Last night, Dennis and I went out to an inexpensive dinner at our favorite place "Noodles & Company" and then to an MSU basketball game, with a nightcap of milkshakes at a late night diner. It wasn't the most romantic date we ever had, but it was a fun one. We enjoy each other's company now just as much (if not more) as we did before we even dated in college. When we were "just friends" without any expectations of "something more".
When "something more" did develop eventually, it was almost too exciting. I look at pictures of myself from back then, I was definately in some kind of exhilerated stupor. I held back my feelings about Dennis for a couple of years, and when we finally got to the place where we actually shared how we felt about the other, I guess all those supressed emotions just busted out all over the place.
Of course, I'm looking back, seeing all the good stuff, forgetting most of the struggles. I'm tempted right now to make it sound like everything was more perfect than it was. I'm tempted to gloss over the fact that Dennis and I were less the perfect people back then, just as much as we are now. And I've learned a lot since those emotionally heady days.
I'm a complusive journal keeper, and have been since middle school. But I didn't write much during our brief courtship. I think I poured all my writing energies into writing letters to Dennis during that time, since Dennis was working in California. I regret this now, because having a journal would help me be a lot more accurate in my memories. I do recall some days of feeling very strong and then others of feeling very vulnerable, especially in realizing that I had thrown my whole lot together with Dennis, who, like a man, took bigger risks and made bigger changes than I did my whole entire timid and narrow life. Would I truly go with this man?
After a few months, after Dennis made some more radical changes over the radical changes he just made--his path was not a straight or fearful one--I realized that going with this man would be impossible unless I go with God first. And every lesson along the way came down to that basic revelation. Through Dennis, God was going to rock my world, and He wanted me to trust Him. "Hold on tight, Thea, buck up and keep your eyes wide open looking for Me..." Well, that's my paraphrase of "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
Marriage is many things, among them a friendship, a partnership, a companionship and an adventure. The relationship itself will have highs and lows, pleasures and pains as well as peace and struggles. There will be nonstop talking and also some phases of silence, but mostly something in-between. The profound knowing each other isn't something that happens in a year or even five. I think that really deep intimacy takes at least 10 years to appear in a marriage--at least. At least 10 years of failing and forgiving each other. Of learning how to understand each other's languages. Of spiritual fellowship. Of ministry partnering. Of supporting each other through losses and gains. Of mundane things. Of grace. Of transitions. Of repetitiveness. But biblically, marriage is a lot more than all this.
That God could take two wildly different people like Dennis and me and make us one is quite amazing. I wanted oneness from the get go--I imagined marriage to be like some Vulcan mind meld where Dennis would immediately sense what I was thinking and feeling and vice versa. And although marriage is being one with the other, spiritually and physically, I think that emotionally and mentally it takes more time, mostly because of our sin natures. When I dealt with my unrealistic expectations, I was able to enjoy our marriage a lot more. The Vulcan mind meld doesn't happen, if it is, then someone is fooling themselves by attempting to control the spouse. I love Dennis for the man he is--the separate human being God created and re-created him in Christ to be. I appreciate everything about him that is unique to him and no one else. And I marvel at the part of him that is joined to me that makes us "us".
Before Dennis proposed to me, I spent time with a friend who was in her 60's and had been married a while. She and her husband had been missionaries and were training missionaries at the time, as well as heavily involved with international student ministries. She said that learning how to adapt to change was vital in preparing for the mission field. I know for a fact that being an adaptable person was not my strong suit then, even though I was unaware of it. But over the years, God chiseled away at my inflexibility through Dennis among other things. Maybe that is why I have gone through so many addresses, more than anyone else I know. It took that much. Then working for a company that has gone through what my boss calls a "paradigm shift" in the last two years. In his evaluation recently, he stated that I adapted very well despite all the changes and transitions.
In other words, I have finally learned a little how to hang on, buck up and keep my eyes wide open for the Lord.