I know I should be organized. I know I should pick out my outfit for work the night before.
But I’m not—and I don’t.
So, no matter how early I get up in the morning, I’m always rushing to get dressed for the day. I open the closet door and I’m faced with choices.
I should wear this new outfit. After all, it’s fun and exciting to wear something new. But the fabric is still a little scratchy, and I’m not really sure if it fits just right, and I don’t have the right accessories to wear with it. So I pass.
I could wear the old reliable outfit. It’s not exciting anymore, but I actually feel more confident in it: it’s more comfortable, I know it fits, and I know what to wear with it. True, it’s been around a while and it’s becoming kind of routine, but I really like it.
But then, I see my favorite outfit: the sweater I have worn so many times it has become a little threadbare around the elbows. We’ve been through a lot together, this sweater and I, and it has some sentimental value as well as being the most comfortable thing I own. Sure, it’s not the most fashionable, and the color has faded a bit over the years, but wearing it makes me feel good.
As I wrap myself in this soft, cozy sweater, something on our bedroom’s wall catches my eye:
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine…
Song of Solomon 6:3
Several years ago, I painted this verse on a canvas and hung it in our bedroom. Today, it is often the first thing I see when I awake in the morning, and it reminds me how precious my marriage is.
I hug my threadbare sweater closer, and I think about the years that have passed since my husband and I began this adventure together.
When our marriage was new, it felt fresh and exciting. There were so many things to discover about my husband, and about myself, as we learned to navigate the uncomfortable newness of this thing called marriage.
And I was a really bad navigator! I was so afraid of doing anything that might rock the boat that I rarely expressed (or even realized) my own wants or needs. This frustrated him because he wanted me to have a voice. In my insecurity, however, I felt that If I spoke up, he would realize he’d made a terrible mistake by marrying me. Sometimes the excitement of marriage felt more like drama, and many times we clashed as we tried to express our thoughts. Like that new outfit of mine, our new marriage was exciting but it wasn’t very comfortable.
After a few years, though, with the help of good mentoring and learning good communication tools, we started to get the hang of this marriage thing. We started to open up and learn how to meet each other’s needs in healthier ways. We were settling into a routine.
And then life got really, really busy. Tyler began a very challenging master’s program while continuing to work full time. His job was nearly an hour’s commute away, and his school was in between our house and his job. Some days he’d go to work early in the morning and wouldn’t get home until long after the kids were in bed. Other days he’d come home but, after a short time of connecting with me and the kids, he would have to study late into the night. Weekends were nonexistent. I tried to support him as best I could while continuing my full time job as a teacher. I took over most of the day-to-day parenting duties for our young daughters and continued my ministry work. Although it was a challenging time, we worked together as a team and we kept our focus on God and our family.
Those were the “old reliable” days: we had confidence in our vision, we learned to pull together as a team, and we were managing our family and our life together well. Some of the excitement of those early years had evened out a bit in the day-to-day duties. Certainly there was less drama, for which we were both thankful!
As I think about it, it was that shared vision that got us through those very challenging times. We knew we were following God’s lead—we knew the importance of raising our kids well, of moving Tyler toward his calling, of my ministry work in the performing arts. We knew what we were working toward and we both knew the importance of that vision and of each other’s place in it.
And now, after 29 years, we have a threadbare marriage.
As I write this, I realize that might sound sort of negative. I mean, is my marriage like an old, ratty sweater, barely holding together? No, that’s what I mean at all!
Maybe I can explain it this way: like that favorite sweater I put on and feel instantly happy and comfortable, my marriage comforts me. When I feel beaten up by the outside world, I retreat to the knowledge that I am protected in this union that has been blessed by God and has stood the test of time. It is an enduring marriage, a marriage wherein I’m totally free to be myself, to be comfortable, to wear no masks. I am secure, I am safe, I am wanted, I am needed.
Today, Tyler and I work together counseling couples at Pure Desire Ministries. My favorite part of this work is when we are able to start helping our clients see their own marriage as a precious gift from God. We teach tools that we have learned along our way, and that we still practice ourselves: the importance of developing a shared vision, staying off the Drama Triangle, looking for the good in each other, expressing appreciation, and establishing security in the relationship.
Our kids are grown and out of our home now. Tyler completed his master’s degree many years ago. My days of ministry in performing arts have come to a close. We’re now realizing that we need a new shared vision.
The excitement and passion that we now share is much more profound than it was in those early years. There is a comfort to this marriage that allows me to truly be myself in a way I could not be when I was newly married.
This threadbare marriage endures because it is rooted in God’s blessing and in a love that has developed because of all we have shared—for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.
I wrap myself in the coziness of this marriage and know there is nowhere else I would rather be, and no one else I would rather be doing life with.
Shari is a Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) and has been part of the Pure Desire Clinical Team since 2011. She also is a Special Education Teacher at David Douglas High School. She has experience in performing arts and ministry. Shari is a contributing author to Unraveled: Managing Love, Sex, and Relationships.