Love Your Spouse Challenge—The Third Dimension
This morning as Matt left for work, we were questioning why we have had such trouble communicating the last few days. First of all, there is actually finding a moment to have a conversation in the midst of three kids under age 7, each of whom are convinced that if they can just get their volume level over that of their siblings, they will win the coveted prize of individual parental attention. Then, when we have finally wrangled the last child into bed after indulging a few requests for waters and snuggles, we are completely exhausted. The temptation is to sneak off into another room and just have some precious escape moments to ourselves rather then to try and engage one another. I admit I get a little judgmental when I see Matt escaping to what I see as stupid movies on Netflix, the same way he judges my spending time on Facebook as "wasting my life".
Marriage and family are wonderful, but marriage is hard work. It's compounded by the age of social media where we see two-dimensional images of romance and family when we are living in a three-dimensional world. The third dimension of mess, strife, disappointment and everything else inconvenient and ugly is squeezed out of those images. It's not a fair comparison. I just read A Wrinkle in Time to my children. The characters, while traveling through space, attempted to land on a two-dimensional planet. The air was squeezed from their lungs and their hearts could not pump; they had to depart or perish. If we try to squeeze our families into these two-dimensional portrayals of what life should be, we will suffocate.
I didn't marry a man who swept me off my feet in a whirlwind romance. Our courtship was not tummy butterflies and romantic ventures. Yes, that was there at times, but I married my running buddy who met me at the trailhead every day after work and ran the miles next to me while I wore a sweaty t-shirt and no make-up. I married a man who, one time when I tried to give up during a challenging hill, came up behind me and gave me a two-handed push, reminding me in a not so gentle way that I was not allowed to give up. I married someone I knew would grit their teeth and go the distance with me through the challenges because the end of the race was worth the blood, sweat, and tears to get there. It's not that we lacked romance; it's just that was not what made us fall in love.
One of my favorite Narnia books has some great words of wisdom for a child who is struggling with comparison—
"Child," said the Lion, "I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
Sometimes, I think we are so focused on others' stories, we are failing to see the beauty in our own. I think so many marriage problems would not exist if we waited in eager expectation for the story God was writing for us, instead of trying to read someone else's. This morning, after my husband left for work, I called a friend. I wasn't bashing Matt in any way, but I was telling her some of the communication issues. She was able to gently make me see where I had been wrong. The reason she could tell me this is that she is married too; she has a good marriage and she knows it takes work. We need other people on this journey who are willing to authentically tell us their stories, not just to show us a white-washed portrayal of their life, but to let us into that third dimension of mess.
Where am I going with all this? For a week or so now, I have been seeing this "love your spouse" challenge on Facebook. I think it's awesome, don't get me wrong; show me all the spousal PDA you want; I love it. I just don't ever want anyone to see my photos and just see the beautiful, the romantic, the whitewash. We live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina near the beach. Our date nights are spent with romantic views of the water. It would be easy to just post these two-dimensional images of beauty, but I want people to see the hard, the struggle because that is the part of what makes the good Good. That third dimension, that mess, having found that person who will grit their teeth and fight for it with me while understanding one another, seems elusive. This is one of the core reasons I love my spouse because he loves me enough to fight for this beautiful chaos of a life we live together.