Happy 10 years wedding anniversary to us :)
This post is a week late. I was supposed to have written and finished this well before our anniversary last week so I could post it at exactly 23rd February 2018, but as with life, plans don’t seem to always come about the way we have them lined up in our heads.
The old me, would have stressed about this. But I have been a bit more purposeful in not rushing things these days. Especially the important things just because I needed to ‘get it out there’. I want to slow down. Be present. I wanted to take the precious time we had to ourselves and really soak it in because I know it was rare time. The old me would have sacrificed sleep, gotten cranky about it, and also left my husband to fill his own time with games or surfing the web while I poured over this post. But when I think about it, that seems almost ironic. Stupid even. You know, the writing about the whole marriage thing and celebrating 10 years of it and there I am neglecting my own husband to get something ‘published’. Silly right? I am still learning every day about priorities.
So, this post has waited til now. Til we arrived home. Settled. Sleep full. And heart full. Til I also had time to really think what I could share that would not just be a blabbering of ‘sappy words’ but an honest profession that hopefully offers truth, encouragement and ultimately a testimony to God’s grace and faithfulness over the years.
Last week, My husband and I spent the most time together alone we have ever had in several years. And it was good. That is not to say we don’t make time for the two of us on a regular basis. We do. But it is often sandwiched in between the busyness of work, parenting, and the unrelentless rushing past of just life in general. So it was so fruitful at the heart level and the soul level to just get away for just a week. To switch off and somewhat disconnect. To sleep. To refresh. To reflect. To be purposeful with our words and how we acted towards each other. We held hands. We laughed. We took the time to be slow. And to just enjoy each other without the hurriedness of life interrupting us. I don’t think we realised just how much we needed this time away until we were there. Thank you to my parents who graciously looked after Sienna so that Ju and I could have this for ourselves, and to God for getting us through 10 years of marriage (and 18 years together in total!).
As kids, when we met at the age of 18, our love like many others was easy, carefree and without worry. It wasn’t tainted and suffocated yet by the pressures of work, money, less time, personal dreams, and other responsibilities such as family. As we grew into adults life tested our love over different continents and different wants for our futures. Almost breaking at certain points. But somehow, God saw us through that season. And so 10 years ago, Ju and I said our vows to each other in front of 130 of our family and friends. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer…. You know how the words go. I don’t even think we ourselves knew what we were saying exactly on that day to be honest. When you get married and recite your vows to your spouse, you think you know what you are saying, but in reality we don’t. After 10 years together, I have realized that. While we aren’t by any means ‘wise’ now, the last decade has seen us through seasons that have taught us partially what those words truly mean. Some seasons have been wonderful. Full of joy. Full of love. Full of all the good things in this life. But if we are being honest, and truthful, there have been other seasons too. Painful seasons. Seasons so unbearable that sometimes the thought of leaving seemed more attractive than staying together. Seasons that have been marked by hurt. Anger. Sleeping in different rooms. And loud silences. The kind that scrape at the walls of your heart from the pounding of resentment and bitterness you feel inside for the other person.
So if you ask me. Marriage is hard. Its good. But It’s work. Ju and I do not fall under the ‘easy couple’ category by any means. We fight a lot. We make up a lot. We bear each other a lot. We forgive a lot. There are days we love one another and feel it right down to the marrow of our bones, and then there are days we don’t like each other at all and want nothing to do with the other. That’s me being real. I know our story needs this transparency to hold any sort of weight as you read this if I am hoping it brings any of you closer to Jesus. But that is the honest truth. Marriage is not easy. For some lucky few maybe it is, but I suspect, after photographing and meeting all sorts of couples over the last 10 years, and being married for about the same length of time myself, that for most people? Marriage is a constant work in progress.
If anyone asked me what the secret to a happy marriage is, I wouldn’t know because I don’t believe the goal of marriage is happiness. Not if you are going to be true to your vows til your last breath. If you asked me instead what makes up a real and lasting marriage in practical terms, I would say, marriage is not about feelings. But about choice. Ask anyone who has been married long enough and they will say that. It is about the conscious choosing of the other person over our own desires and dreams and wants every single day. Even when we are too hurt to. Too disappointed to. Too angry to. It is a daily dying to self. This doesn’t always result in happiness, but it does refine and grow a deep DEEP kind of love. Agape love. The kind of love that holds marriages and families together past the fireworks. It is selfless. Unconditional. It respects. It sacrifices. It holds out even when it doesn’t feel good. It forgives even when forgiveness is not deserved. It is the kind of love that looks past the makeup and the fancy clothes, and fancy dinners or holidays. It is the kind of love that cleans you up when you’ve thrown up from the stomach flu. It is the kind of love that sees the mistakes, the broken and fallen pieces of your soul and still loves you like you’re brand new.
As a believe of Jesus, I know with conviction and without hesitation that this is how God loves us. But better. Surpassingly better. We are sinners, broken, and full of fault, but intently chosen regardless, and loved wholly. Eternally. All of God’s love doesn’t break, it doesn’t disappoint, it doesn’t run away at the sight of the darkest pieces of you who are like people can. He has seen all of our ugliest parts and said to us, come, my child. I choose you. I will still love you.
“For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:8]
I can only hope that I can learn to love my husband like this better over the years. It is a personal struggle every day because I am inherently selfish by nature, but by God’s grace, I pray that our marriage can be a reflection of this. Of how Christ loves us.
On an almost closing note, while I have always know this about our marriage, with every passing year, I can see God’s wisdom more and more in putting us together. We are two people that could not be more different in every way possible and on paper, most people would say we don’t even make sense. But that is how I know God is working in our marriage because beyond our apparent lack of compatibility, and past anything I can credit as ‘our own efforts’, God has kept us together, and sustained us. Without a shadow of a doubt I know God joined us to sharpen and mould us. To even out each other’s rough edges. To balance the other’s uneven and stony parts. And push us past where we are each comfortable to remain in character to be better versions of ourselves. While I can’t quite speak for my husband, I know for myself personally, that despite all the prickly and not very pretty parts of marriage, I am glad we fight for it. That we fight for us. The years have refined us. The seasons have made us who we are. The messy mixed in with the beautiful all at the same time. As I look back on those times, I see and understand the fruit it produced. And continues to produce. Learning to choose love over what feels right when angry. Forgiveness. Bearing each other always.
And while we aren’t and won’t ever be perfect on this side of heaven, I am encouraged to know that God continues to use our marriage for this purpose: To point us always to Him first and foremost, and to continue teaching us to love each other like He loves us. Dying to self every single day.
To end, I just want to say, I don’t know what the future will hold for us (and that is not to sound morbid – I am not dying or anything so don’t worry. Ju and I are doing well). But my point is, anything can happen. I can plan, I can dream, I can hope. But my small 35 years of life has taught me that God is surprising and can do anything he desires to make sure you learn to be a person that loves Him more and the people around us better. But I do know that I want our lives to be marked by a testimony that will encourage others. Not by the mightiness of our successes. But by the brokenness of our mistakes and how God has used them to harvest in us a love that is hopefully growing in humility, sacrifice, and respect. A marriage that works even if when it is hard. A marriage that chooses to love, that chooses to be faithful even if it is void of the pretty stuff. Because that is How God love us. While we were sinners, Christ died for us.
Photos were taken for our 10 year anniversary, by our friends Wiki and Ilona from The Big Films. :)