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Jun26TueFighting for marriage. June 26, 2018 by Lieutenant Erin Metcalf
Marriage is hard. It’s hard because each and every day, my husband and I share living space, run a home, raise children and generally operate in a constant state of chaos.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
We also work as pastors of a church, and that requires us to share ideas, theology and practical duties. We have to solve problems, navigate relationships and create things together. We have to process the same challenges while balancing our different personality traits and leadership styles.
Most of the time, we are forced to agree to disagree, which is never smooth or easy. As lines are drawn on yet another battlefield, we often end up voicing our opinions at the top of our lungs. We are not always careful in these war-like moments, and I’m ashamed to admit that, at times, we hash things out well into the night while our children listen from their beds.
This is not ideal, but it is life.
Marriage is hard because my partner sees all the worst parts of who I am, usually combined with old pyjamas and zero makeup. Marriage is hard because it requires constant sacrifice and release of control. It demands compromise while desiring victory.
When laundry baskets, kitchen sinks and garbage cans are simultaneously overflowing, intimacy slowly creeps out the back door, taking romance with it.
Marriage is hard because sometimes a little person shuffles into our room in the dead of night, announcing a nightmare and pleading for unconventional sleeping arrangements. With convincing tears and trembling adding to the dramatic request, “no” becomes impossible. It feels like 775 years since we spent a whole night asleep in the same bed, alone.
Marriage is hard because teenagers belong to an alternative universe and earth-dwelling parents often have a difficult time even knowing how to communicate—much less deal—with this creature from another world. This is tension inducing … trust me.
Marriage is hard because the world encourages us to move on to the next person when things become difficult, because our happiness is what’s important, right? Life is short, love is disposable and monogamy is a myth. These are the messages that attempt to enter the weak places when we are tired and worn down.
But marriage is also a beautiful gift to be held with tender hands. It needs eyes that see the good. It takes work and commitment.
When I consider all the times I fall short, all the moments I mess things up and drop the ball, I am overwhelmed at the grace I find in Jesus. His love is relentless. No matter what I do, his forgiveness is there for me—I am his beloved child. This I know without a doubt.
I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t always offer that same grace and forgiveness to my partner in life. Ignoring the proverbial wisdom, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” my method of communication is far too often critical and defensive, even accusatory. That should never be the case, but it’s hard to say “I’m sorry” when feelings are hurt and egos are bruised.
Why does admitting my mistakes and extending forgiveness feel too costly, when forgiveness is freely offered to me? It’s so easy to hang on to anger. But in those moments of impasse, when each side is unwilling to budge—arms folded, steely eyed—there is an opportunity to invite grace.
How? I think grace shows up when we throw our hands in the air and admit we are helpless. I think grace shows up when we are willing to admit that our partner deserves better than the harsh words we use to try to win yet another argument. I think grace shows up when we are at a loss for words and a way forward.
I believe grace shows up through prayer, tenderness and forgiveness. And I know grace shows up when we create space for Jesus.
Lieutenant Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Feature photo: © AndreyPopov/iStock.com