“She is too young to really see what’s coming.”
This was a comment made on one of my recent videos on the beauty of the sacrament of marriage.
I’m going to bypass the problem of condescension that happy newlyweds and new mothers encounter for a moment here and unpack that on a future day.
Everyone’s experiences of marriage are different…everyone’s life experiences take on different colors and shapes…but I see cheerful newlyweds met with one sentence all too often...
“Just you wait.”
Just you wait until you see what is to come, just you wait until you see how hard it will be one day. You think you’ve dealt with the tough stuff. Just. you. wait.
I am not annoyed by this woman’s comments, nor am I offended - I am completely open to people saying what they want about me and my outlook on anything as I put myself out there for the free receipt of any commentary. I do find it interesting, however, that people think that age makes people naive or that cheerfulness or joy is a sign of naiveté…especially about marriage.
There is not a person in this world who knows what another individual has witnessed within the marriages that surround them. When I was a small child, we took family trips to visit my grandparents in Philadelphia. I was able to witness my grandmother care for my very sick grandfather, bound to a wheelchair and quite dependent on her love and care. My parents have been married for over 31 years, an example of stunning unconditional love through incredible highs and incredible lows.
She is too young to really see what is coming.
I was quite young when I witnessed what can come. When I was 12 years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was a very, very challenging time for our family...and I, a small girl, watched “sickness and health” play out - in the most heart-wrenching, concrete, beautiful way - right before my eyes. I witnessed the hanging on. I witnessed the care and the suffering. I witnessed the fear of losing my mother and watched my father live out his vow. I have witnessed what it means to walk and breathe and live one’s wedding vows for the last 27 years of my life through my parents’ marriage.
I have watched friends and acquaintances work through serious illness, infidelity, addiction, and more in their marriages. I have watched them face problems the world would tell them are legitimate reason to take off, to part ways, to split…and I have watched them dig in their heels and stay. As they have hung on they have taught me what it looks like to strengthen your resolve and hang on when the storms rage.
It is incredible what you can learn by paying attention.
I hold a firm (and perhaps unconventional) belief that if marriage was really such a nightmare married couples would not attend weddings. I think if marriage was so awful and they attended weddings they would stand up and say “DON’T DO IT - YOU’RE MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE!” They absolutely would not let the people they love go through with it. But married couples do attend weddings. Couples who have been married 20, 30, 40, 50 years attend weddings. And they have all seen what is coming. Not a single one stands up and stops any of it. Many married people came to our wedding - friends and family who have been married for 5 years, 10 years, our parents who have both been married 30+ years. And what I saw was a small beach house lit up on a chilly December night filled with one hundred beautiful friends and many married couples smiling at each other, holding one another close on the dance floor and smiling joyfully into each other's eyes.
I was not too young to see the couples surrounding us on that night who have dug in deep when the going got ugly and decided…we made a vow…we will press on, hand in hand. I watched couples who possess a love incalculably rich and deep - who know secrets only they know, only the two of them who know every turn their marriage has taken, every conversation, every moment of love and laughter that they have shared.
I have so very much to learn about my husband and about marriage, but I have seen an expansive array of what could possibly be ahead for us. Only God knows what lies ahead, but I hold a deep awareness that life can be impossibly difficult and that Daniël and I will experience great hardship. It does not mean, however, that I will spend my days listening to those who tell me to wait for those hard times.
Anticipating the bad times when you are living in the good ones is not a helpful or happy way for anyone to live at all.
Perhaps people who are cheerful about marriage are not necessarily naive about it…perhaps they have seen the worst, and they are grateful to have the person they do have to walk beside them for when the worst in their life does come to be. Some may call it naiveté. I call it a choice. It is the choice to keep building on a firm foundation rather than a hill of sand, so that when the days and months and years are not joyful or happy or fun at all, there is a core to everything that we are together…the core of our faith and the heart of Jesus Christ…the Savior of the world who does not call us to the easy but calls us to the purifying and to the beautiful.