The tears streamed down my face. They were unexpected- the best kind.
He paused from the book he was reading to me and looked up at quizzically.
“For choosing to love me. You could have quit. You could have gotten hard. You chose to keep loving.”
He smiled tenderly, nodded his head and went back to reading.
Yesterday was thirteen years of marriage. Thirteen glorious, frantic, passionate years. We’ve come a long way and I, quite honestly, am proud of my marriage. If it wasn’t my marriage it is one that I would desire. Over the past year I’ve savored the deepening red of a love that’s ripened. Like a wine that has sat and developed that next layer of texture, of flavor.
But some years were very, very hard. Every couple goes through stuff. Not every couple has to go through what we did. But we did, and whether the storms were self-induced or divine providence they came. I had never been so lonely as I was after I got married. The idea that this was it! This was the guy! Barely twenty and I had snagged the pick of the litter and the love of my life. I had a partner with whom I’d span the years and the globe.
But in marriage it’s so easy not to see each other; not to see at all. We are a oft blind species, nearsighted and easily deceived. And some holes husbands aren’t meant to fill. The broken expectation left me feeling more alone than I had ever been. All that passion I had for him turned to rage. I would lash out- hit, scream, slam, throw. Anything. Anything to make him see me. To see the pain.
We kept going. We pulled out of ministry, found relationships and kept at it until the root lies- the seed lies- were dug up. Our dear friends came over and just gave us permission to fight in front of them. Into the late evening it went, until at last I heard it “I love her.” Of course my husband had always told me he loved me but I had stopped believing it. When conflicts go on and on for months (years) without true resolution you doubt. You question whether you ever really had a foundation to start with. But I really, really heard it. In some ways I think our marriage started over that night.
Then the children came. Nothing will expose insecurity and the need for control like children. And nothing will kill (literally) a mother faster than sleep deprivation and lies. Too many times yelling at those sweet brown eyes. Too many months without a solid night’s sleep. Too many fears. I checked myself into the psychiatric unit of the local hospital. I had deemed myself an unfit mother.
I don’t know if anything makes a man feel like he’s failed as much as seeing the woman he truly loves come undone. Now he was alone. I was gone. There in body but not. How could he protect me from me? How could he protect the kids from me? What does it do to your heart when you’re trying to answer that question?
It’s easy to romanticize my struggle with anxiety and depression. To paint it in the light of sickness that needs tender care and compassion but when you’re living it… well. Depression looks an awful lot like bad choices sometimes. And it’s completely exhausting for everyone around it. Especially when it affects your children. It would have been easy to get angry with me. To believe that I wasn’t trying. That I didn’t want to change. It would have been easy to find any number of justifications to shut off his heart and dreams from me.
But love is a choice.
I have the audacity to claim that I’ve come some ways from that broken place. I do not believe those lies, those symptoms have the same hold on me they once did but I can’t credit my husband with that victory. He did not save me from the grip of depression. He did not dispel the lies I was believing (though he tried hard to speak the truth). He did not give me confidence to mother my children and believe in myself. My husband, in his weakness; in his frail and imperfect way chose to love me when I was very, very broken and there was no guarantee that anything would ever change.
And that is why the tears stream down my face. Both then and now. He chose to love me.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her