortable to be vulnerable, so scary to be exposed. And sometimes it is easier to fall into love under covers than it is to cry real tears, say real apologies, speak true words.
We have found that the soul-naked can be the scariest kind of undressing. Wide open for rejection, disappointment, the walking away.
And this nakedness has never been easy for us. We have paid our dues here and we have claimed a stake in the ground: we won't let it take us down. Not if it kills us. We sit against our wills, knee to knee with hands together. We have needs and we need to pray. There is often a long pause and I notice only the quiet. He smiles sweet like the college boy I married and he tells me he is nervous. He cant say why ... just knows the feeling mirrors that feeling of 'being too exposed.' And sometimes upstairs when the pursuit is on, the same risk of exposure can stop us dead in our tracks. This is the stuff that can kill a moment.
I spent too much time in the early years believing this union was faulty ... just couldn't seem to get it right. The money, the fighting fair, the whole "let the man lead" fiasco ... and the intimacy. We would whisper hope to ourselves and each other- would someone else just go ahead and raise the flag first!? Admit outright that it is hard for them too and confusing and a whole lot of work? It seemed like everyone had cornered the market on marriage ... had it all figured out. We were living our own little enigma, this other-worldly love placed in the hands of two messed up folks.
How in the world ...?
Now, in those awkward, too bare moments we decide to pray anyway, even though it is awkward and intimidating. We choose to soul-expose for the sake of this one-ness we know is our good. We push through. And in one act of vulnerability we align our wants and our needs and our fears and our hopes. We come together under the One who created this covenant love -- this love meant to draw us close, not tear us apart.
We want the mystery and so we risk the uncomfortable.
In the end we are unified, on a love-high with a heavenly twist and we talk about it; we think it odd that the two most unifying acts in a marriage are also the most risky, most vulnerable, most exposing. How we can dress up love making and tidy up our words in order to stay all covered up ... shielded from the very exposure that unifies, refines, literally grows love.
And we were twenty-three and thought we knew it all when we exchanged platinum. Perhaps the only thing we really knew? He would somehow be the model for this long life of loving. We have read our fair share of books, studied marriage with a small crowd of friends.
But it is the soul undressing of this life, the constant and purposeful drawing near, the risky business of being exposed ... this is the stuff of growing love. This is the way of its Maker -- the invitation to be fully known and fully loved.
In ten years, I have held my breath here with this husband-man under my roof. He has witnessed the flaws without shifting his gaze. And he has modeled this God-love, always drawing closer rather than turning away. In ten years I have found safety in the real ... shade under strong oak trust ... being fully seen, with all of my imperfections alluring somehow.
This is the way of unconditional love.
And in the end, a few conferences, books and small-groups later, we decide it is all too much to understand. We are content to embrace this mystery. We sigh a bit of relief, believing that He who created this work of love takes great delight in the slow revealing.
So, we too, will delight in the slow discovering.