At a wedding yesterday, a woman asked me if my marriage to Greg had been good. I hesitated for a moment before saying, "Yes... it's complicated... we lived a lot of life in 13 years".
No one had asked me that simple but direct question before and I wasn't ready for it. Our conversation meandered to other subjects but her question has stayed on my mind since. Was our marriage good? What is a good marriage?
It wasn't perfect, that's for sure. Maybe by some standards - probably by cultural standards - someone might say that no, it wasn't all that good because it was hard. Marriage didn't always make either one of us happy - in fact sometimes we both made each other miserable. If not for our vows, I'm sure there would've been times that we were both tempted to walk away. But we didn't and that's what made our marriage beautiful.
Gary Thomas wrote a book called Sacred Marriage that Greg and I read while engaged. In it, he asks the question, "What if God designed marriage to make you holy instead of happy?" It's an important question and one that shaped our marriage. It's the question that allows me to say, upon further reflection, that our marriage was unequivocally good.
Our marriage didn't always makes us happy, but it did teach us to love when we didn't feel like it. It taught us that love is a decision to act for the best of someone else, even when it comes at a cost. Marriage taught us to forgive instead of holding a grudge. We learned a whole lot more about our own sin together than we ever could've learned apart.
Marriage taught us to fight for the good even when it's hard. To fulfill commitments when it would be easier to walk away. It taught us how much we each need grace, how unlovable we could be. We learned to lean on Jesus instead of each other. We learned that romance is good but commitment is even better. We learned to give each other fresh starts, sometimes many times a day, because that's how often we could hurt each other.
Our marriage brought an amazing little boy into the world and we got to learn all over again how selfish we both were and that loving is always worth the cost.
So yes, our marriage of 13.5 years was good. Through it God did what He always intended to do - He made us more holy (and once in a while, gloriously happy too). I would've stayed in our marriage for my whole life if I could. Loving each other and staying best friends through it all was worth the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Yesterday, I watched as two dear friends said "I do". It wasn't the easy "I do" of a young couple who thinks their love will be the answer to every challenge ahead. It was an "I do" of two people who have counted the cost. Two people who have been married before and lost their beloveds to death. It was an "I do" that knows it will be both good and hard. It will be beautiful, and maybe even miserable at times. These friends of mine walked into marriage with eyes wide open, knowing that it will be costly to love, and choosing to love anyway. And it was beautiful.
This is what God designed marriage to be. And it is very, very good.