Done: For days when marriage feels impossibly hard

I am the kind of done that gets out of the car. I wrap my sweater tight against the wind and try not to stamp my feet; conscious of how large and childish my anger swells. My favorite boots crush glass shards, glittering under the streetlights and stars. I am grateful for the snarled traffic and police officers directing my steps at every stoplight. I hope in equal parts that he will follow and that I will never see him again.

A string of days and weeks that lead into months have brought us here. Knotted in an endless loop of too many dishes undone, promises broken, words flung from mouths in fits of anger, and too few graces. His eyes speak hurt and mine mirror, flashing with warring emotions of wounded and I-don’t-even-care. And so I march past brake lights, shivering and hoping.

Our relationship has always felt sturdy, trustworthy. We meet eyes and raise brows when friends tell us they want divorce, mirroring gratitude and even, daresay, pride at our own solid friendship. Oh no, we never fight we declare gleefully, entwining fingers over milkshakes and entire seasons of The Wire, and playing card games late into the night. Yet somehow, years tick by and life sneaks between. Teenagers move into our extra bedroom, and kiddos fling cards and the remains of their snacks all over the house. I sigh extra-loudly as I clean up seven pairs of size-14 shoes discarded into corners and under the table and next to the couch.

After my march down the street, I sheepishly climb back into the passenger seat and silently slip under feather duvet and shut my eyes; not repentant quite yet. Sorry, certainly, but not convinced I am wrong. Later we meet with an older, gentler, calmer, and certainly wiser than us, couple from our church. They point us to Jesus. They ask and prod us and remind us that Christ, and not ourselves, is the center of this thing we call marriage. I tug at my own stubbornness, willing it to move; on the precipice, if not necessarily willing just yet to ask Jesus to move it for me. They ask why not and I reluctantly and slowly unearth a fear that perhaps nothing will ever change if I don’t change it for him. I cannot bear the thought.

Ok, so what if nothing ever changes? They ask me. I feel tears silently stream down my face and I dab desperately with a wadded Kleenex, the last one in the box.

I’ve answered this question before, chasing my fears all the way through and staring square in the face of what if. When Caden lay entwined in wires and beeping machines with his chest rent open, somehow I answered my deepest fears with surrender and a certainty that God was not only good, but infinitely near. Answering now seems somehow harder; I stumble over my own seeming ability to change things. But perhaps therein lies the true Gospel: a God who carries and draws infinitely near not only in our moments of deepest crisis, but also in all our daily worries and fears. Who offers hope like a torch at my son’s bedside, and like a candle when I feel suffocated by the impossibility of untangling and navigating the strands of my marriage.

I’m not saying that things shouldn’t change, or even that they wont. But I’m slowly leaning into a Savior who washes me in grace even if they don’t. Truthfully, our marriage still stands sturdy. We don’t teeter on the edge of divorce: we are faithful and we trust and love each other deeply. Most days, we are perfectly fine. I sometimes just lose sight of that fact in the midst of two small children and neighborhood kiddos and running a ministry and working and dishes and the never-ending laundry pile. I forget and we fight and I withdraw and pull away instead of forgiving and moving towards.

So for everyone (aka moms on both sides) who is panicking and worried about us, rest assured that neither of us is going anywhere, nor do we want to. And it’s honestly a little scary and vulnerable-feeling even typing all this out. But I have beautiful brave friends who cried with me, their hands wrapped around a cup of coffee with flavored creamer and whipped cream on top (which makes everything a little easier), when their marriage was hard, when they felt done. And that makes being in this place a little easier, less scary. And I had this thought that maybe some of y’all dont have people who have admitted the hard, who are willing to talk about walking through the refiner’s fire in their marriage. Maybe for some of you, my voice whispering and trembling as I tell you that we aren’t perfect, that we’re struggling; maybe that voice will be the one that makes you brave, that gives you hope. Because I think we need more voices gently declaring that marriage slants hard, and that’s ok. Sometimes grace finds shape in “me too!” And even more than that, this recognition of shared struggles leads to the novel and frightening realization that perhaps God want to teach us something through marriage that has less to do with happiness and an equitable sharing of chores than it does with our hearts. Perhaps He will use our spouses and our marriage to transform us. Perhaps our marriage doesn’t need to be “fixed” so much as our pain needs to be felt and battled through together. Maybe we will learn the beauty of the Gospel in unexpected ways as we navigate daily disagreements and mundane worries and find a God who stands unchanging in the midst of it all.

-Becca, The Stanley Clan


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