What Marriage Means
I make a circle pattern on his back as he falls asleep. He is warm and near and I pray over him in the darkness, quietly asking God to bless him, to use him, and to keep him alive for me. Last week, the weight of things dropped into my lap sharply and suddenly, as it does sometimes. Less often than it used to, but still just as heavy. And he came outside to find me.
I was sitting on the cement wall outside our church, with fall leaves blowing under my feet and numbness, like a temptress. He didn’t understand. Why did I react so strongly to something so small? Marriage isn’t about omniscience. “Marriage means I will always come after you,” he said. “I will always come find you.” And we sat, still and silent, listening to the low howl of the late afternoon wind.
Marriage doesn’t mean he understands. In my darkest moments I wonder if, deep down, I am truly unlovable. If that is the real reason my first husband left. If I had been more winsome, less insecure, more beautiful...I know these are lies. Lies that take advantage of hormones, my low blood sugar at 4 p.m., and the insecurities that are buried, shallow, beneath the surface of my chest. But those are the times I wonder if the truest thing about me is that I am someone worth leaving.
But he doesn’t leave. He sits beside me in confusion and faithfulness. He stays, even when it must hurt him so much to love me every day and to have me still question that love. And that is what marriage means - not that your souls talk without words - but that you choose to follow after the person God has given you, even when you don’t understand. Even when their hurt, hurts you.
His ghosts are different than mine. He has seen pain I can’t fathom. He has nightmares that he doesn’t describe, but that I feel when he wakes up with a start or a moan. He doesn’t articulate his feelings in words often. It drives me crazy. But he comes to find me on the cold cement steps. Later that night, during our evening worship service, he asks me to come hold the cup, and together we remember Jesus whose blood covered all our failings, and who will return again one day in healing, justice, and glory.
I used to think that love meant never seeing the flaws in another person. Now I know that it means seeking that person out and pursuing them in the mess. Despite misunderstandings. Tearing down metaphorical walls and throwing them out with the garbage. Letting someone in when your past screams at you to shut the door and lock it. Love is a choice. Sometimes it takes all the courage and humility you can muster. And I am just so glad that he chose me and keeps choosing me, finding the places I hide when the world caves in.
Sketch originally published at Fathom Magazine on April 16th, 2019.
Cover image by Carol Biallas.