Most days, marriage to me is the most concrete and reassuring thing in the world. My marriage is my home. Okay, maybe not most days, but we can go for like 60:40 here. Then there are days where I think long and hard about the concept of marriage and I have a hard time understanding it. I mean, how you rope two people together for life and not have them want to go homicidal on one another is pretty mind boggling. For another perspective, my sister is my best friend, seriously, that girl is golden and I love being around her… but every day for the rest of my life? That kind of starts to take the shape of a horror movie (if you knew how she played with her siblings growing up, you’d understand). So how do we yoke ourselves to someone we’ve known for a few days/months/years (choose one) for the rest of our lives? That’s weird, man. But hey, we do it all the time.
My mom always said the formula to understanding if a relationship would work is to take the things you love about your person and divide it by 10, then take the things that drive you crazy about your person and multiple it by 10. If you can cope with the depleted good and deal with the amplified bad, you’ve got it made in the shade. But can we all stop for a second and recognize that sometimes the multiplied bad feels more like 50, not 10 and the divided good feels more like it’s by 100? AKA marriage is freakin’ hard.
The other day I was amped up about finding random man-socks tucked into corners of couches and hiding under tables and my husband was amped up that I wouldn’t climb the ladder to grab three of my everyday decorations that were being replaced for Christmas decorations and we just were both. Bothered. To fast forward through the next scenes... I went downstairs in a huff into the guest room and opened the drawer of the nightstand looking for a coaster, and a book I had purchased months ago was laying there, staring me in the face. Titled, “Humility’s Cry” a book written by a young pastor out of Boise. It had been a one-click wonder for me on Amazon, with every intention placed to read it when it arrived on my doorstep and instead, it had gone straight into this nightstand. I opened the book and began reading it right there. I figured it would be a great way to pass the time in my new bunker until hell froze over, or our upstairs just became one massive pile of used socks, or I just got hungry again. What I read in the first 10 pages alone not just spoke to me and my current situation, but it got out a bullhorn, turned it to max volume and screamed it in my ears.
Not gonna lie, we’re gonna get biblical here. If you aren’t into that, bear with me a moment. The book spoke frequently about the burden of the cross. How Jesus carried his cross only to be killed by it and be reborn without the burdens that cross had represented. It spoke of how we all bear a cross, likening it to the saying “everyone is fighting a hard battle”. It went on to say that we all bear our cross that represents this hard battle and we are meant to take up that cross, to carry it, to die as we are (for lack of better word) by it so that we can be born again, free from that burden.
This concept completely baffled me. I had never thought of Jesus’ request that we take up our cross and follow him meant it could be our own, personal cross. Our own burdens. I thought it meant… well I never really did know what it meant. And at first, I was still interpreting in the wrong way. I started to think, well maybe my marriage is my cross… but how does that look? Is my marriage really my worldly burden? How does that even work out well in the end? Then I read a key phrase, that when you “die” by your cross, you “put your selfish nature in the grave”. Crud. I had made the whole chapter about me up until that point. I had been trying to see, to understand it and my own selfish pride was still getting in my way. My marriage wasn’t my cross. Wasn’t my burden. My cross was my pride and my selfish nature. And all you INFJ’s out there might know, my cross was also my blind need for justice.
You see, we all have this inherent need to be heard. To be, maybe not always the loudest voice in the room, and maybe not all the time, but we do all desire to be right. To find justification. I realized that in my marriage, my cross was my battle with pride. This need to feel justified. To feel like I was never doing anything wrong and that in the heat of the moment, I needed justice for any words said or feelings shared. My pride had turned into this big, fat, ugly cross with barbed wire wrapped around it, its core filled with cement.
That one sentence, “put your selfish nature in the grave” made it all make sense. I needed to see my selfishness and pride straight into the ground. Bury it six feet under and step away from it. Pride was the big, smelly wedge driving into the heart of my marriage, not my husband’s smartwools.
When I read that, it created a shift in me. Marriage isn’t a battle of who is more right, who was wronged more, who is more justified for an apology. Marriage is choosing to bury your pride in the ground and respect one another, to dig deep (sometimes really, really deep) and choose unity over justice. Because where justice can be the quick and easy solution, it can also be so blind, rigid and cold. But choosing empathy and understanding, while sometimes pulled with more effort, is all-seeing, accepting and warm.
Now I want to make a point clear right now. I still get extremely perturbed when I find a used sock in the middle of the hallways or at the foot of the bed on my side. And he still gets extremely perturbed at me for things I don’t understand. Understanding that my pride and selfishness is what comes between myself and a healthier marriage did not create this magically healthy marriage. But let me tell you, when you discover that you are getting in your own way, in any walk of your life that has become a struggle, it makes understanding how to navigate that walk a whole lot clearer.
Now excuse me while I go used sock hunting in the couch. Oh, and good luck with the personal cross you are walking with today. I am here beside you with mine. You got this.