"I’m not going anywhere." As soon as the words lovingly tumbled out of his mouth, my heart beat slowed and my fears weakened.
I was getting married in a few short weeks, and the thought of committing myself to life-long vulnerability had sent me into a full-fledged panic attack. Yep, the whole bit: cold sweats, shakes, nausea, and a heart that seemed to be doing the salsa in my chest.
Scared, the fear was telling me to do strange things like end dates early or cancel them all together. I insisted on time alone and picked fights over petty issues. It was in the middle of one of these verbal assaults that my fiancé uttered the words he would have to repeat many more times in the upcoming years: "I’m not going anywhere."
I stopped bickering and let him love me for just a moment, listening as he told me that no matter how frightened I was, he wasn’t going to leave me. He reassured me that marriage wouldn’t be too hard and that I wasn’t going to fail at it. He was staying put and in it for the long haul. His words were a soothing balm on a deeply wounded heart.
His love calmed me enough to see me walk down the aisle on the appointed date—a beautiful day in May of 2001. There, I pledged myself to a man that I now know God hand-picked for me. However, the bliss was short-lived.
Life just got more trying after the wedding day. I slept on the couch our first night together because the man’s snoring threatened to pop my eardrums. (I still find myself on the sofa for this same reason 8 years later.) After the honeymoon, as we started getting more comfortable with each other, the lovely "Aroma of Man" made it’s introduction, if you know what I mean.
I also became acquainted with his quirky habit of eating while standing in the middle of the kitchen, leaving counters dusted with a light layer of crumbs. The sheer volume of food a man can consume! However, despite my learning to coexist with all of his strange idiosyncrasies, he had the more difficult job.
I entered into this marriage with some deep-seated issues. Why else did I have panic attacks right up to the night before "the best day of my life?" My mom even warned Lou on the day of our union, "You know she has a lot of baggage." Someone needed to give the poor man a heads-up! But he stood by his word and continues to stick it out. He is tenacious. And the truth is, he doesn’t think it’s that bad. He thinks I’m amazing. I think his love is blind, but it seems to work for him.
All joking aside, our life together has been rocky. Within the first 18 months of marriage, we moved to a new town, started new jobs, and experienced a foundation-shaking family loss. I quickly thereafter descended into a depression that plagued me for years, but even through these dark days, Lou loved me selflessly. On particularly hard days, he would come home at the drop of a hat to be by my side. He took days off, prayed over me, and simply listened to the ramblings of a woman on the brink of insanity.
Presence, prayer, and patience. It’s what I needed and what he gave me. He didn’t push for me to hurry up and get it together, but instead prayed and waited. And all the while, he simply loved me. I’m not saying he was perfect along the way. He periodically became irritated or frustrated, but he always came back to a place of waiting. Waiting for me. Waiting for the Lord to complete His work of healing and peace in me.
After light pushed out the darkness, we were able to start living a "normal" life. We were blessed with a wonderful baby boy and Lou was able to throw himself back into full-time ministry. I stayed home with our son and helped out with the ministry when I could. All seemed well.
However, as I moved past the depression, I realized that I still wasn’t quite right. And it wasn’t because of the depression. I sensed it was the same old stuff rearing its ugly head again. I exhibited the same symptoms and behaviors as during our engagement years before. I was longing for time alone and shutting my husband out. I couldn’t quite let him all the way in.
This has persisted throughout the years of our marriage, manifesting itself in different ways through my picking fights, escaping through hour-long baths, or simply choosing to spend precious hours we could spend together, doing my own thing. The pattern has continued: I run. He waits.
Thankfully, I’m finding the courage to face my issues and learning so much. What I’ve been learning from my husband are lessons I hope are never forgotten: the importance of being patient with your spouse. Still, I’m faced with my own tendency to grow impatient with him in his struggles. Ridiculous, right?
Reading 1 Corinthians a short while back, I came upon a verse in the thirteenth chapter that I’ve heard so many times before, but now sensed God speaking to my heart: "Love is patient…" (vs. 4).
Asking in my holiest voice, I said, " Are You talkin’ to me? "And, of course, He was. I’ve often glossed over this portion of "the love chapter" since it’s been a part of every wedding I’ve ever attended. But this day I was forced to take a closer look and started wondering, What is patience? Really? Mulling it over and researching it a bit over the following days, one word jumped out at me: long-suffering.
Ugh. I don’t particularly want to think about suffering, much less LONG-suffering. But like it or not, I’m seeing that I can’t avoid the hardships that are a very real component of marriage. The health of my relationship with my husband hinges on how I deal with them. My husband is a long-sufferer, but what about me? Am I willing to return the favor?
Honestly, it’s a difficult question to answer because it involves me giving up my way of doing things and simply trusting God and His plan. I know His plan is good (see Jeremiah 29:11), but increasingly, I’m aware that He doesn’t always work out things the way or at the speed I would like. More and more I’m learning that "[His] ways are not [my] ways" (see Isaiah 55:8). It all comes down to one thing: trust. Do I really trust Him to accomplish good things, especially when they are taking a bit longer than expected?
I’ve come to see that the reason my husband is able to wait on me is because he’s really waiting on the Lord. He trusts God. Can I do the same with my husband’s next bout of hardship? With God’s help and my husband’s godly example, I’m praying my answer will always be a resounding, "YES!"