It was a hot June day, when I glowed in white all the way down the aisle. And he beamed, he beamed brighter than the sun with love, and joy, and promise. It was so easy then, as I walked barefoot through the sand, holding my Dad’s hand–and saying ‘Yes’ to all God planned. And everyone watched, and clapped, and cheered.
But that was before we knew what it would cost. Before anything was ever lost.
I knew marriage would get hard, but to be honest, I thought ours would be just a little easier than the rest. After all, we had Christ in us. How hard could it be?
I stood there at the altar, like a freshman ready to ace her first final exam, a big wad of index cards in my hands. Knowing every chapter and verse, and all the things I had rehearsed. And all the great lines I neatly highlighted from all those marriage books.
But the wind came.
The wind came and blew all those index cards away, out of my hands. Because all those books, and all those index cards were strapped to my forehead like a Pharisee wearing the Law. And it covered my eyes so I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see a man, in need of grace, and tender affection, standing right in front of me.
It’s been six years since the day I married him. And his eyes are still the same steady green they were then, and he captivates me still, without even trying. His voice, still tender smooth. And I still like to sleep in his old t-shirts. Soft and threadbare, worn with love. And they get softer in time.
And so do we.
But there have been nights, where that shoreline where we made our promises has seemed a thousand miles away. When we stood in the kitchen, exchanging red-hot words, like swords. And getting stuck in sticky webs of complicated conflict. Unsure of how to sort it out—unsure if it was even possible. And no one is watching anymore. No one is clapping, or throwing petals, or cheering us on.
I am convinced He really likes marriage. It was His idea after all. And I think He actually likes when marriages get hard–because that is when He does some of His best work. In our hearts. The only places that really matter.
I used to think good marriages were always easy, and never hard. But I don’t think that anymore. I think good marriages are insanely hard–but when they get hard, you don’t see the struggle as a reason to quit, but as a reason to keep fighting for it. To keep fighting for each other.
It seems so fitting now, that we got married by the water. Because all along, God would call us into it. We had no idea, as we exchanged our vows, and rings, and promises, and the waves collapsed innocently behind us—that God was going to call us into them. But that’s in fact, what marriage is.
It’s going into the water together. And there is nothing safe about it.
So that moment we were pronounced “husband and wife,” and we turned and walked down the aisle, and everyone congratulated us and cheered, we should have actually headed the other direction. Into the water, and not away from it.
When God calls you into marriage, He calls you out into the water. First, it’s just ankle deep, and you tightly hold hands, and smile. And you walk a little further, until you’re knee deep. But as you go further out, the water starts to go up to your waist. And the waves begin to break around you. And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how tightly you are holding hands, a big wave comes, and knocks you over, making you lose your grip on each other. And you try to find each other, but sometimes you can’t, because those big waves keep coming. And you aren’t strong enough to withstand them. The current gets strong, and threatens to pull you under, and you’re just fighting to stay afloat.
The waves just keep coming to knock you down, again and again. And you can’t swim any further out, you’re just stuck right there, getting tossed to and fro in the waves. I think every marriage comes to this place where you get stuck in the rough surf. And it feels hopeless and humiliating. Why can’t you just do this? Why aren’t you strong enough? And everything is telling you, “Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!” And you want to, because it would be so easy to just go back and lay on the shore and just cry, with your face against the sand, and think about how awful and scary those big waves were. And what a big mistake it was, to ever try to get past them. And just when you are about to turn back. Just when you decide it isn’t fun anymore, and you can’t take one more wave to knock you over, and are about to just swim back to shore—for good. You keep swimming.
You link hands with your spouse and you keep swimming. Sink or swim, but you refuse to go back to shore—because you know, deep down, that there is some mystery waiting for you out there. In that place just beyond the surf…is this place of deeper waters. Where you learn to tread. Where you learn to swim. And that’s where the adventure is. In that place where you finally learn to love.
A love that pushes past all the waves.
Because in the midst of those waves, you hear a Voice, that sounds like a thousand rushing rivers, that screams,
“Come out here! Keep coming! Further out! Keep swimming toward My love!”
“I have something out here for you!”
“This wasn’t a mistake! This is my plan!”
“I have ordained you together in this marriage! For My purpose! For My pleasure! For My glory!”
And when you have kept going–you suddenly get to this place of calm, in this place past the surf. And your treading together, stronger now, and having learned to swim. Having learned to follow the Voice. You realize He enabled you to withstand the storm. And you clasp each other, both looking like you’ve nearly drowned. And you laugh and kiss and you cry because you are so happy you didn’t swim back to shore, and because you can’t even behold the beauty all around you. The beauty waiting for you all along.
And then you see Him out there, walking on the waters, like nothing happened at all, like you didn’t just survive a hurricane, like swimming out there was the easiest thing in all the world. And when He sees you bobbing together in the water, He just smiles and says, “You of little faith. Why did you ever doubt?”
And we see, in that moment, we can trust Him. Not only for ourselves, but for our marriage. For the One who called us out to sea, surely will not let us drown in it.
So we don’t have to be afraid of the deeper waters. We don’t have to fear when the waves come. Or stormy skies. Or strong currents threaten to take us under. “For the One who called us, is faithful, and He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
So let’s keep swimming.
Because He’s out there waiting for us. Ready plunge us into the depths of His mercy and grace—and into a love so deep, your feet could never, ever touch the ground.