This past week we had the opportunity to get away for a few days with my family. We booked a lake house, hitched up the boat, packed the entire house (because that’s what you do when you have a baby), and headed out in a caravan. I hadn’t actually planned on trying to accomplish any of my moments on this trip, but the first morning we woke up at the house, I realized the sun was going to set over the lake. I knew it would be beautiful, and I was glad for the extra motivation to get down there and see it.
The second night we stayed, we walked the two minutes down to the lake front and watched as the sky lit up with beautiful oranges and pinks, as the sun approached and then disappeared slowly beneath the horizon. The lake reflected the sky, the gentle waves lapping and ripples from hungry fish and ducks played with colour like a painting. As the sun dropped, it became more and more red until finally only a sliver could be seen above the trees across the lake. We took selfies and photos, but finally everyone fell quiet as we watched the day come to a close. My husband and I sat on the small dock and talked. We would celebrate our eighth anniversary the next day, and so this particular sunset was especially symbolic.
Our eight years of marriage have been long, or so it feels. My parents asked us at dinner the evening of our anniversary to recount the highlights of each year of marriage, and the exercise of reaching back into the annals of memory to those early days felt like a time warp. We were different people then. Our lives were completely different then. We had different goals and hopes and dreams then than we do now, though I suppose some have stayed the same. Some of our years have been exceptionally difficult. The first year we mostly spent fighting and wondering if we’d made a mistake. The second year, we started our business and got cheated by a dirty contractor, losing us somewhere around $30,000 and teaching us some valuable lessons about business the very hard way. But in our third and fourth years, we grew. We truly felt like we were becoming one. We ventured off to YWAM and had the adventure of a lifetime with Jesus and each other. By our fifth year we were mostly debt free and finally bought a house. We enjoyed some of our happiest years right after that, followed by this past year, which has been like pulling a cart full of rocks with a broken wheel up a steep hill.
The news of our pregnancy and subsequent loss of our plans to head overseas set us down a path of difficulty, each of us falling into somewhat of a depression. Yet, that time of grief along with a fairly hard pregnancy brought us closer. I remember in the weeks before Beth was born, sobbing many times at the ache I felt that this huge change on the horizon would be to the detriment of my marriage. I knew I would miss Ty. I knew we wouldn’t be able to maintain the kind of closeness we’d been enjoying with a baby in the mix. I knew romance and spontaneous dates and long conversations over coffee would be hard to come by. I knew having a child would change me fundamentally, and Ty, too. I will never forget the profound sadness that prefaced such a joyous event in our lives.
I wish I could report that Ty and I are closer than ever- that having a child has enriched our marriage and made us strong. That would be a lie. I believe those days are coming. That is a benefit to having so much marriage behind us before the birth of our first. I have precedence that tells me we will get through and that the hard times will bond us. The downside of so much good marriage behind us is that the hard times also feel extra long and lonely and extremely sad. You know what it’s like to be close and in love and enjoying one another daily. The temporary loss of that is hard. I am grateful in times like these that we have chosen not to even use the word “divorce” in any conversation, ever. We agreed from day one that no matter how hard things got, we were staying. We made a vow. We intend to keep it. And I have confidence in God’s strength to maintain the covenant in which the three of us are bound. He will be faithful.
I love these words from my favourite artist, Bethany Barnard, in her song “Covenant”:
// Oh, the covenant that we are living in / It’s more than rings on hands, it’s a “yes” to the unknown / And in seasons of drought, or when famine comes around / we go to the storehouse, to the one who is always faithful.
/ Oh, we can feel the ache / His sovereign hand turns the page / What was easy to say is now staring us down / Is it till death do us part or till a change of heart? / Feelings go so far, but where are we when they’re gone?
/ We are holding on, holding on, yes, we are holding on to Him / As He is holding on, holding on to our covenant //
So, we watched the sunset, neither of us wanting to speak the truth, but the heaviness was palpable. We sat shoulder to shoulder but we may as well have been across the lake from each other. I don’t mean to paint a picture of constant fighting or dislike for one another. Most days are peaceful and we laugh and we smile together over how beautiful our daughter is. It’s just that we aren’t who we used to be as a couple. We are struggling to find ourselves again. We are struggling with the reality that we can’t go back to the way things were, we can only move forward. We are watching the sun set on another year of marriage that has left us more vulnerable and exposed than we were. There are moments, though, when we get a glimpse of the newness around the corner. God is breaking us down and building us into a new creation. We are parents now, not just husband and wife. We are a family now, not just a couple. Praise God that joy comes in the morning.
#43. Watch the sun set. Check.