24 years ago we made a vow…

Tim and I promised each other, twenty-four years ago today, that no matter what, come hell or high water, we would stay and fight for our marriage. Hell has come and the water has risen until it was so deep we had to learn to swim… or float… or doggy paddle; anything to keep our heads above water. We’ve struggled to hold true to those promises in various ways, and multiple times.

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Our first baby was born nine months, one week, one day and two hours after that ceremony. (But who’s counting? Especially when eight months and 3 weeks would have raised the eyebrows of more than a few.) In the 6 years that followed, God blessed us with five more healthy children, and carried us through losing two others. We cried. We misunderstood how the other grieves, and at times felt hopelessly lost in this thing we call marriage.

Over the years we both have been in situations at various times that, if we had been so inclined, could have led to infidelity and unfaithfulness. But we communicated and risked opening our hearts to each other. Sometimes it meant one of us seeing the risk the other was in, and sometimes it meant seeing it ourselves and together working through navigating those relationships… and ending them.

We’ve each failed the other. We’ve looked out for our own interests instead of the other. We’ve had to own our wrongs, and say “I’m sorry”. And, when we could have walked away from each other, always we chose to stay and forgive, and support each other.

We’ve had crises and challenges and blessings, all blended together into a sometimes confusing mosaic. But when I step back, I see beauty, love and grace. We’ve hurt each other and been disappointed, and wondered if we’d make it through. Yet we’ve never, even in the hell of life, stopped loving. Even in our ‘fights’ – such as they tend to be with both of us not liking conflict – we have kept our love alive. (Yes, you can be angry and love someone. You can hurt deeply, and love them. And you can look at them and say “I still love you… I just can’t keep doing life this way”.)

I am, by nature – or maybe because of past experience – a hedgehog with rhino tendencies. I extend grace, and more grace, and more grace, and then something tips the building blocks neatly stacked, and it all comes tumbling down. And when it all erupts, we haven’t much choice but to stumble through the mess on the floor and work through it. Tim is, by nature, a hedgehog. That’s how we did the first ‘many’ years of marriage, as two hedgehogs – one with rhino tendencies.

Gradually we have learned (and are learning still) that if we talk about things as they happen – which we have done times since all hell broke loose nearly two years ago -things are so much better. When I’m cranky, I take inventory about what’s happening to my heart. Sometimes it’s just hormones. (Seriously! this middle-aged stuff…!)  But it’s not all bad. As my naturopath Dr. Jim Farquarson told me, it’s a time when God invites us to the past and heals a lot of stuff that we’ve ignored. (Okay. I can do that!)  Sometimes when I’m feeling hurt it is the result of a subtle little thing that I’ve decided ‘isn’t a big deal’ because I want to be mature. Many times that works and such grace is good. But sometimes, if it lingers, the best thing for me to do is to tell Tim. I’ve learned that often if I tell him, it breaks that negative power, and it’s over “just like that!” with the little things that build up and cause explosions. So we have less and less ‘Mt. St. Helen’ moments in our marriage all the time, and more peace.

Through it all, we’ve never stopped holding and loving each other. Sure, a few times there were several days of space and distance while we sorted ourselves out, but rarely did that stop us snuggling, even if in silence, and often falling asleep in each other’s arms. That intimacy of physical closeness – with or without sex – has been critical to us thriving. (Please understand, Tim has never violated me physically or sexually. Not in word, not in deed, not in an affair, and not by using pornography. This deeply impacts my trust in physical touch. He has hurt me in other ways, but not sexually. If that is your marriage, I encourage you to seek help. And, in any case, please don’t compare with us. Every story is different.)

Our closest friends have seen our struggles, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t know if we’d have survived if we had kept it all secret. (Special thanks to these closest friends who knew the battles and loved us anyway. In part it is thanks to you we survived those times and came out thriving!) I’m good with confidentiality, but I’m not good at ‘hidden things’ and ‘secrets’, so having safe places to process hurt and anger has been a lifesaver for me, and for us. Twenty-four years later, I spend my life with my best friend because we pushed through those struggles, and are pushing through still.

Tim, you are my best friend. I can imagine my future a thousand different ways and be excited about it. From continuing in our ‘extraordinary ordinary’ life… to pursuing my PhD (scared as I feel at moments), or being rejected from the PhD program… From staying where we live now, to downsizing as our family continues to shrink… I can imagine staying home more, or working a 9 – 5 job, or pursuing my current line of work more – or some variation of it….

I can imagine my future a thousand and one different ways and be excited. But I cannot imagine a future without you…  without my heart breaking.

You are my best friend, my lover, my constant support. In the past two years you have carried me through deep loss and grief. When my heart was so crushed it physically hurt to breathe, you held me. I don’t cry easily, even when life hurts like hell, but in your arms the tears unlock and I am comforted by your love. You have healed me and built confidence in me. You’ve showed me that amazing men exist; men who don’t worship sex, porn and control. (And as I said last week… thank you for staying away from that stuff. In this you honour our marriage so well, and spare me the shame and betrayal many women feel.)

Because of you I generally view men as trustworthy in spite of my past, and because of you I feel respected by all men. You have taught me the stability of faithfulness through the certainty of your love. You call out my strengths, you challenge, you encourage and above all, you bless me. You have learned to fight for me… for us. And you have, in all of these things, showed me the heart of God. Because of you, I trust Him with all that I am… because you have showed me that He is trustworthy. Your faithfulness replaced fear and terror of Him, with love and trust, and helped me see that He adores me.

And if next week some hell hits, or the crick begins to rise, we will paddle and swim and float… And we will fight our way forward. I love you, with all my heart! Happy 24th Anniversary!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

To Love, Honour, and … Whoa!! … ‘say what??’ (A glimpse into our marriage, on our anniversary)

t&t127Twenty-one years ago, today,  I walked down the aisle of Countryside Mennonite Fellowship, alone, toward my ‘soon to be husband’. In our culture the father didn’t walk the bride down the aisle, back then.

I was on the verge of the most amazing years of my life, and making promises, most sincerely, with no concept of their experiential meaning.  How could I? It was all new, uncharted territory. But I understood the words, and I meant every one. And I still do.

My expectation of marriage was simple: love and be loved. I had longed my whole life to feel safe, loved and valued, and that’s what ‘love and be loved’ meant to me. In this way, I entered marriage most practically, and that worked out well because my husband is a practical man. For Christmas, weeks before our wedding, he gave me an apron. He gave me some other gifts too, but it’s the apron I remember most. And I still laugh about it, just like I did then. It’s in my kitchen, having lasted all these years because I’m just not an ‘apron kind of girl’. My kids wear it, now end then, and always it makes me smile. Only recently I told them the story for the first time and one of my teens laughed at the idea of their daddy giving me an apron. “And it was free!” I added, drawing another burst of laughter. Tim had won that apron at a curling bonspiel. What else was he to do with it? The dusty rose colour, with quilted pattern, really wasn’t his colour.

We’ve never been the kind of couple to indulge in the constant spilling of endearing terms. We tried it. And we still do, on occasion, but it’s not really us. The most likely to come from me is ‘My Love’, and it warms my heart if it does nothing for his, just to say it, because he is my one true love. I’m crazy about this man I married. And sometimes I’m just crazy in a whole different way, and he still loves me. He calls me ‘Precious’ and ‘Beautiful’. But not often, and that’s okay. When he does my heart dances in a little flip-flop, all out of rhythm and off-beat, because I know he’s practical and there’s nothing practical about that language.

My favourite thing is when he squeezes my toes when he walks by our bed…  or when he sees me coming, and positions himself with arms open, just because he knows how much I love hugs. Simply being held can make my very upside down world flip upright pretty fast, when he has his arms around me. And he knows it. When I’m sad, and he holds me like that and kisses my forehead, I know I’ll get through it. In these little ways he calms storms in my heart and my spirit, and offers security. Or when he randomly starts praying for me, and I don’t even realize at first that it is a prayer, and I’m about to ask, “What was that?” and then it registers, he’s praying… talking to God about me.  When things are really hard and he’s praying, and says to God “Your daughter is tired”,  or some such thing, I remember Whose I am, first and foremost. And I wonder if it makes God smile, just a little, to have Tim hold me up that way, as if reminding Him I belong to Him. Or maybe it’s Tim’s way of saying, “God, this one is over my head… You take it from here.” Either way, my heart feels safest in those moments.

Every day isn’t like that. Some days we are busy and forget these things. Some days we’re struggling through our own things, or in our relationship, and we overlook each other or take our love for granted. Sometimes we’re even cross with each other. Those days we have to work a lot harder at seeing all the wonderful and beautiful things God has blessed us with.

And then there’s the days when we flirt with each other all day long, in little ways… or maybe sneak in just one moment… Like last night. Tim looked at the wishbone on the window sill and commented on no one having made a wish. I liked the wishbone when I was a kid. We siblings tried to sneak it away to dry, because it breaks so much better, and I always loved that mom kept it. So I keep it too, most of the time.

“Let’s do it!” I said, picking up the wishbone and offering Tim one side. I made sure our grip was fair, and then we pulled. He won. That was my wish, that he would win. But I didn’t tell him that. I always make dumb wishes because I don’t believe in it anyway, and it’s more fun in my head. He smiled, a secret “I had a cool wish’ kind of smile.

“So, what was your wish?” I asked.

“I can’t tell! Then it won’t come true!” he said.

“That’s for birthday cake wishes,” I said. “It works differently with wishbones.” He looked skeptical and I tried to look as convincing as I could, to no avail. I kept asking, making flirtatious eyes at him…. I tried the sassy wiggle… But he just grinned and defended his position. And then I saw the twinkle in his eyes and I knew…

“Ha!” I said, “I know what you wished for!” I had been away for the weekend, and felt unwell upon return, and then was busy for a few days…. and each night we hit our pillows…  “I know exactly what you wished for!”

“I’ll never tell,” he said, and kept grinning.

“You don’t have to! …but… I bet I can make your wish come true!” I said.  It ended there, until much later,  and we moved on to other things, to the normal busyness of life, as is necessary with a family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because we love these five people God has brought into our home. But sneaking in these moments of playfulness and secret flirting is a healthy part of marriage, and keeping our love alive and young.

Back to all those promises, made many years ago… I’ve had no difficulty loving Tim, most of the time. I’ve been more of a challenge, with all my broken pieces to heal, though Tim never let on how hard it was, loving me. He just kept on loving. And when it got difficult for either of us, even when it would have been easier to quit, we battled through the hard times together. We have no regrets for pushing through and learning to tread water when we felt like we were drowning! Those hard times only made our love stronger.

The honour thing has also been easy for me, but not because I am some saint. It’s been easy because Tim has made it easy. In twenty-one years of marriage he has made mistakes, just as I have, but he has been a leader like I’ve never known in my life. His gentle, patient love and acceptance have showed me the heart of God, my Father… my Papa… in a way not one other human has. And there are others who have done well. But not as well as he has…. as a husband, and as a daddy to our children. So I honour him easily.

In practical reality, I have a policy to never confront or correct him in public, or speak in a way that belittles him, or is critical. It’s a decision I made a few weeks after our wedding when I heard a woman challenge her husband when he exaggerated in his story telling, and I saw the look in that man’s eyes. I vowed then I would respectfully ask Tim about it in private, if I felt he misrepresented facts or needed correcting. Even in this way, the ‘honouring’ has been about as easy as the loving, because Tim is not a man to inflate a story, for the sake of his ego. His weaknesses are in other areas, but they are my little secrets.

The third part of the vows, the ‘obeying’ part has always bewildered me a bit, in all honesty.  I get it about honour, respect and love, but slip in that word ‘obey’, and it all gets a bit murky for me.  And it’s not because Tim is a ‘lord it over people’ kind of man. He’s not. He’s a servant at heart, and what’s in his heart comes out in day-to-day living. Even the word ‘reverence’… yeah, that one I can understand, especially with a husband who is so kind. A long time ago–when I learned that in one culture, in Egypt I believe it was, a woman greets her husband at the door, kneeling before him while he places his hands on her head in blessing–I asked Tim if I could do that. To meet him at the door every day, and kneel before him, and have his hands on my head so he could bless me sounded like a wonderful thing! He grinned and, in an almost exasperated tone, said I wasn’t  allowed to do any such thing. I still think about it sometimes, but I’m kind of glad now, because my knees aren’t very good and he blesses me just fine standing up. Anyway, I get the reverence thing.

Letting Tim lead makes sense. Sharing the responsibility of parenting and each of us having a unique role… For sure! I’m not too threatened by our gender differences.   Not agreeing all the time, and ‘submitting to one another’ is about partnership, and it’s biblical, so we try to live that way.  And, believe it or not, giving him a lead role and ‘submitting’ to that leadership… even that doesn’t frighten me. He is easy to submit to, because he lives a life of surrender and Christ-like servant-hood, and always takes my heart into account when he makes decisions. He listens closely to my desires, my dreams and my fears, and he looks to me for input, so when he makes a decision it is balanced with all of those things. It hasn’t always been, but most of the time it has, and is. So his ‘authority’ and my ‘submission’ means nothing to me in the way of being degraded or demoralized, as some view ‘submission’ and authority. Rather, it means there is someone watching over me, offering me protection, care and support. And I like that! It means that when he blesses what I do, I do it with personal passion and his blessing. Bonus! And when he says ‘no’ or ‘wait’, I trust he is doing it for my best interest.

So, regardless of the wording we choose, and whatever is or is not lost in translation when we say ‘obey’, I am blessed to have a husband whom I love and honour, and under whose authority and leadership I willingly place myself. I am blessed that he never takes advantage of me, or abuses my trust or his leadership. Rather, it is to him that I owe my thanks, for using his place in my life to empower me, launch me, and bless me. I have accomplished more because he is in my life, than I would ever have done on my own!

If I had to make the decision again, to walk down that aisle alone, as I did 21 years ago, I would! And if I was to say vows again,  understanding their experiential significance, I would still promise to love and honour Tim, and accept him as my leader, to be protected and empowered by his authority.

tim & trudy 1994

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Thank you My Love. Happy Anniversary! 

Love,

~ T ~

 

© Trudy Metzger

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