It’s the day before Thanksgiving. The list of things that need to get done before we pack up and head to the Snyder family gathering in Michigan isn’t getting any shorter as I type. Nonetheless, I want to take a few quiet minutes (quiet because I bribed my children, who are upstairs gleefully playing video games on a weekday : ) and share some thanksgiving thoughts with you all.
Well, not so much thoughts (plural) but a thought (singular).
I want to try and explain how I feel about the man that I married nearly 14 years ago and why I feel like Thanksgiving (vs. say, Valentines Day or our anniversary) is the most appropriate time to do this.
Also, I want Paul to read this because I’m better at writing than I am at talking. When we talk about our love for each other, I get flustered, feel awkward, wish for an interruption and finish abruptly (which is wholly unlike another aspect of our marriage I might add, heheheh, ok, had to be said… anyway… ahem ; ) inevitably neglecting to say something that should have been said.
So Paul, this is what I am thankful for this year.
I am thankful that you love God more than you love me. During our first lunch together (a set-up, orchestrated by a roommate who thought you were ridiculously cute, wanted me to meet you and then talk her up in the hope that you’d subsequently ask her out) I wasn’t paying much attention to you (true confession.) That is, until you prayed. That prayer. Wow. It was as if in that moment all your awkwardness fell away and you just relaxed and talked to this person that you knew really well and liked hanging out with. You didn’t say anything super theological, just thanked him for the food and said something about the rest of our day, but the way that you spoke caught and held my attention. Suddenly, you weren’t so ignorable.
I mean, the awkwardness all came back once you raised your head and looked at me (I like to think that you were dazzled by my beauty ; ), but in that prayerful moment, I glimpsed something that I didn’t even know that I wanted in a man. I wanted someone who loved God enough to talk to him like he was a friend. A man who truly loved God with all his heart.
As the years have passed there have been moments when this characteristic has struggled to make up for things that I’ve considered substantive character flaws. I’d argue with God, “sure, he loves you, but would it kill him to be more sympathetic? More observant? More affirming? More like me????”
But inevitably, the Holy Spirit would gently lead me back to what I know is (and I suspect will always be) true. Your value as a husband rests not in your ability to love me perfectly. Rather, your value as a husband rests in your desire to love God perfectly.
This is what I am thankful for.
Right now, the state of our marriage feels….frazzled.
Frazzled like that teacher whose class of first graders is out of control. Nothing on her agenda is getting done and persistent voices call to her from every side (none of which are incredibly demanding individually but when grouped together, they create a cacophony of sound that threatens to make her run from the room in a desperate act of self-preservation.)
(I can say this because we have one little person in first grade and his teacher recently confessed to me that she was feeling a tad bit overwhelmed : )
You and I feel like ships passing in the night. It feels like we’re always headed somewhere, doing something, serving someone. Our married life is full and bursting at the seams with worthy causes.
And that’s ok. It is. We are serving where God wants us and I am proud, so proud, of the way that you have met the challenges that have faced you this past year (and all the years previous.) I forget to say this. I forget to remind you that I see what you are doing and I know how hard it is and how much you want to stop, but never will, because God said, “serve here” and you said, “Really? Well, ok. If you’re sure. I’ll do my best.”
So if I describe our marriage as frazzled, that’s ok too. We’re in our tired thirties. It’s hard to know when to stop, what to say “no” too. Work is hard. Days are long. We have little children who demand SO. MUCH. TIME. but who we cherish (sometime imperfectly) with all our hearts. I see you come home from work and I watch you love our three, tenderly finishing their day with a conversation, a song and a prayer. And sometimes, as I listen from outside the door, my heart just flipped and turns with love for you because I think, “he is loving them like God loves us.”
So yes, this life is harder than I anticipated. We’re arguing more about stupid things that seem big (so big!) at the time but that really only show how stressed we are because we are blowing things out of proportion more easily. It’s true that instead of arguing we should be assisting, encouraging and sacrificing. We know this (I mean, we wrote about it!) We should be for each other, not against each other. We need each other.
But mostly, we need God.
Which brings me back to the purpose of this post.
I know that deep down, you worry sometimes that you are failing as a husband. Those late night arguments and Saturday morning conflicts weigh on your mind and make you wonder if you’ve made the right choices in life. They make me wonder too. And yes, there are always little things that need adjusting, ways that we’ve gotten relationally lazy and emotionally nonchalant. We’re both (at least I know that I am) guilty of taking each other for granted and allowing selfishness and pride gain the upper hand in our minds and actions. (See. I’m admitting fault. In writing. You can frame this later :)
But during this busy week filled with lots of running around doing fun, mundane, frustrating, enjoyable things, I wanted to take some time and tell you that you are not failing.
You are not failing. Because you seek after God, even when life feels frazzled.
You are my husband, my friend, the one that I would choose all over again just as soon as I heard you pray that first prayer (over nasty, rectangle cut, dining common cheese pizza surrounded by thousands of other student rushing to finish lunch before their 1 o’clock class) again. Screw the messy house and poor powers of observation, I’d take your heart for God over those things any day.
It’s just, sometimes I forget to say that.
So Paul, I love you (and I like you : ) I am thankful for you. I’m thankful for your heart that wants to be more like Jesus because truly, the more like Jesus we both become the better we will love each other, right? Let’s keep doing life (busy, hard, frustrating, demanding, nutty, crazy life) together, with God’s help.
Let’s do this for, say, as long as we both shall live : )