And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
I’ve been trying to get some writing done. Trying to write out a love story about two young kids who fell in love, threw it all down before they knew what it would cost. Then, she got really, really sick. And I think God gave them an incredible love to survive so much. To be married, still. To survive years that felt like stretched-out midnights. Years they felt forgotten. Years they didn’t know where that God they cast their lots for went. Years when they wondered if He even cared.
I can’t say there aren’t hollow places I’m still finding. Angers and griefs and blank spots that I stifled just to survive. Now, between picking out kitchen cabinets and finishing up this one truly crazy love story, we find ourselves in our bedroom closet screaming at each other. At each other.
Because who else could understand? Who else stands here and is willing to be yelled at or take any blame? Who else was here? Just me and that rugged, unshaven face through all the midnights of terror and loneliness, through all the days we looked at each other and couldn’t recognize that war-beaten partner of ours for the bride and the groom we were so many lifetimes ago.
There is so much we can’t blame each other for. And yet, when the waves of grief come, we still fail to be anything other than human. No matter how much Jesus, no matter how many prayers and devotions, when the tidal comes, we are both just desperately trying to stay alive. And if you have ever struggled not to drown, you’ll agree with me that there is a force so deep within a human being, so powerful and so unyielding, that it will fight for my own survival above all else. If my Love drowns alongside of me, my instinct will fight to use him as a buoy: to use his body to keep mine alive.
And maybe this is the ugly truth about why so many marriages die when the unimaginable happens. No one wants to own it: how ugly this being human and drowning alongside another really is. No one wants to admit their marriage is a double-drown. And, yes, we both contribute to the other’s ultimate submersion. It’s the nastiest perversion of this love we treasure. And when we finally wash up on shore, we look at each others’ torn bodies. We look at the gashes and claw marks from the other. And where should the anger be pointed? And how do we get rid of it?
I thought it was all going to get better one day, and we’d learn how to manage the double-drown. But now I don’t know, because there are mornings on my knees when I am begging for relief, begging for a different perspective and an easier breathe, that I still beg for healing for a marriage that keeps disappearing under tidal.
We couples who bury our own flesh, who look at a child every day and wonder how long?, we live a high stakes reality (and I know there are others of you out there, fighting different demons, who find yourselves at a high-stakes table, as well). It makes our worlds small and our marriages so very important. It makes us surviving our double-drownings so very necessary, so impossibly crucial. The stakes stack so high on one connection, and we wonder why we break at the pressure points?
We know there is no where else where anyone could ever bleed as we two bleed in that bedroom closet. Screaming in there at that face is the closest intimacy I’ve ever known: the hide I crave, the unraveled no one else would forgive. Beyond the struggle of the drown, past the crumbled dreams and the disillusioned life we’re trying so hard to fill back up with hope, we are a couple in a closet. We’re screaming at each other just to be heard, and loved, and ultimately chosen again.
Sometimes it takes a while to find our way back to each other. The shreds need to stitch back up into whole pieces again. The bleeding needs to stop. There are prayers said, and salve applied.
Life goes on, and love somehow persists. Maybe because there’s one thing I still believe with all my heart:
I’d rather go crazy,
be drowning in debt,
live in an unfinished house,
bury a baby,
and fight tooth and nail for two more,
—all alongside this man—
than have a perfect life with any other.
I retrieve our wedding vows way back from that golden day. Again, I whisper them to myself:
How naturally it is I should feel this way about him, for together we have shared the blessings of God. He is sealed in my heart with permanent betrothal. I will go where he goes, live where he lives. His people are my people and His God is my God. Philippians 1, Ruth 1
Say them again, friend, the next time you two find yourselves washed up on shore. Bind the wounds; lick them for a couple of days if you have to. Then say the vows again until you mean them.
These are the real rules for marriage: Wash, Bind, Vow. Repeat.
To the most mysterious work of loving in all my life,
Broken Together by Casting Crowns