when the going gets tough...

>> May 13, 2011

This article was originally published in 2010 and is re-posted by permission on CLUTCH, in honor of Sarah's 8th wedding anniversary. In between the demands of an active toddler and a brand-new baby, today reminds her of all the reasons why God let her marry a pastor. (Something she swore she would never, ever do.)

They say that married couples in Western society have a 50% chance of sticking together. If you ask me, that’s pretty bleak.

Eight years ago, my husband and I celebrated our vows in an outdoor garden, just two days after graduating from college. Like most couples in love, we had starry-eyed fantasies about how great married life was going to be.

We each had found “the One." We were committed for life. We were going to spend our days being supportive of each other’s dreams, in the evenings we would cook beautiful meals together, and when we traveled we’d read books aloud in the car.

We were going to stay fit and exercise every day. I wanted to still fit my wedding dress on our 10th anniversary. And our 15th and 20th. We would never smell bad, or forget to shower, or “let ourselves go” like other couples we’d seen.

And then life happened.

Three months after the wedding, my mother-in-law came for a “short visit” that ended up lasting most of the next year and a half. My sister needed a place to live after graduating from high school, so we invited her to move in.

We finished graduate school and my husband accepted his first full-time pastorate. His mother moved with us to the new place. Then his younger sisters needed a home for the summer. In the fall, my parents faced a health crisis and ended up living with us for a year.

For the first five years of our marriage, our only “alone” time came in five or six week breaks between one family member moving out and another moving in. One pastoral salary didn’t stretch very far, and I wasn’t always able to find paying work.

In every marriage, I believe each partner comes to a crucial questioning point. There is that defining moment when fantasy collides with reality, and you ask yourself if you made the right choice. That morning when you roll over in bed and look at the person sleeping beside you, and you wonder:

“Did I choose the right woman?”
“Did I fall in love with the right man?”
“Is life with this person my true destiny?”

Anyone who’s been married a while knows that the honeymoon doesn’t last forever. It isn’t long before you’re juggling bills, sharing the bathroom, and putting up with each other’s public and private quirks. The leisurely evenings of fantasy-land quickly become filled with chores and errands and last-minute work projects. And sometimes it’s harder than you think to stay small enough to fit your wedding dress!

Sometimes it seems like older people forget to tell the young ones a few important things in life. Like the fact that no matter how much you love somebody, tough times are guaranteed to show up sooner or later.

And if you’re going to last, you need to have more than sex appeal to fall back on.

Fortunately, a few wise people let us in on the secret before we made it to the altar. And while we were dating, we asked God to show us specifically whether we were meant to be together. I’m not here to get into the semantics of whether there is only one person on the planet for everyone, or whether you could be equally happy with different people. I’m just sharing what worked for us.

We’d both had a string of heartbreaks. We were sick of the dating roller-coaster. We each wanted a meaningful relationship that wasn’t going to destructively self-implode. So when we had the chance, we asked God to make it clear whether we fit together.

God answered, more than once, and fifteen months later we were married.

Since then, there have been plenty of good times. We’ve ministered side by side, enjoyed adventures in the mission field, and taken romantic trips to places like Florence, Italy and Malibu, California. We’ve become each other’s best friend and closest confidante. He is my very favorite person and whether I’m overwhelmed with busyness or doing nothing at all - he is the one person I always want to share it with.

We’ve had plenty of tough times, too. We’ve experienced enough shared obstacles to make anyone wonder if they married the right person. But we keep choosing to see marriage as a partnership for sharing our troubles, rather than as a contract toward self-gratification.

Like any old married couple will tell you, initial fantasies don’t last long. I’ve had to pause half a dozen times while writing this article to meet the needs of our [then] three month-old son (he's 18-months old now, and we have a 3-week-old daughter who's doing the spitting up these days) -- including once to mop up a puddle of curdled spit-up that landed on my shoulder and glopped down the couch cushion behind me. I think I’m still wearing most of it. So much for always smelling great and not “letting myself go”.

Tonight my husband is at one of our two churches leading board meeting, even though it's our anniversary. So much for leisurely fireside evenings spent playfully cooking together.

Yes, we’ve experienced those moments when we look at each other and wonder how we got here. But all we have to do to answer the question is go back over the story of how God led us at every junction. 

Fantasy doesn’t have much control over us these days, between pastoring two churches and raising our toddler son and newborn daughter. There’s rarely enough money for everything we think we need, and we’ve both had to reassess a few of our dreams.

But when the going gets tough, we find ourselves recounting how our life together began. It keeps us reminded that we didn’t get ourselves into this on a whim. We are partners, no matter how challenging the situations we face. And we’re not doing this marriage alone.

That, I believe, makes all the difference.
Originally published by AnswersForMe.org © 2010. Adapted for CLUTCH, May 2011.

© CLUTCH, 2009-2011 unless otherwise sourced.
Use allowed by express written permission only.
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Suranny,  May 13, 2011 at 3:17 PM  

Wow! How inspiring! I like how you tell the truth and yet see the beauty in it. When God leads there is inner peace! Thanks for sharing!

Veronica Brown May 18, 2011 at 9:49 AM  

Hi Suranny - Sarah is still on maternity leave :) sorta say - we pre-scheduled this one- otherwise I'm sure she'd comment on here saying THANK YOU! I love her authenticity too!

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