i'm going to say something here, and it's going to sound like one of those god-squad, cotton candy and sunday school rainbows-for-brains type of sentiments that really narrow-minded christians tend to throw around.
i don't know how any two people can be successfully married without jesus.
are you rolling your eyes? that's cool, because maybe if you get it, you can share the secret with me. no wait, don't, i wanna stick it out with jesus. the fact is, i know some people are healthily married and seemingly without him.
if 50% of marriages end in divorce that means 50% don't. granted there is a vast majority of the still-wed group that is probably in some form of loveless or cold or abusive or distracted and dysfunctional marriage, but the fact is that there are couples out there who are pretty happily married for decades and never really give a thought to jesus. that's kind of amazing to me. these people must just be so naturally inclined to give grace and love and lay down their own desires for one another that the marriage thrives. though, isn't that the heart of christ anyway? even if they don't acknowledge it as such? (Narnia's Last Battle, anyone?). or maybe they're just so incredibly emotionally compatible that conflict never arises.
and evidently loving jesus and caring about what he would like you to do with your life and your marriage isn't always enough to stop you from wondering, "why in the freaking ass hell did i ever get married?" it's not even enough to keep millions of his followers out of that divorced 50%.
so, call your local news station with this late-breaking revelation: marriage is hard.
i know because i found myself on saturday morning ensconced behind a bed and a pak n' play on the floor of my in-laws guest bedroom chemically breaking down a kleenex into its individual molecules with a cocktail of my tears, snot, mascara, rage and frustration.
it was a low point, fa sho. not my finest hour. we had breakfast plans with some of our out-of-town best friends and were meeting up at the dukes' place because it was more convenient as a halfway point since dukes were on vacation and so graciously allowed us to use their kitchen and some of their frozen blueberries. because of this obligation, i couldn't just run back home and hide and cry and rail against the world like i would have preferred. jesse and judah at least had to show up, and since we were riding in the same car and had no time to spare before our friends showed up when this emotional hiroshima occurred, i was resigned to take my blubbering sideshow along and stuff it into the spare room.
it is at this very point in life that everyone should drop what they are doing and go out and find a friend who will come into that room, knowing what is lurking and secreting fluids behind the door, lay her face down on the floor and talk to you around the dust bunnies under the bed while you are at your lowest; while you would rather hide from the entire universe. she will not comment that you only have on one earring (it's partner was poking into my head as i lay there), that you blew a snot bubble, or that your nose has almost doubled in size and turned bright red. she will listen. listen so gracefully and compassionately that her silences start to speak loving truths through the haze of confusion and pain. the electric, buzzing, tightly-cinched knots of your situation as viewed in a post-blowup breakdown start to loosen and untangle become perceivable when she says she understands and doesn't recoil in horror at your behavior. she will gently tell you that it's okay to fight, but she will absolutely not condone or ignore the fact that you let it happen in front of your child. without even touching you (too far to reach under the bed) she will pull you out of the stinking, self-pitying, satan-infested pit that an hour earlier had no escape. thank god i have one of those.
for about 30 minutes i just sobbed to natalie and tried to articulate why it was so hard and what wasn't working with us lately. how we had pretty much become just roommates, and not even close ones at that; just coexisting in peace as long as no real emotion was required. how the littlest things that challenged the fragile detente had us blowing up in record time and were inevitably ending in hate-fests of us screaming at each other "you're not listening to me!" how we have tried not to, but end up screaming at each other in front of judah and the soul-wrenching self- and spouse-loathing that results upon realizing the damage we are causing him. not to mention how all this stress and anger and frustration is undoubtedly manifesting in some biological way and making its way along the umbilical cord to affect layla. what a mess.
after a few minutes of her gentle questions and trying to figure out if it was some specific fight we were in or just symptoms of something else. she asks me, "well, how is your relationship with scott?" and i am like, "huh? who the hell is scott" and then i realize she said "god" and not "scott" and then i remember, like getting struck by lightning all of a sudden, that i am an idiot. the whole time i have been in there, all sackcloth and ashes, crying towards the heavens, asking jesus to please, please help me, telling him, i can't do this anymore and that i need him to take over, it had never occurred to me that i got to this place on the dark green tear-stained carpet precisely because i haven't been asking him those same things every day when it wasn't urgent-defcon -necessary to do so. that i had ever so politely asked him to leave me alone and let me do things my way. crap. i probably would have come off better if she had actually been asking about someone named scott.
i have been trying to strong-arm my way around this marriage through the force of my will, my abilities, my natural propensity for love and grace (re: smurf-esque amounts). i have been waving him off saying, 'i've got this, i've got it." and i am feasting off the fruits of my pitiful own little efforts.
natalie so aptly called marriage the most unnatural union ever. she's totally right. in the same way that it makes not a lot of sense for god to herald the coming of his eternal kingdom by choosing to let himself be killed as a peasant-scholar with barely 100 followers to carry on his message, it almost equally makes no sense that two such fundamentally different species as a man and a woman should try to resolve to totally separate wills by becoming one. it's mind-blowing, turn-the-moon-red and tear open the skies kind of backwards and illogical.
but with the horrifying realization that ignoring god in our marriage recently was the glaringly obvious root of all these problems, came the freedom in understanding, that, HUZZAH! we aren't just enemies who, through some cruel joke of the universe involving of pheromones and canapés, ended up lawfully wedded! we aren't doomed because we are incompatible or incapable of love. it isn't just that we are broken and irreparable and beyond rescue. it isn't hopeless. hooray! we are morons and were never really intended to try to figure it out on our own. freeeeeeeedom!
so i made my bloated, red-faced way back into the kitchen to face a husband that i had and hour before sworn never, ever, ever to be nice to or touch again. i found him in the pantry and kind of just collapsed into him. we put on the temporary band-aid of mutual, blanket "i'm sorries" and had a surprisingly enjoyable pancake breakfast with our beautifully understanding friends.
later that same day, hanging out with another beloved missionary friend and sporting facial remnants of that morning's blubfest
on the way home we took gentle stock of where we had gotten ourselves and why. i came to the sobering realization that i hadn't opened my bible or spent any significant time with god in weeks. hmmm. no wonder. right then and there we shamefacedly took our junk to jesus and said, "okay, we have royally effed this up by trying to push you into the background and do this ourselves. thank you for letting us hit rock bottom and reminding us that you are still there. that you are the foundation (the rock bottom) of anything we are going to do and we need you to be there if any part of it is going to be healthy or thrive."
if marriage is such a strange, unnatural thing to my little brain, but one that i believe it was created by god, shouldn't i be turning back to him like every second and being like, "ummm, okay, what now jesus? this is your show and i am probably just going to mess it up if i try to steer this ship on my own." shouldn't i be spending time by myself and also alongside jesse asking god who he wants me to be as his child and as a wife? ah-doy! and yet it took nuclear snotfest 2010 to bring me back to this reality.
when i try to make a god-ordained union run without god, the result is pretty pathetic. it's painful and raw and damaging and it's a freaking playground for that fuckface satan to come in and mess with whole bunch of other stuff. i picture it as when i have a blowout on one of my tires and i'm driving around on the rim. yeah, i can still operate the car and drive it a fair distance, but i am having to exert so much energy just to keep it limping along the road and not careening off a bridge, and it is still hurting my car really bad. that's why when i get a flat tire, i immediately pull over and put on a new one. the few extra miles that i could go without aren't even close to worth the effort and damage that doing so would cause.
so right now, a week later, we are cruising along on our spare. we aren't ready to go 80 on the highway yet, but we are getting back to basics of letting god's will direct our marriage. doing a devotion together every day, praying on our own and together. and we are also getting our parts of the equation right: that we love each other to freaking pieces and want to be an encouragement in the other's life. that we are on the same team.
that's where the devil really kicks our butts. when we put jesus on the bench and take over on our own, things start snowballing and we end up full-fledged opponents. i start subtly treating jesse as if he's out to get me, to take advantage of me or pull one over one me. he starts to hear and perceive unspoken things in my tone and in my actions. soon, we are these two hyper-sensitive, yet mega-aggressive a-wipes who can't get along for 5 minutes because we are waiting for the knife in the back or the rug to be pulled out from under us. it's an unpleasant combo, sensitive and aggressive and enemies. imagine tom and jerry being married. or, more fittingly, itchy and scratchy...but with fragile hearts that shatter with every blow.
but i am learning that if we were secure in the fact that we are on the same side, with the same goals and the same god to give us the grace to continue, then satan wouldn't have a foothold anywhere. i guess some people can be an awesome spouses for each other without any conscious need for jesus, but i have decided and been handed tons of evidence that we aren't one of those couples. so this blog post is my little ebenezer to the [should be] obvious truth that we can't do this alone. please don't forget this, future keight.
celebrating (28 years and another fresh new chapter of marriage) on jesse's birthday at agave