Moving here, I quickly learned it’s not very common in grad school to have more than 3 years of marriage under your belt. In all fairness, it’s not very common to have more than 3 years of marriage under your belt when you’re in your 20’s in general anymore. But especially not in grad school.
Big Fisch and I get a lot of perplexed looks when new friends and acquaintances find out we’ve been married for 6 years.
It’s actually quite entertaining to observe the differences in reactions. Some people looked shocked, some seem curious, some seem to feel terribly bad for you, and some get excited. And every now and then, someone will look at you ask “so, what is it like?”
I usually feel a half smile, half smirk spread across my face, and my mind jumps to say “you’re familiar with Minions from Despicable Me, right?”
If they know Big Fisch, they’d get the analogy.
But what comes out is typically a short, generic answer in an attempt to be accurate yet brief, because to really dive into the topic would require a coffee date and a table for two.
Marriage is many things. It can be fun, adventurous, and exciting. When you find a good match, much of it feels easy and natural.
But – the truth is, marriage is also complicated. Taking two lives and meshing them into one…it can be about as difficult as it sounds.
Real life often looks like one person feeling hot when the other is feeling cold, and one wanting the music loud when the other wants it turned down. Add into the mix waking up in the middle of the night to a certain sleep-talking Fisch sitting up, looking at the window saying “beda-bahda-beda-bahda-beda-bahda” (read: Minion voice) over and over again, and you can find yourself hiding out, holding a bottle of wine thinking “whose idea was this?!?”
Not that I can relate or anything…
Let’s call it what it is, shall we? It’s not all easy. It often feels crazy.
Yet…(even as I try to avoid cliches)… the undeniable truth still remains that few things that are truly good and soul satisfying and life giving are ever easy.
In an odd way, I think that’s one of my favorite aspects of marriage, though also one of the hardest. It reflects a bigger life lesson we must eventually acknowledge and learn: you get out of it what you put into it.
Marriage, when worked at, does not allow you to remain the same person you were when you said “I do”. It takes the lump sum of who you both once were, selfishness and all, and slowly refines you into someone – and something – stronger, wiser, and more grounded. It fortifies you to take on life, and to do it with arms locked, refusing to back down.
And while the process isn’t always pretty, sexy, or thrilling, the labor becomes worth the grind when you decide that what you are working to build together is an unconditional love; one all too foreign in the world we know today. It does not promise to always make you momentarily happiest or feed your appetite for new and constant excitement. It is not flashy or particularly trendy.
Unconditional love, rather, is steady and resilient. It frees you from the fear of not being enough. It negates performance dictating worth. It has your back when you’re sick, run down, and just not all that fun to be around. It jumps in with both feet, leaving no escape door open. It looks you in the eye and promises “even in your faults, I would choose you again.” It builds up and it inspires. It frees and it breathes life. If holds up no mask of perfection, rather extends grace where it is least deserved.
To love unconditionally is the purpose Big Fisch and I chase as we fix our eyes on Christ – the only One who has perfected it. It’s a goal that unites us; a glue that binds. And it’s one we have to remind ourselves of often, because not only is it counter intuitive to our human nature, it is counter cultural as well. And without that goal, we would most likely sooner or later retreat.
Sure, crazy Minion creatures may come to mind when I think of my married life. But so does the feeling you get when you see and smell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven. Or when you sit outside on a perfect summer evening with good food and good company. Or when you climb into your bed at night with freshly cleaned sheets after a hot shower. Or when you stand on the shore and feel the waves wash over your feet for the first time in months.
Unconditional love is like the simple, purest joys in life. And it is worth giving everything for.
In 6 years, I have not arrived. Not even close. But I have begun to understand that a commitment in marriage is like a commitment in any area of your life. If the end goal is worth it, then you set your eyes on the prize and you work for it, you fight for it, and you don’t stop until you’re there.