I was a 6 year old in with curly blonde baby-fine hair down my back when we met. I don’t actually remember first meeting. It was more like the slow dawning of consciousness that is so characteristic of early childhood. My memories are just that he was…there. A fixture of life, like the stained glass windows of our church, or the backyard swing set on a sunny afternoon, or my mother’s warm lap.
I turned 26 last week, which means that I have known the person who was just another snot nosed kid, just another fixture of the weekly Sunday school scene, my now-husband, for roughly two decades.
Whoa. Let me catch my breath.
Friendship. It has come easily to us. It has had the spanning of many years to take root, grow, and blossom into love.
We didn’t have some of the “getting to know you’s” to do that many other young couples face in the early years of marriage. We didn’t have to wrestle through some of the really hard moments of asking, “WHO THE HECK DID I MARRY??” Not because we’re super mature or anything… but knowing someone for that long… it really does make a difference.
But that two decades of knowing? It made us complacent in the really knowing.
When friendship comes easily, it’s harder to move past the friendship. Into the deeper stuff of love and relationship. Into intimacy- knowing and being fully known, inside and out, upside down and backward, best and worst. To becoming not just companions, but each others’ full complement. Completer. Not just two disjointed beings, but One Flesh.
Because intimacy? It takes revelation. And it’s scary to be revealed fully. Yet marriage is the one relationship where I don’t get a choice: I am to be made fully known or risk losing everything. Actually, more accurately I must risk everything in order not to lose it all.
Some days (most days), being Best-Friends-Forever! is easier than being the Soul-Piercing-Completer-Forever.
I’ve realized this recently: as hard as parenting is, it’s a thousand and one times easier than being a wife. It’s much easier to step in to my role as a mom, and work alongside my BFF to raise these kids than it is to roll up my sleeves and do the hard work of being made known.
My kids- I love them. They have a piece of my heart irrevocably. But they will never have my whole heart, my whole being. They do not demand the deepest revelation of me. They will grow up, move out, and into their lives and callings. My husband- he is the one to whom I have been cleaved forever.
Of course it is a ridiculous blessing that friendship has been easy for us. That we have this natural affinity to laugh and play and spend time together. But I have become convicted just this week that that isn’t enough. Friendship is certainly a gift, but it’s not what is going to make our marriage not just endure, but endure beautifully.
We are not meant to be a duet played side by side. We are meant to be two masterpieces, transposed into One. The notes of two masterpieces fitted together so seamlessly and perfectly, neither losing their original beauty or intent. Equally brought to bear, lending their strengths and weakness to each other to create a whole work of art.
And notice I say one is not being absorbed into the other. There is equality in the yoking together: we do not lose ourselves but become more fully ourselves. Each of us brings something important and weighty to the table. Something vitally important to the integrity of the piece. And at the same time, each of us has something to be exposed and sloughed away as we are made more and more into the image of God.
So we’re setting a new course in our home. Practically, that has looked something like this: setting aside Monday nights to do something together for an hour. Anything other than vegging out and watching TV. For now, we’re taking that time to do our homework for a parenting class we just started, and pausing often to reflect and have conversation about what is stirring or stinging our hearts.
And- a suggestion from the parenting class- we have implemented what is called “couch time.” Ten minutes, while the kids are still awake at the end of the day, just me and Mike together having a conversation with no interruptions. The kids have taken to it surprisingly well- keeping each other entertained while we unwind and reconnect together.
Getting up together to read and pray and have another sort of “couch time” with our coffee mugs and journals. Kids nestled in alongside us as they wake up. Hearing the Word spoken over them and around them.
These are just starting points, and they are utterly vain if I am not careful to see that they are the means not the end. I have to be aware of myself and my heart, let it be struck by conviction or revelation, and then open myself up and give freely what has been received in me.
When it’s lovely, it’s easy. When it’s ugly, it’s much easier to hide behind the distraction of parenting or friendship or anything other than intimacy. But I’m learning that there is no way around it. To grow, we must be brave and do the scariest thing possible: allow the cracking open of the very deepest places, and be known fully not just as friends, but as One Flesh.
I’m not even sure what that means yet… but I know it is right.