There are two sides of me at every wedding.
Side Sappy: What a beautiful bride. She’s so happy. And look at the way he looks at her. They’re so in love. Cry, cry, cry happy and joyous tears.
Side Cynical: You look lovely dovey now, but just you wait. No one warns you that marriage is hard… really, really hard. RUNNN! Cry, cry, cry pained and sorrowful tears.
Yesterday in a post, I said I took the risk to call my husband. What the heck? Why is that a risk? Because marriage is a risky business. I’m not talking about the business of getting married, with the photographer, caterer and registration of 1,000 items you hope to receive as gifts. I’m talking about putting your heart out there to the one and only – your spouse. I’m talking about the investment you make when you say “I do” and “til death do us part.” I’m talking about commitment to one another, even when the sh** hits the fan. Especially when it hits the fan. And it will hit the fan.
Yesterday when I was struggling through my feelings about seeing a dying man and his wife, I wanted to escape. I didn’t know what to do with myself. For some people it’s natural to call their spouse. For me, it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve always had good friends to turn to, so I’ve often left Bret on the sidelines of my emotional life. Then there are the times when I have asked him to join me and he hasn’t known how to respond because he didn’t grow up learning how to care for his own sadness, let alone someone else’s.
Over the years, he has grown tremendously in his ability to enter into the mud puddle with me, instead of trying to pull me out quickly to clean me off. For that I am grateful. Yet, sometimes we still get stuck. We turn elsewhere because then we don’t risk getting hurt, rejected, abandoned. And we’re both so afraid of all of those things. So we have made choices that have hurt one another. Choices that have caused each other to sit on the outside of the other’s life. Choices that hurt each other’s hearts in ways I never knew were possible. And sometimes I think we’re crazy to stick with this thing called marriage.
But then I look at the man he is and who I am with him. He has the capacity to make me a better person – if I let him in. And he loves me. Neither of us are perfect, but we are committed to one another in a broken and imperfect way. We also understand that the things we do against one another are not in line with the pathway God has for us. Whenever we choose something that honors self over the other, we eventually realize how blind we were and how God continues to open our eyes to a better relationship where we can live in freedom instead of fear.
Fear is a great motivator. Yesterday underneath all the sadness for Dale, as he lay dying in the hospice, I had the all-too-familiar trigger of fear regarding Bret’s disease. Multiple Sclerosis looks different for each person, and it’s not necessarily a death sentence. But the odds of him dying earlier in life are a bit greater. There are times that I keep myself from real intimacy with him because I’m afraid I’ll lose him. As if that will make the loss any easier. So a while ago, when I laid my head on his chest, I tried to memorize the sound of his heartbeat. Instead of checking out mentally and emotionally, I quieted my mind so I could really hear it and try to store it for a day when I may not be able to hear it in the flesh. This all sounds so dramatic since he’s generally a healthy guy, excluding the MS. But I am practicing the art of Lynn being present, and I want to be able to say I gave all of me. I have no regrets. Either way, loss hurts. Either way it’s a risk.
And that’s what I know about marriage. That loss can happen physically and loss can happen emotionally. I also know that connection between a husband and wife is a great gift and a forceful testimony when you work at it. This explains the creation of Side Sappy and Side Cynical.
I would venture to say, these two sides will exist within me because I am human being with a full range of emotions. To live completely on either side is both unrealistic and unhealthy. To live somewhere in between with room to grow and add more dimensions is where I want to be. And I want to be gentle with those sides when they do come out. I want to say, “Yes, the bride is beautiful, and yes marriage is hard, but it’s also the best classroom in this life, and I would not be the person I am today if I dropped out of this school.”
So bring on the tears and bring on the risk because life is not complete without them.