A month or so ago we were swimming and Kate seemed surprised to discover that I had my wedding ring on. "Is it waterproof?" she asked. I assured her it was. That innocent question led me to think seriously about all the kinds of "proof" my ring has been in the last thirteen years. It has never come off, with the exception of three pregnancies when my fingers were too swollen to wear it. Since it was placed on my finger over a decade ago it has been clinical depression proof, sleep deprivation proof, job change proof, finish school with two children under the age of 3 proof, move multiple times proof, answer the call to ministry proof, job loss proof, broke down cars proof, experience the death of loved ones proof, financial struggles proof, scary medical issues proof, crazy work schedule proof, we have no idea what we are doing with our children proof, and we have no idea what we are doing in life proof.
I don't write this to say that there has been no romance or fun. That is far from the truth. I write this because more and more I hear people talk about long lasting, successful marriages as if they magically happen to people who are lucky, As if there are a certain few people who are just blessed with amazing lives that never have problems and their days are full of breakfast in bed and flowers everyday. I'm a hopeless romantic, so I like those things. But sitting at that wedding reception it dawned on me that while a wedding is a time to celebrate a new life being forged and the fresh, fun, romantic part of love, it is also a chance to celebrate the marriages that are in the trenches of those vows; vows that don't just apply on the wedding day.
I used to hate to hear people say that relationships are "hard work" and you have to "fight for your marriage". I was married at the wise, mature age of 20 and I couldn't believe people had to fight and work hard. What sad, sorry relationships they had! Well, a few years and some hard days later, I'm here to say that relationships are hard and you have to fight for them! Sitting at a wedding I now both reminisce about our innocent, fun, romantic early days, but more than that I treasure the hard days. I do, I treasure them. Because it is fun to think of our happy days, but it is life-altering to think of the hard days. To realize that during times when it would have been so easy to push each other away, you held on for dear life and knew that you had something worth fighting for. To know that the hard days grew a compassion and a connection you only get with someone who has walked the hard roads with you.
I used to dream that my children would grow up seeing a love story to rival the movies. That they would know nothing but parents with stars in their eyes who doted on one another constantly. I pray that they do see those times often enough. But I also understand the value now that one day when their Daddy stands up to give a speech and says, "There will be good days and there will be bad days" he will speak as one with experience. That the example that has been set for them has been one of parents who gave and received unconditional love. Parents who weathered the storms and never gave up on rebuilding what life tried to tear down. Parents who learned to fight for each other instead of against each other. Parents who decided their relationship was going to be waterproof and every kind of proof it needed to be.