Dear 19year old me,
I sit here, thinking about that day sixteen years ago when you slipped on that heavy white dress, the one you regretted having long sleeves the second you stepped out into the Abilene sun. You will look at the adult staring back in the mirror, and hush the scared child inside. When you steady your shaking hands with flowers, you’ll carefully arrange your expression to look calm, serene, bridelike. Girl, I’ve looked at the pictures often-the fear is hidden pretty well, but slips through occasionally. You mean the word forever, but…it’s going to be great, right? Right? I mean, you know you’ll have fights, you’ve already had them, but you love him and you are sure that whatever happens couldn’t possibly that serious. And ministry? You feel ready. You know it won’t always be easy, but you also think how great it is to be marrying someone who is steady, so sure of what he wants. You don’t realize it now, but you crave security, both emotionally and financially. You are convinced this man, this boy, will give you all of that.
I know you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but if I could take you to lunch and give you a glimpse of what is to come, I’d tell you that the man you love will show his hand early on, on the way to the airport for your honeymoon. He will lose his temper over some lost travelers checks. You’ll be confused and hurt, but you’ll reason that he’s stressed and tired and the wedding probably overwhelmed him. This will be the first of many times you will reason away the little voice that whispers that these displays of anger aren’t right. I’m going to be blunt- you have no idea what loving someone means. Don’t get me wrong, you love people, you have family and friends, but you’ve never had to deal with conflict or confrontation in a loving biblical way, so you will do what “feels right”, and I can tell you unequivocally that almost every time what feels right is what feels the most comfortable. At this point, you don’t realize that you believe that if you have conflict with someone, they will leave you, so you will work hard to keep peace. You also believe that the boy you love might not love you as much if you expressed that sometimes you aren’t sure you agree with what he believes about Jesus. You will automatically assume that based on the differences in your backgrounds, it’s much more likely that he is right and you are wrong, so you will keep these thoughts locked away in your heart. You’re also about to painfully misinterpret some scripture, and it will cause you great suffering.
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” 1 Peter 3:1
You will decide, quite conveniently I might add, that this means that if Wes does something that is painful or harsh towards you or others, you should not talk to him about it. You will cling to the “without words” part, and place great hope in the idea that Wes will be overwhelmed by your love and change. Honey, it’s not going to work, and you will convince yourself that it’s not working because you aren’t being kind enough, hospitable enough, submissive enough, not enough, not enough, not enough. You’ll change the way you dress, the music you listen to, the language you use, future goals…all in an attempt to become “enough” to win him over. This hamster wheel will never be satisfied. And with each turn of the wheel, a small brick of Bitterness and her sister Despair will build up around your heart. There will be a point when you decide that if you can’t be good enough for this imperfect boy to love you, then surely a perfect God couldn’t either. And you decide that while you might be failing the wife test, you’re going to ace the mom test. If we sat together, I’d hold your hand and brace you for what is coming.
In the next seven years, you’ll trudge down the quicksand road of infertility. It’s a twisted upside, a silver lining made of poisonous mercury, that infertility gives you and Wes something to blame your marriage problems on. I know, I know you won’t believe me now as you smile and pose for pictures, but there will be days when you sit on the floor late at night after he is asleep and cry as quietly as you can, and make mental lists of what you would need if you left him. It’s not that you don’t love him. You just feel like you are drowning in this ocean of expectation and shame and anger and apathy.
At this point, you’d probably roll your eyes and tell me what a fun and uplifting lunch date I make. I don’t blame you. You’d probably look at me and say if things are going to get so bad, why even bother getting married? Surely this means Wes Butler isn’t the right man for you, he can’t be your soul mate, right? Surely this means you got duped into marrying a man who somehow hid his temper and legalism until after the rings. I mean, it really doesn’t seem like there’s much hope, and who wants to live like that?
You’re going to have kids. You’re going to get your master’s degree. You’re going to move to Dallas and attend a great church.
You’re going to smile and tell people that sure, sometimes you argue, but things are really just fine.
You’re going to stand in your living room after putting your two babies to bed and scream at your husband about who is going to get custody of those babies.
You’re going to tell Wes that you don’t think there is any hope left.
You’re going to really believe it this time.
And then…you’re going to humble yourself, set aside your arrogant pride and speak up.
Years later, you’ll sit at a computer as you watch your husband sleep, and just close your eyes in complete awe at what God has done. You’ll think through all of the tools that were used to rebuild what had been lost, and thank Him that He used all those imperfect tools, imperfect people, imperfect timing and methods, to resurrect your marriage. You’ll smile when you think about how hopeless you thought your marriage was, forgetting that He parted the sea, He fed the thousands, He created the earth, He raised the dead…and you thought you were beyond His reach.
Do you want to know the best part? It’s not even a happier marriage. It’s not the kids or Wes. It’s that through all this pain, you will learn that you. are. loved. You will learn about the nature of Jesus, and how He sees you. You’ll get to take all this mess and pour out into others who are suffering to give them hope.
You’ll get to know your Daddy.
So, take a deep breath, pick up your flowers and get ready. You don’t know what’s coming, but He does. And sixteen years from today you’ll laugh a Naomi and Sarah laugh, grateful and amazed at how He restores.
p.s.- You are gonna regret that Rachel haircut. Think it through.