Only two other people in the world will understand that title.
I’ve been married for nearly five years. In marriage, five years seems like just long enough to realize that we’re both sinners and have a million things wrong with us and we’re utterly hopeless when it comes to fixing those things in ourselves- and even more sinful and hopeless when it comes to trying to fix things in each other. We don’t have anything figured out. In fact, we’ve really just begun to scratch the surface of getting to know each other and learning how to minister to each other’s hearts. How to talk to one another- and I do mean literally how to say a certain phrase in a certain way so that the other person understands it in the intended way rather than misinterpreting it and turning it into a big ol’ mess (obviously I speak from experience). Timing is everything in marriage. That much I’ve learned.
We’re such different people. That’s true of every marriage. You might have initially met your spouse because of a shared interest. Maybe you had mutual friends or you both liked movies or music or jogging (I hear those people exist somewhere). But you can’t base a marriage on those things, so somewhere along the way, you began to share your hearts with each other and develop a mutual respect for those things. Before you knew it, you were attending his company baseball games or he was antiquing with you. Not because you love those things personally, but because your spouse does. But Bear and I really are very different people. Very. You know that picture from the Vietnam war of some hippie student stuffing a flower into the end of a soldier’s rifle? Yeah. That.
Imagine me, a 21 year-old Music Theatre major with all my free-spirited, artsy ideals living la vie boheme with a houseful of other theatre majors. And one day I fall head over tap shoes for a conservative young soldier from Indiana. His family has a picture of Reagan in their home office. I mean… what are the odds? We only dated for four months before getting engaged- much to the horror of the protective men in my life (a father and three older brothers) and we married a mere five months later.
I remember everyone telling us how hard it would be- that in this day and age, marriage was uncertain especially when you had only dated a few months. I remember how discouraged I felt when people told us we were making the wrong decision. I remember how hurt I was that people couldn’t just be joyful for us during such a special time. Looking back, I realize that they were just scared. For me. For us. Don’t get me wrong, some people were purposefully trying to be hurtful. But, for the most part, people were genuinely concerned that we were asleep at the helm or headed straight for an ice berg. And I guess in some ways, we were. And we still are. And to their credit, I can’t think of a single thing that has been certain since the day we got married.
Ryan deployed three months after our wedding. I spent the majority of my first year of marriage forcing myself to stay busy with school and performing so that I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not my husband was going to be blown to bits today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. He kept reminding me “it’s only temporary.” And he was right. That year that felt like it would never end, finally drew to a close. He made it home safely. I graduated and he left the military. And you know what happened after that? We entered an entirely new chapter of uncertainty. What should I do after graduation? Where should we go? What should Ryan do about school? We were changing our minds on a daily basis with no clear direction.
At one point, the plan was to move to Colorado, I would begin teaching, and Ryan would join the police force there. He even flew to Colorado to apply for jobs and look at apartments for us. When he came back and showed me apartment brochures, we made the decision to just stay here in Oklahoma. Why? No reason. Just felt like staying.
We’ve both been through several jobs in the past five years and when things would get tough I would just keep telling myself, “keep going. It’s only temporary,” without any real indication that it actually was. There was always this drive to move forward, to get out of whatever rough waters we were in at the time- to get where we wanted to be. But where was that? I don’t know. I still don’t know. I’ll be honest- we have so many options in front of us right now that I can’t even tell you where we’ll be living a year from now. After five years of pushing forward from job to job, place to place, we still don’t know our destination. Nothing is certain… except us. WE are certain about each other.
I may not know the right way to say every single thing to this man that I’ve married. I may not know where I’ll be living or working in the next year, but I do know for sure that I have confidence in him. I trust him without condition. I will go wherever he leads us. I am certain of him. And when I realize that, nothing else really matters. As long as we’re there together, we’ll be fine.
Those naysayers in the beginning of our relationship were wrong. Marriage isn’t hard and uncertain. LIFE is hard and uncertain. Our marriage just happens to be a part of life for us. And thank goodness, too, because I can’t imagine trying to navigate life alone. What a sight that would be. I’m picturing myself soaking wet with shivering, blue lips, huddled in the corner of a ship being tossed in giant waves. Probably wearing really cute shoes that are totally impractical for captaining a ship. Hopeless. I don’t even own any nautical-themed accessories. It would be pretty pitiful.
Luckily, as different as we are, I married a captain. Our differences have come in handy in our marriage because I married a man who leads- even into darkness and murky, unsure waters, he leads us. I don’t mean that he makes all of the decisions and I certainly don’t mean that he has made me a helpless, sniveling fool who can’t accomplish anything on her own. If anything, he’s done the opposite. He has empowered me to follow my dreams- however uncertain. He has encouraged me to pursue my passions with all my heart even when I get discouraged. When I am shaky, he stands strong… because as much as I am certain of him, he seems certain of me too. A captain has to be able to trust his First Mate, right? (seriously, I’m asking. I don’t actually know anything about boats…)
I’m pretty sure whatever boat we’re on, it’s headed for the right place- straight for the horizon and beyond… together.