Updated: Mar 2
Even though there are more gray, dreary winter days than sunny ones right now, we are beginning to see small signs of hope-filled wonder if we look closely. The maple in our neighbor's yard has the tiniest of fluffy magenta things popping out on its spiky limbs that when wind-blown catch my attention to remind me that something in them is changing.
The lenten roses that line the walkway into the neighborhood chapel are in the early stages of blooming. They, too, are delicate pink-rose reminders that even in the midst of dark, cold days, things do bloom. And too, our wooded walks to the waterfalls in our neighborhood have become a source of divine inspiration.
There has been so much rain that our waterfalls in Big Canoe are spectacular. Through them I am reminded that God's love for me is not a skinny trickle but a roaring, gushing flow of goodness. And so, as the wonder of God's hand through His creation gears up outside, our married life is gearing up as well.
To be clear, I did not come into my marriage with Chris as a marriage expert by any means. Instead, I see God's hand working in and through me to shape me into the bride He wants me to be for Chris. Isn't that what He does for His bride? He teaches us, as His beloved, through those He brings to us to speak to us, to equip us, and to model His way for us, and He asks us to do the same for others. When I think long and hard about how much He loves me, I get shivers through my spine realizing He deemed Chris to be mine and I was to be his. His hand, upon our lives, is working to mold us to be all God has designed us to be and into His likeness. Today, a year into our sweet, savory, salty, and sometimes bitter marriage, we celebrate His hand upon us.
Now that our first "getting to know you" year is over, we celebrate not that we survived 365 days together, we celebrate that we are knowing and understanding each other more and more. Understanding is leading us to a place of empathy. And empathy ushers in the ingredients required for healing like compassion and grace and mercy. All of this (the knowing and understanding and empathy and compassion and grace and mercy) you can imagine is requiring great patience from us both to give us the time we need to digest small doses of really difficult and painful two-becoming-one things. It's not that we have difficult and painful issues, who doesn't? It's what we do with them that transforms us into who we are supposed to be.
Full disclosure: new married life is not easy and new married life after fifty is actually very difficult. Not because there is a weakness or flaw in either of or both of us but because there is so much water that has gone over the falls and under the bridge already. Our failures, disappointments, and expectations from the past often color our dreams and hopes of the future. If we rush the "getting to know you" process or skip over hidden stumbling blocks by ignoring them or refusing to vulnerably uncover them, we risk living with misunderstanding and pain. Many times, in some marriages, pain reaches for a number of "pain-relievers:" alcohol, drugs, self-soothing distractions, and divorce, for example, each of which often create more shame and disappointment. It's no wonder that in second, third, and fourth marriages, the diminishing rate of marital success (50% for first marriages, 40% for second, 30% for third, and 20% for fourth) is not because there is no commitment to the covenant but rather because there are too many dividing forces to overcome.
Instead, Chris and I are learning to speak and listen to each other, we are learning to understand each other, and in our speaking, listening, and understanding are hearts are filled with empathy for each other. What does empathy look like? Well, it doesn't look like this: "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I'll pray for you." Rather, as I recall a popular expert say, empathy says: "I hear you say you are in a deep hole. I'm going to get a ladder and climb down into the hole with you. And then you and I are going to climb up the ladder together to get out of this hole." Beautiful, right? I call this an ungoverned response. The ungoverned Heart of Hearts, Jesus, gave everything for those He loved. We can do the same.
If you know a new married couple, especially one over 50, would you unleash your heart toward them? They need your prayer and your hand and your encouragement and your connection. Not because they cannot succeed without you but because God's overflowing love comes through us for all His beloved. His waterfall of love never runs dry. All is well.
As mission opportunities open up for Chris and I, we covet your prayers for God's provision, wisdom, direction, and blessing. You and your families are in our prayers, always.
-Susan (of the Wildflowers)