On May 4, 1996, David and I exchanged vows at Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis. Before my late father walked me down the aisle, I peeked in at the pews full of friends, family and colleagues. For the first time in our eight-month engagement, I had cold feet.
“Forever. That’s a really long time,” I thought.
I started hyperventilating and had to sit down. The jitters lasted about 60 seconds before I pushed them aside. Then my sweet daddy, beaming, walked me down the aisle, where the groom was waiting. Little did I know his big brother, Jim, had just said, “Hey, Dave, my truck is right out back. There’s still time if you want to make a break for it!” Thankfully, he didn’t run.
Forever may sound like a really long time, but when you are married and going through life’s challenges, even one year can sound — and feel — like eternity.
On Sunday, David and I celebrated 18 years. How wonderful that I can use the word “celebrate.” After all, not every day of our marriage has been marked by celebration. That’s okay, though, because I’ve learned marriage, like other aspects of life, is a journey filled with challenging climbs and dark, downward spirals. Somewhere in between, though, are gently rolling hills and sun-filled plateaus.
Over the past 18 years, David and I have shared laughter, tears, incredible joy and excruciating pain.
We have moved cross-country three times and buried three parents. We’ve had two amazing daughters, Serina, 9, and Sophia, almost 7, and evolved into a tight-knit family, complete with a dog, cat and resident Mormor (my mom). We’ve also undergone tremendous growth, individually and as a couple.
There were times we could have given up, maybe even considered giving up, but didn’t.
Our relationship isn’t perfect, but I have learned that no relationship can be perfect because people aren’t perfect. (Brilliant revelation, I know.) Our marriage is perfectly imperfect. Fortunately, love can compensate for imperfections and forgiveness can heal even the deepest wounds, in marriage or otherwise.
I love this reminder from Ephesians 4:32:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
I’m lucky. David is an extremely patient, forgiving, witty and loving husband, not to mention an extremely engaged and loving (and beloved) father. In contrast, I’ve often been selfish, impulsive and temperamental.
Even so, David never gave up on me, nor did he forget the positive traits that drew him toward me in the first place.
I am truly grateful for every step of our 18-year journey, even the ones resulting in trips and falls. We’ve scraped our marital knees, but one of us has always helped the other get back on his or her feet.
I’m no expert in marriage, or relationships in general, but through my mistakes, God has taught me a few critical lessons: Be honest, forgive, encourage, uplift, don’t give up and no matter what hurtful words you may want to say in the heat of the moment, bite your tongue. If you spew out anger, you’ll feel worse and leave one heck of a mess in your wake. (It’s much easier to forego the housecleaning instead of having to reach for the figurative mop.)
Most of all, enjoy the journey. When you’ve hit a rock in the road, find a way around it. When you hurt each other, cleanse the wound with forgiveness and bandage it in love. Then let it heal.
Thank you, David, for 18 years. I promise to do all I can to make this next one the best one yet.