It was August, 1995. Jonathan, 14, Joel, 10 and Hannah, 7 and I had all our stuff loaded up in our van and were ready to begin the long drive to Washington DC, our single, two-week vacation of the year. The kids were tucking in the last of their toys and books when all of a sudden (it seemed to me) my husband decided that, instead of getting in and heading down the road, first we needed to re-roof the walk-way between our house and garage.
Talking to the boys, my husband encouraged them to "Take your shirts off, guys, climb up there and let's get that old stuff off!"
I could hardly believe my ears. I may have blurted out a quick, "Are you nuts?" (or perhaps, I just thought it.) Sitting down on the back step I was ready to try to understand what was happening. "Do you not see that we're all packed up and ready to go?" "Do you not realize we have a l-o-n-g drive ahead of us?"
Those were rhetorical questions because yes, of course, he knew these things. But he mumbled something about this project needing to be done and this being the first day of his vacation...
We stopped packing and the several hours it took to complete the project did not kill us or throw us off schedule that much. I could accept it. I moved to the kitchen, pulled out the bread, and proceeded to make some sandwiches...
The way we handled this little scenario might be typical for perfectionists and peacemakers but we knew nothing about our personality types at the time. His ability to zoom in on that project, even though everyone would be affected, was part of his perfectionism. I would have NEVER rocked the boat in that way because I zoomed out and focused on keeping everyone happy, the long drive, the tired kids, the beginning of what would obviously be a long vacation.
Looking back, that WAS a long vacation. But that's another story for another time.
What I'm wondering is how this marriage has been able to keep on trucking for 39 years. Here are a few thoughts I have about this:
- CHERISH We get along...well, most of the time. We truly like each other and I often tell him I don't know what I'd do without him. He calms me down and I am able to locate all the stuff he can't find. What can be better than that?? The core of his being is precious to me. He is worth more to me than I can explain here and I know he feels the same way about me. Being cherished produces a humility almost beyond description. And being thankful becomes my only response.
- TRUST I need his perfectionism and he needs my peacemaking. So what does that mean? I soften his rough edges and he helps me find direction. I need his black and white-ness and he needs my gray-ness. I need his ability to know where he is in time, which is all. the. time! He needs my ability to forget time for awhile. I need his slow and steady. He needs to understand my inability to concentrate sometimes. I need his leading and he needs my following. He needs my leading and I need his following as well. I need his willingness to create conflict. My uncomfortableness with conflict gives him opportunity to soften. I need his voice and he needs mine. I need his structure. He helps me when I need to organize. He needs to see someone who doesn't need that amount of structure. His self-criticism needs my soft affirmation. He likes to be right. I can see several points of view. We're good for each other in this. I need his strong opinions. He needs my amazement at such intensity. I need his preaching. He needs my stories. He knows what he wants. I often do not know what I want, but he helps me. Somehow our trust has allowed these differences to bind rather than tear apart.
- FAITH We share a common hunger and love for Christ. When we first met I had just come off a 15 month mission trip and he could see that he and I practiced our faith very differently. He was attracted to my strong faith and together we found a place to fellowship where we could worship and make friends and find our belonging within the family of God together. And we have grown. God has led us, matured us, soothed us, helped us forgive, softened us and taught us how to love each other well.
- RESPECT I let him be him and he lets me be me. But it wasn't always so. I wanted him to be the dad to our kids I didn't have growing up. I wanted him to call me when he was going to be home late for dinner. I wanted more low-key-ness in our house. But I certainly wasn't perfect either. In a huge moment of clarity I realized I was focusing more on who he wasn't than on who he was. He's got so many great qualities that I missed because I was so focused on what I felt needed changing. I prayed for grace and for love for this man who was consistent, faithful, honest, full of integrity, and brimming with solid common sense. Sometimes one loses the forest for the trees.
- HOPE We keep getting better together. Both of us are responsible, honest and hard-working people. We share a common love for our children and a need for each other so we cherish our time together. I love to sit with him at church and keep my shoulder tucked under his because it feels like a physical picture of unity, warmth and agreement about our God, who is way more important than any thing else. We're a lot older now. We see that our years are numbered so we do our best to enjoy every day. Our years have melded us into a mutual hope and a freedom to be who we are.
The flat roof didn't last very long and had to be redone several years later, a testimony to the quickness of the impromptu vacation project. We laugh at this story now even though it had an almost unbelievable beginning and might have led to a super crazy anger and arguments . Although we see through very different filters, we are looking in the same direction and have only grown closer and more thankful for the life we've been given and for each other.
Happy 39th Anniversary to my Brian