Today I kept pondering the word honor or respect. I told God that because today is our 23rd anniversary, I wanted to make a special point to show honor and respect to my husband. We have been together the better part of the last thirty-one years. We are a testimony to God’s grace and mercy because I was just a baby when we met. We have a grandchild the same age now as I was when I met him.
I know he had wanted to get back out to prospecting. With honor in mind, I suggested we go south to one of his favorite locations for our anniversary. As we sat there, the sun shining brightly and a gentle breeze taking the edge off the heat, I spent time in prayer and reflection. One can do a lot of thinking, when the only sound for miles is a random car passing, the hum of someone else’s generator and the rhythmic sound of my spouse’s puffer box.
With my anniversary and probably because marriage has been my primary focus lately in individual, couple therapy, as well as two education groups, what I gathered from our trip today was relationship focused. I know that God revealed another lesson along these lines some time back about how He refines us. Today he showed me relationships, specifically marriage.
My husband had started working in a new spot. At the center of his spot was a boulder weighing over 300 lbs. He started by loosing the ground around it and then had my help him roll it out of the way once he had the ground around it moved so he could pry it up. As he worked he would throw out some of the bigger rock, that were basketball sized or smaller, off to the side. As he went deeper there were some softball sized rocks, which again for the most part he three off to the side as he shoveled. Some made their way to the machine, but ended up falling below as the dirt and smaller rocks went through to the lower level. After he finished running what he dug up, he ran the material a second time, and then a third. I was surprised that as he ran the second and third time there was still material that fell off in the top level, not able to get through the grate of his machine.
I thought about what a picture that is of marriage. We come into things and we know there is some big issues that we have to remove from our relationship. For us, our boulders were infidelity, substance use and anger. We had to work a lot of ground before being able to pry those out of the way in our relationship. We could easily see it and identify it; they came up even in our dating relationship but moving it out of our lives was a much longer process. At times, those big issues would try to roll back down where we were working if we weren’t paying attention. While I knew I didn’t need to seek out relationships with other men, at times I would find myself drawn to unexpected attention especially when I did not feel my own needs were being met. Our first marriage ended with a fallback in two of these areas. Our second marriage almost did again when old patterns started to creep back in. Marriage takes work and intentional efforts, not just in the beginning, but throughout.
As I looked at the pile of rocks he just tossed aside, I thought about the issues that each of us brought into the relationship that we knew didn’t need to come in. Some were easy to just toss aside. We both new that they did not belong in our relationship. I knew that there were some guy friends of mine that were not good for me to spend time with alone if I wanted our relationship to be successful. Some relationships it was because of our past history, others because their intention was not one of friendship as a goal. I was able to set those friendships aside knowing that what I was trying to create with him was more important than a potentially damaging friendship relationship.
After we got married, lived together, and started raising children together there were some things that started to surface, like the rocks that were there. They were not always major things, but often a source of conflict that we had to sort through. We had different expectations about how things would be done. We had different ideas about finances, I came from being a single parent, he was a bachelor with a great job and no expenses. Despite three years of dating, there were things that did not come up until after we started living together or after we got married. Because I brought an infant into our marriage, there were issues around parenting and contact with her father. At times, these things felt like they cam up all at once. Other times, it was just one thing that could quickly be discussed and resolved. These things, left unaddressed would have created a large pile of problems for the health of our relationship.
We are twenty-three years in now (the better part of thirty-one years together) and there are still times things come up, slip through that we thought we had already resolved. Old insecurities come up, we get busy and fail to pay attention to regular maintenance in our relationship, we change a little and need to stay attentive to each other. One of us can have a bad day, and if we are not mindful we allow hurtful words to come out, or offense to come. It doesn’t take as much work to guard against these, but it still takes work.
Just as my husband worked to get the big rock out, there are things in marriage that take effort and time to work out. There are other things that we know don’t belong and we can easily toss them aside. As we grow in our relationship, there are things that surface that we have to address. Even as time passes, we still have to work to keep things from coming in that don’t belong. Even little things if left unaddressed can create major problems. Marriage takes work, but it is worth it!
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