When Dean and I got married in 1983 we were really just great friends who could only imagine our future as one shared with the other. We met in college and were both being trained as teachers but both determined to go to Africa as missionaries. Our marriage was one centered in our Evangelical Christian faith so there were rules we felt we needed to follow if we were to have a great marriage like we wanted. Sex was saved for marriage and we even went so far as not to even kiss each other until we were “officially” engaged. Yes, that was us, with all our moral ducks in a neat little row.
We got married by a Southern Baptist preacher in a large church that we actually had to rent because my church wouldn’t hold the almost 400 people gathered together to witness the event. It was an interesting time in that we brought together some feuding Christians who loved us but weren’t so fond of each other. We had no idea that our inclusive nature would be one of the best things about our future life together. We had no idea it would also be one of the most difficult things about our life together as well. Dean and I loved God and we loved people. We were idealists bent on changing the world and making it a better place and at that time in our lives we thought that it would be best to do that in Uganda with a ministry we were involved in at the University of Nebraska. We married fully expecting to be on their staff in a couple of years. Then life happened.
Students loans, babies and not taking jobs in our chosen professions, made our journey overseas an impossible one. As we lived with the disappointment reality brought our way, one thing that remained constant was our shared struggle. We were married to each other on purpose because in each other we found a partner we wanted to journey through life with. Some of it was magical and romantic but for the most part it was a lot of hard work. Disagreements came and went but for the two of us, marriage was a deep commitment we had made to each other and we agreed that we would hang in there until we reached a consensus and were in full agreement with each other before moving forward. We honestly thought this was what all marriages were like.
After being in this thing for over 30 years, we have learned a great deal about ourselves and each other. We have come to understand that not all marriages are like our own. We know very well that there are marriages where the law stills says two people are married but in reality those two people couldn’t be more separate from each other. We’ve realized that there are times when divorce is not only necessary, it can be vital to the sanity and safety of those involved. Clearly not everyone is fortunate enough to find a partner who is steady and unwavering in commitment to them like Dean and I are to each other. It is a heart-breaking reality of life and now I understand that better than ever.
This last three years have been the most difficult of any we have ever faced as a couple. The main reason this is so is because I moved here with great reluctance and only after a great deal of what I will call heart-wrestling. I agreed to it in the end because I realized that the job Dean was being offered here was the absolute best fit for him. I knew that were he to find something in Utah, where we were living at the time, his gifts and talents would never be able to be used to their full potential in comparison to how they would be with this job. I can honestly say that supporting him this past three years has been the most difficult thing i have ever done and continue to do. As the heart-wrestling continues however, we are coming into a new season of understanding and I think we can continue to make it work here in Cambridge, Minnesota. The verdict is out there yet but for today it is working.
I share this slice of our life with you, because as I consider how the cultural images and practices involving marriage have drastically changed in my lifetime, I think that what remains clear to me more now than ever before, is that at the heart of a good and genuine marriage, there is not only the ability to love and be loved, but there is the ability to hang in there as you both commit to doing whatever it takes to continue together. You wrestle with the shared sacrifices that it will constantly take to make your marriage a positive union.
As we see reality TV continually tell our young people to, “say yes to the dress” or to “go to Jerrod’s”,I think for humanity’s sake, it would be a much better investment of our dollars to encourage single people to forget about those things all together and invest in long walks, talks over coffee or whatever it takes to really get to know that other person until you leave them behind or determine that you want to commit to continuing with them for the long haul.
Marriage is commitment and hard work. The end.