2016-2017: Learning about Wilderness
Every day we can, Brandon and I take walks around our neighborhood in Copley with Izzy. It’s a one-mile trek. We leave the kids at the house and walk. We walk and talk. We walk and don’t talk. We talk and laugh. We talk and disagree and explain what made us angry and make jokes to break the tension and walk. We walk and walk. We walk the same mile over and over and travel farther, deeper, better, healthier. Eating and sleeping and drinking and walking. The circumstances of our lives shift and we shift too.
Brandon is around a lot more in the fall of 2016 and I start a new job in the winter of 2017, and we’re both sorting out what all of this means, wandering around the wilderness together, reforming our understanding of faith, rebuilding trust, searching for a new understanding of our identities.
Fourteen years ago, Brandon and I thought to ourselves, we could really nail this thing called marriage. We should go into marriage ministry! Neither of us knew what it meant to be equipped for marriage ministry.
To “minister” is to tend to the needs of someone else. We thought the way to practice marriage ministry was to turn outward from our marriage and inspect other couples, tell other couples what they should do to have the best marriage now.
But what we needed to do was turn inward, to learn how to tend to the needs of each other. To be married. To stay married. To practice marriage. To minister within our own marriage.
It turns out we’ve been practicing marriage ministry now for fourteen years and haven’t sat with a single couple for premarital counseling. We haven’t led a marriage retreat. We haven’t served on staff at a church or set curriculum on sex and money and fidelity.
There’s a Christian saying that marriage isn’t meant to make you happy; it’s meant to make you holy. I kind of hate that. Mostly because such one-liners are thrown out as if they contain all truth and that’s it, there’s nothing else to say. Obviously if you are not happy in your marriage it’s because that isn’t what it’s about; it’s about holiness and that’s the end of the conversation.
But what is holiness except the profound deepening and widening of our understanding of God’s love for us? What is holiness except the experience of having your heart enlarged and beaten and restored, spurred on to love others more abundantly? What is holiness except the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit?
And the fruits of the Spirit are first love, then joy, followed by peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A marriage that is made holy has turned inward to each other’s needs, and by doing so, refracts the Spirit outward. Love and joy. Holiness and happiness.
So we walk, and walk, and walk. And slowly, we are restored, from the inside out.