20 years ago, I walked excitedly down a church aisle to my grinning man. Standing on the wooden steps, light streaming in from the high windows, we said our first yeses to one another as husband and wife.
Marriage starts with a yes. We enter in bravely saying, “Yes, I will journey this life with you,” most of us barely knowing what that will really mean.
That first yes is easy. But what is the secret to staying married for the long haul?
Marriage is a million yeses.
We say yes to doing the dishes, getting up with the kid in the middle of the night, mowing the lawn, and a thousand other tasks we would probably rather not do.
We choose to step toward reconciliation when we’ve disagreed, to forgive, to admit wrong.
Decisions are made to deny our own desires, our ways, our plans, and allow someone else’s wants and needs to trump our own.
We overlook the offense, accept the quirks, smile instead of frown at the annoying habit, knowing that the thing that bothers us will probably happen again tomorrow.
Wrinkles, receding hairlines, stretch marks, and pot bellies we accept into the story.
Walking together through the valleys and the challenges, going places we would rather not go, is a choice we make.
We commit to being in their court even if no one else is.
Naked vulnerability, physically and emotionally, becomes part of how we live.
We sign on daily to bear witness to someone else’s ordinary and extraordinary moments.
We say yes to all of this and more.
Sometimes a yes is easy.
It feels like the most natural thing in the world. We say it gladly, as though it was what we were made for.
But other days, a yes is sacrificial, so hard we feel like we deserve a medal for it (note: my husband should have oodles of medals for saying yes to me. He’s on track for sainthood).
Some days a yes asks too much humility, too much vulnerability, when our hearts are already raw. It’s tempting, in those times, to let our yeses become nos. The more we do that, the more our hearts close.
Some days we determine that our spouses don’t deserve a yes, and we’re right. So often they don’t (and neither do we).
But this is where we’re called back to the economy of the Kingdom, which says we have been overwhelmed with what we don’t deserve, and we are called to model our lives and marriages after our Savior. God says yes to us again and again, moving toward us despite our response or worthiness.
Each time we choose to move toward each other, we create a greater space for the other to rest in, a place of acceptance, grace, love, and commitment, of belonging, permanence, and rootedness. The yeses deepen our dependence on each other, claiming ground in each others’ hearts.Each yes to our spouse is a reflection of the relentless, pursuing love of God.
This is the opportunity we have, not only in marriage, but in all relationships-to say yes when it’s hard, when we’d rather go our own way, and serve ourselves. We journey well together when we choose to give and move toward each other, holding tight, leaning on each other.
So we keep saying yes, day after day, year after year. That’s the secret to how we got here. And it’s how we’ll keep going.