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It’s the afternoon of our 14th anniversary, and my husband just left home for a root canal. I feel like there’s something witty or deeply metaphorical that I could draw from this situation, but I’m coming up blank. To quote my husband, “It is what it is.”
There’s a lot I could say about my marriage. There’s a lot I won’t. It’s complicated.
As the years have passed – I would say the last five, especially – I’ve grown in my understanding of who my husband is and what our life together will look like.
Someone asked me recently a question that has stayed with me: “How did you not know?” (This question was regarding my husband’s mental health issues.)
My answer to her was, “…because I didn’t really know him.”
I told Russ this last night, and he said, “But I think you knew the core of who I was.”
I look back on those early days and wish all kinds of things.
I wish I had known about his pre-existing traumas and mental health struggles. I wish I had known about the genetic emotional instability that would work against him and our future children.
I wish I had taken more time to grow up and become an adult before taking on the roles and responsibilities of wife.
I wish I hadn’t married so young…so naive…so uninformed.
I wish we had gotten to know each other a lot more before committing to forever together.
But that’s not the story God wrote, is it?
“God knew [me]. It was God who crossed [my] path with [Russ].” ~Tears and Hope, Rich Powell
I heard these words (spoken about Ruth) on Sunday, and they hit me like a wave of love and relief and purpose.
So when the questions come and threaten to unsettle my soul…How did I not know? Why didn’t I wait until I was older to marry? Why didn’t we take more time to learn more about each other?…it is these things I must remember.
We weren’t two people who caught eyes across a room and fell in love at first sight. I wasn’t swept off my feet. It wasn’t the touch of a hand and a spark that lit a fire we let burn out of control.
It was a 19-year-old who sat in her empty dorm room and wrote things like this about a man she hadn’t spoken to in months:
“I pray several times a day for him – that if he is the One, that God will fill his mind with thoughts of me, and that God would turn his heart toward mine. Honestly, I do not pretend to know God’s will in this matter…I think it is his depth of thinking that attracts me. Since I’ve been here at NEBC, I’ve realized that I am not the average girl. I think on a different plane – I question everything. Why do we do what we do? I see Scripture and God much differently than most people. And Russ is the same way – although probably to a much greater extent than I. And sometimes I wonder – who could understand me? Who could relate to me – hear my questions, and have an opinion? Who could lead me? With whom could I discover Truth together? I always come back to Russell. And then I wonder – who could understand Russ? He needs a wife so much. I think it would be the best thing that could happen to him. But he needs a wife that will understand him as he is, and that will love him for who he is. Someone who won’t try to change him, but will just think on his wavelength. Yes, he has rough edges – he is definitely not perfect. But more and more those rough edges even seem attractive. I am scared that he would hurt me, yet I know that he has changed. He is a hurting young man, and I think that if he just would let someone close enough to him to love him. I am standing willing and ready. Do I love him? I think I do. …I love him as more than a brother in Christ, and more than a friend. It is somewhere in between. I love him as Aprille loves Russ. Maybe it will never be more than that. And if that’s what God wants, that’s okay with me. I know God will bring my husband, and that he will be wonderful. But right now, I cannot think of anyone I would rather marry.” (Friday, October 13, 2006 11:02 PM)
That’s not a girl with stars in her eyes. That’s a girl who knew the risks, but felt like God might be calling her to take them.
I am standing willing and ready.
And so we stood. Two hurting, lonely, yet hopeful people 675 miles apart who hadn’t spoken directly to each other in over nine months. A fluke phonecall that neither one of us expected to happen.
You’ve become the memory I can’t erase
It wasn’t in the plan, not that I could see
Suddenly a miracle came to me
It was those moments where we both realized there was no one else. There couldn’t be anyone else. Not in a “Well, there’s no one else, so I’ll settle for this” kind of way. But in an “Of course…it has to be him…it has to be her…” kind of way.
You could have been anyone at all
An old friend calling out of the blue
I’m so glad it was you
It was two people, who both talked to God and said, “I love this person. And by love, I mean I’m committed to his or her success, whether it includes me or not.”
It was God who knew us and crossed our paths at an institution that left deep scars on both of our hearts. No matter the pain, we cannot deny that without that place, there would be no us.
“God’s bitter mercies are purposeful and directional. He is shaping you and carrying out his plan.” ~Tears and Hope, Rich Powell
I look back on those words I wrote when I was 19. I realize now that I did know.
I didn’t know that my future would include mood journals and medication spreadsheets. I didn’t know we would fight over diagnoses, medications, and treatment options. I didn’t know marriage counseling would be a must-have. I didn’t know about the sleepless nights. I didn’t know that a loving wife wouldn’t be enough to heal his brokenness. I didn’t know that 14 years later, he would still be in so much mental and emotional turmoil.
But I did know who he was at his core. I knew what he needed. And I was willing…eager even…to commit to him regardless of his flaws and struggles.
On February 8, 2007, I wrote this in my prayer journal: “Show me your will. Lead me, make it plain, so I have no doubts. Help me to act out of pure, godly motives and a deep love for you. Give me wisdom and discernment. Help me to listen to counsel that you send my way. Help me to be patient until your will is revealed.”
Exactly one month later, Russ told me that he loved me and wanted me to be his wife. (Yes, in the same phonecall.)
Exactly one month and one year later, I vowed before God and many witnesses that I would never let him go.
Our marriage has been hard. But our marriage was not a mistake.
I know that God’s got me, and us, and our family.
I know that “my life is bound up in the bitter mercies and the benevolent sovereignty of God.” ~Tears and Hope, Rich Powell
I know that God blesses faithfulness.
I know that we belong together.
I know that we love each other in a way that most people will never even be capable of understanding.
I am still standing willing and ready.
I know that we are 14 years in, and I’m not going anywhere.