I remember when we were first married that we were often told, “Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep burning, unquenchable.” When we were first married, I thought our love was built on a solid foundation (and indeed, compared to many it was). I was tempted to naively believe that ours was the deep and unquenchable love of disciplined and older hearts. I romanticized our love and our marriage, unaware of the hard path ahead. But over six years of marriage, if there is one thing I have learned it is this: hardships and sacrifice are what transform a marriage and fortify its foundation.
One year ago, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Not because I didn’t love Nick, but precisely because I did love him, and in the midst of my postpartum depression and anxiety, I despaired about how I could ever love him the way he deserved. I allowed the devil’s lie of “you aren’t good enough” to cast doubt about my marriage. In the depths of my depression, in my worst moments, I told Nick that any other woman would be better for him than me. I was certain that I was a failure, that I was toxic for Nick, that I couldn’t be the wife he deserved. Over the past year, I have learned these are all lies, deceptions whispered in vain attempts to tear apart what God has joined together.
Over the past year, I have examined all the lies I believed about marriage. I have come to realize that I had believed that I was responsible for Nick’s emotions, and felt I was a failure whenever I couldn’t keep Nick happy. What a burden—being responsible for your spouse’s every fleeting emotion! As I let go of that false responsibility, our marriage began to heal. I began to heal. Anxiety that I had carried for five years of our marriage began to evaporate. I was given the freedom to enjoy the little moments with my spouse instead of worrying constantly about the emotions of all around me.
In one year of our marriage, we have dealt with my postpartum depression and anxiety, resigning my teaching position, a months long job search, unexpected death, and deciding to move our family to a new state. I have learned how to better support and encourage my husband through hardships. I have learned how to show Nick deeper respect and allow him to lead.
We have built ourselves a fortress, made possible only by all the hardships that have forged our marriage in fire as iron sharpens iron. I can now look at Nicholas and be confident in his leadership in a way that wasn’t previously possible for us. I’ve seen the fires we can walk through together when I allow Nick to lead, when I place God at the center of our marriage. I now understand G.K. Chesterton’s quote, “Marriage is a great adventure, like going off to war.”
We are at war. But it is not each other with whom we are at war; we are at war with the world who tells us to give up, at war with those who encourage us to selfishly pursue our own interests, at war with the devil who tries to tell us that the sacrifice is not worth it.
When we were still discerning whether to go through the move to Pittsburgh, Nick put on a song and told me to listen to the lyrics carefully. He told me, “one year ago, you wouldn’t have understood this song, but now I think this is our song.” I listened, I cried, and as Nick held my hand, in that moment I knew: it didn’t matter where we lived, so long as we had each other, we would be home. I found in that song a microcosm of our year,
A house made out of glass will surely shatter,
So we built a fortress of red bricks and ladders,
The ground, it started shaking,
The bombs are falling,
We could’ve walked away,
We had a warning,
You asked me how long I’d stay by your side,-Till the Casket Drops, ZZ Ward
So I answered with only just one reply, Till the casket drops,
Till my dying day,
Till my heartbeat stops,
Till my legs just break.
We had every warning. Every chance to walk away from each other. Every chance to choose ourselves. To decide that our marriage wasn’t worth the sacrifice. And yet, instead, as the bombs have fallen all around us this year, we have turned to each other. We have asked each other, “how long will you stay by my side?” and the response has always been, “Till the casket drops.”
I love you Nicholas, and I am so grateful for the fortress we have built together. I look forward to many more years of love and sacrifice, of fortifying the foundation of our marriage, of proving to you that I will love you until the casket drops and beyond.