To start the celebration–and it is a celebration!– of our 38th anniversary this morning, my sweet husband offered to bring me coffee in bed. This gesture is far more significant than you are thinking it is because after 38 years together, Dan is still a serious non-coffee-drinker– so this was unquestionably a sincere and meaningful act of sacrificial love on his part. The thought was totally beautiful. Even if the coffee wasn’t.
Did I mention we have a Keurig? From the kitchen, Dan called out, “Should I use the same cup?” Having been up already much earlier, I’d already had a cup of coffee. So I called back, “Absolutely!” It turns out that while I was referring to my coffee mug, Dan was referring to the used “K”-cup still in the machine.
All that to say that after 38 years, our marriage has not been a total success afterall– but the fact that we’ve figured that out is, in itself, perfect marital success!
Thirty-eight years ago, when we began sharing our lives together, I had a very clear preconceived idea of what our marriage was going to be– specifically, I imagined sitting together at the breakfast table, gazing into each other’s eyes as we chatted over coffee each morning. To me, that symbolized the picture of true marital bliss, of what I wanted in our relationship. I have no idea where that picture came from, but since the idea was mine, of course it must have been right for me to expect it.
Perhaps it came from the hours and hours we spent sitting and gazing into each others’ eyes together in the coffee shop at the Bible college where we met and fell in love? How, in all those times, did I never notice that it wasn’t “coffee” he had come for??? In reality, Dan neither drank coffee, nor (as I learned very quickly) did he “sit” for very long! Right from the start, my picture of marriage was not coming together in the smooth, easy way I had expected.
Coffee wasn’t the only thing we didn’t have in common. In all those hours we’d spent together, I wonder how is it that neither of us had noticed how very different we were from each other? Dan, with his Mennonite background and me, with my Pentecostal background… He an American of Swiss heritage, me a Canadian,100% Ukrainian in heritage…Why hadn’t we noticed the major glitches!? While I’d been so attracted to the serious, thoughtful discussions that made me feel intelligent and capable of deeper thoughts and ideas, I failed to pay attention to the fact that this serious nature was Dan’s normal personality. And–believe me– at the time, he himself was also blinded to the silly, goofy part of me that I hidden so well back then.
We weren’t married for very long when I let loose one day and got really silly– and I will never forget the incredulous look of shock that swept over him. Both of us stood in stunned silence, staring at each other, each of us wondering who this other person was. He stood there, shocked to see such an immature emotional display, while I stood shocked to realize that this serious, intelligent person had no sense of humor. At all. Reality hit hard.
But over time, in many ways, we both learned the hard way that our own perspective was not necessarily always the “right” one. Marriage is so good at dismantling one’s stubborness and self-focus! Learning– over time and by God’s amazing grace– to see life from the perspective of the other has eventually broadened and strengthened both of us. And in the process of it, we’ve both changed. For the better. Over time, we both found ourselves turning further away from our own stubborn perspectives, eagerly wanting more and more to know what God’s perspective was. And when that happened, we found ourselves, amazingly, growing together!
Just try to imagine what happens to anything after thirty-eight years of an investment. It becomes a treasure that you’d be a fool to let go of. By God’s grace, together, we’ve chipped away at the rough edges. We’ve both changed and grown, and died a little so we could find resurrection life in ways we would never have imagined. Together we’ve become a brand new shape that’s emerged from the pressures and the incredible joys of life. Raw, rough material has become something unbelievably beautiful and amazing to me.
Thirty-eight years later, both Dan and I can look back and see what a perfect match we were. From two such totally different starting points, over the process of time we have been forged into something totally new: it’s not “him” and “me”– it’s “us!”
Dan still doesn’t drink coffee. But I’ve stopped wanting him to. And to please me, he makes me a cup sometimes– or better still, buys me one. As wonderful as those times were when we sat in the coffeeshop gazing into each other’s eyes, I’d never trade what we have now. These days, we’re holding hands and looking ahead together. I had no idea that the real thing could be this good.
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