“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers. K. Thanks.” (Pinterest)
On our wedding day 28 years ago (as I write this), my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these: Pirates. Penguins. Steelers.
I can’t say he was entirely wrong. Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh. Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)! Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!
Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl). They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!
Fast forward. Four houses. Four kids. Four jobs.
Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another. As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.
Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me). “Are we going to make it?” “What is wrong with me/you/us?” “Is there any hope?”
THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband). “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”
I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.
“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.” Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.
Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth. “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”
These simple THREE words:
- allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
- bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
- remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
- spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
- usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
- grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
- energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
- breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown
Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!
We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared. Two things we noticed: most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).
Marriage is like hiking. It’s windy. It’s periodically smooth-sailing. It’s unmarked in places. It’s gloriously scenic. It’s difficult to navigate in spots. It can be scary. It definitely takes our breath away at times. We need hope every single day. We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to. Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.
Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!
Allen and I have been mentoring couples for about 15 years. It’s our fierce passion and privilege. I’ve written many more blog posts about marriage. You can CLICK HERE to read more!