I thought this was the year of Goodbyes.
So much had taken place in the nearly seventeen years since I’d gone out with my friends one night and was tapped on the shoulder by a cute baseball player, a really really cute baseball player standing close behind him.
Hey, would you talk to my friend, Clay? a sweet guy named Jim asked. He’s really shy.
Clay was just a young boy.
I was a young girl.
Both of us had our own stories, packed away in suitcases we dragged down the aisle the day we said I do.
Our hurts from the past.
Our worries about the present.
Our fears of the future.
Wasn’t long before anger crept in.
Harsh words were often spoken.
We learned they could be forgiven but rarely forgotten.
Bitterness grabbed us by the neck and wouldn’t let go, strangling us until we blacked out, no longer seeing the good.
Pain is a selfish beast. You become caught up in your own struggles, oblivious to those of your better half.
I was focusing on my hurt and not my healer.
Trying to save myself instead of saving my marriage.
Hoping to discover ‘who I really was’ without counting the cost of my narcissism.
Pointing out his flaws without noticing my own.
Fighting to be right instead of learning to be compassionate.
Truth is, I’ve done a million things wrong in sixteen years of marriage.
He has too.
Our road has been bumpy and at times so dark we saw only a dim light at the end of the tunnel.
Make no mistake, however:
The Light was always there, steady and sure.
Relentless, even in my restlessness.
One day I finally shifted my focus.
Instead of focusing on our marriage and all we couldn’t get right, I focused on the Light.
Every morning I carried my burdens to the Light and laid them down.
I took every hurt, every scar, every sin of my own, and I allowed the Light to shine on them.
I decided the Light was more important than my husband.
Sounds strange. But what love my imperfect husband couldn’t give me, the Light from my Perfect Creator provided.
It filled the cracks in my broken heart.
And I am healed.
I’m also wiser.
Wise enough to appreciate a husband who has been faithful to me for sixteen years.
A husband who has seen me at my imperfect best and loved me at my absolute worst.
Has swum in the sea of riches and walked in the valley of the poor with me by his side.
Held four beautiful blessings in his arms and thanked God for His Good Gifts.
A husband who has parented with me in the trenches and rejoiced with me on the mountains.
A man who still gives me butterflies and loves me in intimate ways unknown to anyone outside our sweet bond of matrimony.
It’s taken me a long time to understand I serve a God who loves marriage and fights behind the scenes for our success.
An even longer time to believe He was fighting for my marriage. The Accuser seeks to open your suitcases and pile the contents on your shoulders, self-condemnation his greatest tool.
This year opened the suitcase of all suitcases. The one I had hidden years ago as a young girl, when my parents split after 16 years together.
That suitcase held fear, confusion, hurt, heartache, and strangely enough, pride. Pride that seeped out in cynicism towards those who showed me compassion. Pride that couldn’t let go of my bitterness towards God and all he’d allowed to happen.
Pride that refused to take responsibility for my part in the mess of my life.
A preacher once told Clayford and me that God works a supernatural miracle on your Wedding Day. I never believed it until this year, when God allowed me to see a revelation:
There is a Divine Unloading that occurs when two flawed people who love the Lord come together and make vows to their Creator, leaving their baggage at the altar for Him to unpack.
I now understand that my marriage is of utmost concern to my God.
More important than my children (because it’s so important for them), more important than Clay’s job, my purpose, our pasts, or our relationships with anyone else.
I can’t speak for you. I can’t speak for what keeps you with your spouse, caused you to quit, or makes you consider giving up.
I refuse to judge. It’s not my place, and I’ve lived long enough to see the worst of marriages. I believe there are also such things as Divine Forgiveness and Divine Healing.
And I won’t make claims for my own future; I’ve held onto the prideful lie of control for too long. I now know for certain that if all changed in an instant, I would still have the Light.
But this year, 2017, is the year I’ve decided to Remain.
The year I’ve decided Clay, I and our children deserve a happy, healthy family.
The year I’ve decided my childhood dream, the one that had gotten lost amid one too many suitcases, is worth fighting for, and all other endeavors will certainly lead to emptiness.
The year I’ve decided gratitude is a choice.
I am healed, but don’t misunderstand: My marriage is far from perfect.
We woke up with most of the same issues today we had on January 1, when I thought my marriage was dead.
But when I keep focused on our destination, the journey seems so easy.
God willing, my husband I will be blessed to travel this road for many years, our children close in our hearts, our memories of loved ones and good times ever-present in our minds.
And the most important truth I’ve learned along the way is, at the end of this journey, it won’t matter how we started.
Only how we finished.