Today marks mine and Dean’s seven year anniversary of marriage. I have seen this marriage challenge floating around on Facebook, and someone actually challenged me a while back, but I thought I would save it for August. The challenge is to post a picture of you and your husband or wife every day for a week and say something loving about your spouse. I’m switching it up a bit.
I will be posting a blog entry each day with a picture and a lesson learned from the corresponding year of marriage. So, day 1 (today) will be about mine and Dean’s first year of marriage. I know, I know, who cares what we learned in marriage aside from me and Dean…but these aren’t those mushy gushy “I learned that love conquers all (…it does though)” lessons that make everyone jealous of a love that is only a small fraction of what marriage actually looks like. And these aren’t the husband bashing lessons that women sometimes find themselves ensnared in after the toilet seat has been left up one too many times in the middle of the night and with a butt drenched in cold toilet water and her knees pressed into her chest she thinks, “Marriage has taught me how to get out of a toilet bowl.” (Side note: Dean grew up with all sisters and never leaves the toilet seat up…praise Jesus!) These posts will be real life, real marriage lessons that I have learned- one lesson for each year and hopefully a picture to accompany it.
2009: The Honeymoon Phase
When Dean and I would tell people how long we were married they would say, “Oh, the honey moon phase!” and I would return their statement with a fake cheesy smile and nod as if to say, “yep, we are like rabbits…sex…lots of sex…it’s all about the sex. We like each other so much we can’t stop having sex…” But really, I felt like there must be something wrong with me, because this year of marriage did not feel like a leisurely stroll along a tropical beach with my small delicate hand pressed into Dean’s big strong hand and it definitely didn’t feel like lots of love making in a giant fluffy bed draped with gossamer curtains. At no point did Dean chase me down a beach at sunset and then gather me up in his arms and spin me around while kissing me passionately.
But then again…my honeymoon was nothing like that, so I’m not sure why I expected our honeymoon phase to be like that. On our honeymoon I wanted to sleep and read and Dean wanted to play games. I got sick and Dean tried to help but didn’t quite understand. A giant palmetto bug fell on my face while I slept and when I woke up screaming Dean came to my rescue saying, “it was just a dream” and then realizing it wasn’t a dream he chased the bug around the room in an attempt to kill it. And now, 7 years later, I realize that we were indeed, in the honeymoon phase after all, it just turns out our honeymoon was a little different than I expected. (Don’t worry…this is not about sex…)
It was the evening of day 2 backpacking through the Smokies and my stomach was churning with…not nerves….not excitement….with…poop. I hadn’t gone in days. I knew Dean knew I was human and thus needed to occasionally defecate, but I wasn’t ready for that to be a part of our relationship quite yet. But by the evening of day 2 I could no longer hold onto my shit any longer. I was doubling over with intestinal cramps and I knew the time had come; despite all my prayers, the time had come; I could not wait another hour let alone another full day when we would be in the safety of our cabin, no- the time had come.
I was scared. I had never done this in the woods before. How deep should I dig the hole? What if someone came by? Where do I rest the roll of toilet paper? What if my legs get tired?
But Dean encouraged me and led me into the woods to find a secluded spot. He found a giant tree flanked by two young trees and there he dug the hole. He explained that the giant tree would provide protection while the young trees would provide support. Ideally the large tree would guard my butt, but this tree was too close to the little trees so he would guard the rear at a distance to ensure no one stumbled upon something they might never be able to un-see.
“Don’t look.” I pleaded
“I won’t!” He ensured.
But he did look. He didn’t mean to. He explained that he heard a noise from the other direction and he looked in that direction to be sure it was not a hiker coming from the other side. It was at that very moment that I…I won’t even say it….but according to him, it was like a car accident: completely horrifying, but he just couldn’t look away, and he had to be sure that noise was not a hiker, but his eyes kept drifting back.
Thank God I didn’t know he saw until after I had buried everything and, with a sense of accomplishment and relief, skipped over to him. He congratulated me on my first poop in the woods, but the look on his face told me that a part of him would never be the same. And then he said, “The flies! The flies! They descended on it so quickly…how did they know? How did they know?!”
I cried as he explained what happened.
It was over. The façade that my farts smelled like cinnamon rolls and my poops consisted of glitter and diamonds was shattered. In fact, he had seen a part of me that I, myself, had never even seen. How could he possibly still want to be married to me after this?
I had no idea that very scenario was a very literal foreshadowing of a season five years from then that would mark the end of our honeymoon phase; when I would metaphorically release all the shit I had been holding onto since childhood, that the façade of my perfect life would be shattered.
But this is what I learned about my husband and marriage and this is what prepared me to trust him with my shit five years later:
- He led me to a place that offered protection and support and he himself worked hard to provide me with a hole. (Five years later, Dean led me in prayer over my life, calling on Jesus for my protection and on the church for support. It was because of his hard work and financial provision that I was able to quit my job and focus my energies on the healing I needed to continue on my life journey with joy.)
- He stayed with me, giving me space to do what I needed to do, but offering me protection as I did so.
- When things did not go according to plan, he sacrificed himself for my safety and protection. He wanted to ensure that no one was going to stumble upon me in my vulnerable state, but in doing so; his brain will forever hold the the memory of me releasing all my crap.
- And after witnessing all he did, he stayed. He welcomed me as I, ignorant of his sacrifice, pranced back to him. When I realized what he saw, he held me in his arms as I cried in embarrassment. Finally, I had to accept his sacrifice for what it was, or my new found relief would be tainted with guilt. He then lead me back to our tent where we continued on our journey together.
I had no idea that when people said, “oh you’re in the honeymoon phase…” it really meant, “oh, your eyes are being opened to reality…” and they knew the fake cheesy smile and nodding meant, “Oh my gosh….he has seen my crap!!!”
Ladies, I understand not everyone had our honeymoon experience, but don’t kid yourself, just because your husband hasn’t actually seen you shit doesn’t mean he doesn’t see your shit. I thank God that Dean is a follower of Christ because it was only in my submission to my husband’s protection, love, and sacrifice that I could joyfully continue my journey with him as a relieved woman. And it was with respect and admiration that I looked upon my husband, knowing what he had endured so I may continue our journey in peace and comfort.
I truly believe God blessed me and Dean with a real life example of Ephesians 5:22-33:
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.