Monday, January 10, 2011

Dancing In The Minefields (Twenty Years Married... and counting)

This morning at worship planning, while looking for some potential fodder for a future service, I stumbled on this great song by one of my personal favorites, a Christian artist by the name of Andrew Peterson.

The words kind of hit like a ton of bricks. Aimee and I actually got married when we were 21 and 19. We had been engaged for a year, and everyone told us we were too young. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Heaven knows it's been hard. Five degrees down and almost one more to go, fourteen moves, a move not made because she told me if I took the job I'd be going alone, one baby, then two, then three, and finally a fourth neither of us envisioned bringing into the world. It seems like we've always been on the precipice of financial implosion, the edge of another major decision, and the beginning of a new daunting challenge.

But we're still here.... together.

I don't know... it's kind of strange. 2010 was just about the most stressful year of my almost 42 years of existence. We spent the entire year preparing for major transitions here at work (new church name, new staff, new additional locations, new leadership structure, etc... it went on and on). We sank money into new opportunities for ministry and mission, but it resulted in General Fund beginning to fall, which became the source of chest-pains and a subsequent stress-test. The changes weren't universally lauded and celebrated, so some people decided it was time to find another church.

It was a tough year.

All the while our family situation was churning as wildly as the situation at work. The two older boys got increasingly busy with sports and activities. Elijah, who had been tested for Autism was slowly finding his way as a student in a classroom as we also took him to an Occupational Therapist to help adapt socially to others. Toby was busy being 2. Aimee took care of four boys while running her own business while I was mostly not around. Oh.... and we moved, again. Nothing like trying to sell your house in the worst housing market since the Great Depression.

And yet, somehow, God used this year to knit us closer together, Aimee and I.

Marriage is not easy. It's hard enough to figure out how to make it through life by yourself, without also having to do navigation for two. I don't know how you make a marriage work without some sort of higher purpose or calling for the endeavor. Call it whatever you want: a "divine calling" or at minimum a belief that the the little world you are creating together somehow makes the bigger one a better place for others to live.... it makes no difference. If you can't somehow keep it in focus that the reason you're together is to create a haven of blessing and peace for the world, and that begins with your own family, I just don't see it surviving. You have to fight for that haven every day. You have to sacrifice for it. Often you have see past the turbulence and chaos to realize that peace on the other side. It's tough, but peace is worth fighting for. You just have to remember to fight the external threats to that peace, and not turn on one another when its not easily realized.

Years ago, I'm guessing when we lived here in Lima long before we had kids, I remember one night we had one of the those yelling, throwing things, kind of fights. We were both in school. We had no money. We were always apart. We were still adjusting to being under the looking glass of a local church. It was tough, and on this particular evening I suppose one too many cups of displeasure were poured out, and the dam broke. The screaming finally ended with my hopping in a car, and leaving.

I drove around awhile, but finally, not really sure where I was going or what to do next, hungry, I ended up pulling into a Waffle House. I took a pad of paper and pen in with me, and while I waited for my eggs over a terrible cup of coffee, I started to write. I just poured out all my feelings. All the good. All the bad. All the "what if" regarding staying together, or getting a divorce. All of it.

After a couple of hours and I don't know how many cups of coffee, I just remember writing and writing, and as time went on asking God what He wanted me to do.

"Write out your best guess", was the reply.

And and out of what's now an old Bible Aimee gave me, I copied:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Love doesn't make it unless two people are committed to living it out what it takes to keep it alive, together, mutually. I thank God I have someone to keep doing that with, through better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, til death us do part.

So when I lose my way, find me
When I lose loves chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith
to the end of all my days
when I forget my name, remind me

Cause we bear the light of the son of man
So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear
Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos baby
I can dance with you