This morning I sat down with my coffee and some old photos with no other intention than to reminisce. Today marks 14 years of marriage for my husband and I, and to celebrate, I decided to take a little trip down memory lane. Because if there’s one game in life I enjoy more than “Name that movie,” it’s “Remember When.”
Everyone close to me has grown accustomed to my random blurting of sentences that begin with “Remember When…”
“Remember when we all snuck out of bible college to pull an all-nighter at Taryn’s house and Danny, and John climbed through the window to scare us at midnight? Remember how we all panicked and thought we were going to die, but Amber B. was the only one smart enough to run out the front door?”
“Remember when you had giardia, and you were high on pain medicine and came into the library where I worked at 11pm in your sweatpants loudly demanding some kind of meat, preferably jerky?”
“Remember when we were dating long distance, and you’d call me every night at the same time, and you’d always be wearing that same noisy jacket that crinkled in the background? I still have that jacket.”
I could go on, but you get the picture. I like to relive the past. There is a whole compartment of my heart dedicated solely to nostalgia. Usually the memories I find myself returning to again and again are the happy moments, the funny moments, or the unbearably tender moments. But today was a little different. I found myself looking through old photos, scanning to find an echo of some of our more difficult moments.
Because, can I be honest? This last year was harder on us than we expected, and today I found myself simply needing to remember another time like this. A time when we overcame. A time when we burrowed down into the foxhole together until the storm passed. A time when we learned to tear down certain walls in order to strengthen our foundation.
While we’ve always been a couple that generally gets along, we’ve certainly had our share of trying seasons before. (Side eye to you, colicky babies.) But if pressed for a reason, I’m not sure I could even tell you why this year was harder on us than most others.
Maybe it’s the fact that after 14 years, we’ve been married just long enough to actually have baggage. Old wounds that have been healed and forgotten can be pricked right back open again in an instant.
Maybe it’s all the new dreams sprouting in our hearts, and the fact that those dreams require a bravery and vulnerability that have left us both feeling fragile and exposed in our own ways.
Maybe it’s all the outside pressures of work, money, schedules, and ministry that press in and down on us, threatening to burst our happy, intimate little bubble.
Maybe it’s just growing pains.
After all, growth means change, and change can be rather uncomfortable at times.
My husband and I are still very much in love. We get along. We enjoy each other’s company, and even prefer it above anyone else’s. We are fun-havers and that will probably never change.
Yet, other things have changed. Our love languages have changed. Our needs have changed. More than once we’ve had to come back to the basics of who we are and what we need from each other. We’ve had to redraw those lines for ourselves, and I suspect that we will have to do so again in the future because we intend to be married for a very long time (forever) and odds are, we aren’t done changing.
But we’ve realized that’s okay because part of marriage is being willing to adapt.
At times, realizing this has looked a lot like hurt feelings, tear soaked pillows, and difficult conversations. But it’s also looked like honesty, forgiveness, and resilience. It’s been hands clasped together in the dark, and whispered promises to always fight for the best version of us.
Today as I looked at photographs, all the snapshots of our life strewn about me on the living room floor like a highlight reel, I sat back for a moment and took it all in. I picked up a glossy photo of us on our wedding day. I can easily say that was the happiest day of my life. But I look at the love we have now and I see that happiness has multiplied, grown down roots, been seasoned with hardship, and grown into something deeper and more lovely.
It is a hard-earned love that we have fought for, chosen, protected, trusted, and reshaped a thousand times over.
This is the real truth of marriage.
It’s the shiny smiles and tender moments captured in photographs, the moments we’re proud to share with the world. But it’s also the moments we aren’t proud of. It’s the mundane, the gritty, and the rough edges of ourselves rubbing each other raw until we both feel like wounded birds. It’s continually choosing each other both publicly and privately. It’s calling out the good in each other and shouting it from the rooftops. It’s seeing the bad and quietly loving anyway.
It’s understanding that sometimes love really is a battlefield, but that’s okay as long as we’re fighting our way towards each other.
It is all of it together. Forever and ever, amen.