Please welcome Guest Blogger Natalie...
When G asked me to contribute to the symposium, I told her that I wanted to but life has been crazy lately with sick kids and holiday plans. Her response was a very gracious, "If the words are rattling around in your head, write. If it's too much, don't." So, this morning while I was unloading the dishwasher I took it as a sign that I need to write since the words were definitely rattling around in my head.
I've been married for nine years and have three kids, ranging in age from 7 years old down to 7 months old. It is a very interesting season in a marriage, to say the least!
The first thing that was rattling around in this brain of mine is that a lasting marriage takes two people who are truly committed to making a marriage work and are, therefore, committed to each other. Problems will come up. Misunderstandings will happen. There will be disagreements. There will be arguments. There will probably even be anger and fighting and hurtful words spoken. But! But, if both husband and wife are committed to the marriage then these are all learning and growing experiences that will serve to make the marriage stronger, rather than pulling it apart.
A good marriage really does have its beginnings before any vows are spoken. If you don't start with the right person, then it makes a successful marriage very difficult. And, by "right" I don't mean that one person who you've fallen head-over-heels in love with. That initial "love" (infatuation?) is no where near enough to make a successful, long-lasting marriage. Butteflies only last so long. Then life happens. Reality is messy if you aren't expecting it and you don't have the right person to face it with you. That is when infatuation has the real chance to turn into true love. Love is not a feeling or a desire. It is tested over time in many ways.
You see, love is a choice in many ways. In this season of my life, I have to choose to love my husband. I am in the throws of diapers, sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, longing for my previous life of working outside of the home, and a bit of chaos. It is very easy to turn inward and think about me, me, me and give myself a good, long pity party. Don't think I haven't done just that! But, I need to choose to show my husband that I do love him, even if there are others in the home that need me maybe just a little bit more than he does in this specific season. Let's face it, a puking toddler needs me more than my husband does, and a hungry infant has to take priority over a love note. But, between those moments of immediate child needs, a kind word, a short note, a text message, or a favorite batch of cookies baked can go a looong way to show that I still care about him. . . even if he comes home from work to find me unshowered, wearing clothes from yesterday, covered in spit up, and just a bit grumpy (or, even, a lot grumpy as is the case from time to time). I may not feel like performing any of those kind gestures, but I need to. I need to make that choice. Of course, he needs to make the choice to show love as well (and he does. . . he's often better at it than I am, to the point of making me feel as if I'm not worthy!). That's the way a marriage works. Both husband and wife need to choose to love. If one partner does not choose to show love, marriage can be a sad, lonely, draining place to be.
As our children grow, they will be just slightly less needy (in the immediate physical needs department) and a new season of our marriage will be in full swing. Diapers and night time feedings will be a thing of the past, and I'm sure that new challenges will replace them. Love will still be a choice. To have a successful marriage, both members have to enter into it knowing that Love will be the ONLY viable choice. True, deep, real love. Not the kind of love found in romance novels or the movies. Rather, this kind of love:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." I Corinthians 13:5-8a
No mention of butterflies or increased pulse rate there.
It truly is quite a lot to live up to, and we will fail. We will occasionally choose something other than love (like, oh, maybe anger or jealousy), but we repent and start over with choosing love. Every day. When our partner fails, we need to forgive, not retaliate. Wow. That's hard. But. . . that's Love.