Inside of my marriage there is a personage, and that personage IS the marriage.
When I was first married, I was smitten with it. I'd spent months in preparation -reading magazines (because there was no Pinterest in '04) and dreaming up JUST WHAT KIND OF MARRIAGE I WOULD HAVE. My wedding seemed so far away and so close, my emotions climbed all sorts of scales I didn't know existed. Suddenly everyone around me looked married or engaged and all the world existed ONLY for that purpose.
Those early days were bliss and laughter, movies and sleeping in.
But the older the marriage got, I started noticing a few things that were off. I wondered if other marriages were off too, if maybe my marriage was actually completely normal.
I sometimes fantasized about asking other newlyweds about the hidden, intimate parts of their marriage, just so I could know if my marriage was okay. I WANTED to believe it was okay... but I had nothing to compare it to.
I read books about marriage. I held my marriage up to the marital situations in the books and wondered if my marriage needed more books? or less books?
Surely not counseling. Because only REALLY SICK MARRIAGES need counseling. And ours -though maybe MAYBE off a little LITTLE -was most definitely not grouped into the "really sick" category. In that, I was certain. Stiffed, starched collar certain.
The years paced on, and as they did I found out that our marriage was most definitely off. I found I had no voice, or maybe I did and was petrified to use it? The capable young woman I once was became replaced with a fear-ridden woman who asked for permission about most everything.
I watched other marriages around me and realized that the women had these incredible voices that they used to spend money on household things without asking permission and their husbands were okay with it -proud of them, even! I watched them buy clothes for their family and make decisions like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Watching it all go down around me, I realized -YES -the problem was ME. I needed to make decisions more and better! I needed to be more and better! I bought MORE BOOKS!
And when the books failed me and when my advice-sources failed me (I'm looking at you, Google), I grabbed my marriage and I took it to the hospital. I put it in bed. I cared for it carefully, worried about it by night.
When I'd ask my husband if he were interested in coming to the hospital with me, he insisted that our marriage didn't need THAT kind of help. So I'd watch him from the window of the hospital room.
No one knew how sick the marriage was.
I had a few healthy friends who I allowed in the hospital room. In a hushed voice, I'd tell them the truth. I'd tell them honestly about my marriage.
My therapist assured me that I was in the right place. I was definitely in the right place.
My sponsor assured me that I was in the right place.
But it felt REALLY wrong without Danny.
What a watch-keep I kept, ever lonely, ever longing. I couldn't listen to music without wanting to break something. I felt beauty and beautiful things were made for happier, healthier people and white, sterilized life was all I deserved.
I existed in that life for my marriage. It didn't respond to treatment. If anything, it only became worse.
I held out hope, as I'd always been taught.
Those who were allowed into my room said the same thing, "It's going to get worse before it gets better. I'm so sorry."
I felt deflated but strappingly hopeful. I was capable of hard things. I grit my teeth. I oiled my knuckles.
But just as my external environment had let me down, so did my own capabilities. My books let me down easy. It was easy to blame them and hate them for not giving desired results. But when I couldn't give me desired results? THAT IS PAIN.
I left the hospital and went to the prettiest place I know of: the graveyard. I sat on a bench that somehow landed in view of BOTH my great-grandmothers' graves and I cried.
WHY? WHY NOW?
I didn't walk back into the hospital room with my marriage. I couldn't. The entire room reeked of stale hope, fool-hearty aspirations.
I simply went to my husband and told him, "I'm done." It wasn't within me to sit with a dying patient anymore. I had taken all I could.
To my utter and complete surprise, he panicked, turned and RAN to the hospital. I was at an utter loss -I had assumed he wasn't invested in the marriage. But he took my place. He breathed in the stale hope while I built an ice castle on the side of a hill and uncovered my super powers... and let them go.
I took my wedding ring off. I meditated. I wrote. I ate a lot of stuff I shouldn't have. I cried. I prayed. I burned. I redecorated. I laughed. I talked a lot. I made new friends. I connected with old friends. I ordered a ukulele.
My husband would visit sometimes. He kept me updated on the marriage, though I had lost interest. At times, a spark of hope would bounce around in my chest cavity just long enough for me to detect and wreck it.
Hope is not safe.
"Walls," I would tell my chest cavity as I set plaster in the hole the spark left, "Walls are safe."
Still. Every visit from my husband brought more sparks, and my plaster supply ran lower all the time.
Still. Hope proved to be a strong-willed invisible creature with the power to overwhelm cynicism. It was -as it's sparks so easily proved -downright fiery.
In my castle on the hill, I found Jesus. At first, Jesus was all mush and cush -total and complete and unconditional love. But I noticed He came with a few rules that weren't totally mush. And as I read about Him and walked with Him, I realized that Jesus is a little scary because He is assertive about my salvation and I have NO IDEA how to handle assertive people. They scare me. And Jesus was very scary.
I found hope to be exactly like Jesus -because really? Hope and Jesus are one in the same.
And they are -in a word -fierce.
Jesus walked with me as I left the ice castle. He walked with me down the hill. He walked with me into the hospital room.
I was glad He was there. I needed Him for the shock.
THE PATIENT I LEFT WASN'T THERE.
I mean, my marriage WAS THERE. But it looked all... different.
I decided to stick around and discover what the different meant, but I resolved that if the patient were different than so ought the room to be.
Windows were flung open, color was added to every white wall. I opened the door and banned any hushed voicing.
And that's where I am right now.
In that room, trying to reacquaint myself with my marriage.
Some people stop by to visit who don't understand how sick the marriage is or what it's been through and they have all the answers.
"Don't torture yourself," they say, "take it off life support or take it home but STOP torturing yourself."
Those people don't get to come back and visit.
"I've been in this room," some guests will say, "Just remember who you are. Be as gentle to yourself as you are true." Those people get VIP treatment.
Jesus comes every time I ask Him to.
He is still fierce and loving, still the most masculine man I've ever met -still the most fascinating. Still my favorite guest.
Some professionals come. Some neighbors come. The kids come, the eldest aware of the sick patient. The middle child aware of the snacks on the table. The toddler a bundle of bliss and energy to every guest she touches -including the patient.
Some well-meaning guest try to shuffle visitors past our door, telling them it's none of their business, it's a "behind closed doors" situation... they take our pain personally and try -in a way they view as compassionate and a way I understand well because I've been there -to control what they can.
I have to ask them to leave. I point to #5 on the board where I've written the rules.
1) Be honest
2) Be loving
3) Be true
5) No hushed voices
My patient is healing.
Because I am healing.
Because Danny is healing.
But not before.
It really IS The Third Person, saddled with hopes, dreams and love. I mourn for it, as I have departed friends. I sacrifice for it. I pray for it, fast for it, invest in it, cry myself to sleep over it.
It is as real to me. It is almost tangible.
Even Jesus died for it as He did for me, as He did for Danny.
And if I hold Christ close WHILE Danny holds Christ close, there is hope for the marriage.
And just as a mother sits over the bed of her sick child, just as a husband refuses to leave the room of his comatose wife, SO WILL WE STAY.
With our hands enfolded in Christ's, hope springs forth -lighting the entire room aflame.
Take THAT off life support? You must be mad.
This refining fire is MINE.
With Christ, I will stride forward each day -one day at a time -and I will stay the course, knowing that Christ will never fail me.
Never, no never.
Should Danny choose to let go, I know Christ never shall.
Corrie Ten Boom says, "I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hand."
So I endevour daily to hand my will, my husband and my marriage to Christ. They are safer there.
I am safer there too.
The flames of Christ's hope encircle me, and I am secure.